Determining Your Ideal Wellness Routine—Through Your Blood
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Determining Your Ideal Wellness Routine—Through Your Blood

Can blood work help provide a road map for our beauty and lifestyle choices?

By Fiorella Valdesolo
Fri, Aug 27, 2021 10:02amGrey Clock 4 min

Blood work is a standard component of annual physicals, but what if it were also commonly done at facialist appointments? Such is the case when you book a session with Bay Area–based skin-care specialist Kristina Holey. The results of clients’ blood panels help Holey, who does all of her consultations in tandem with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner Justine Wenger, guide her choices for holistically treating their skin concerns.

The human blood system interacts with the entire body—organs, tissues and all. “It supplies nutrients and oxygen, removing CO2 and other waste products, and it’s also a medium through which all our tissues and cells communicate via a bewilderingly complex chemical cross-talk,” says Paul Clayton, a medical pharmacologist and fellow at the Institute of Food, Brain & Behaviour, affiliated with Oxford University. The most basic blood panels cover metabolic function, lipids (or cholesterols), iron, thyroid and, sometimes, vitamin D. But they can get far more granular and include a comprehensive thyroid, zinc, B vitamins and ferritin. If hormones are suspect, then Holey looks at a reproductive hormonal panel for any imbalances. Blood panels can also identify toxic exposures and markers for cellular function, which can give you an idea of your cell’s ability to repair damage, says Chika Okoli, a functional medicine physician at the New York City location of the Well, a wellness facility that consistently uses blood work.


“During Covid consumers became more conscious of their health,” says Lola Priego, founder and CEO of Base, an at-home diagnostic system that relies on blood and saliva testing. A physician reviews all results before uploading them to the Base app, and the Base medical advisory board oversees the algorithms giving users nutritional, supplemental and lifestyle suggestions. In addition to finding conditions like hypo- or hyperthyroidism, elevated cholesterol and diabetes, looking at blood data can help to address issues like sleep quality and chronic fatigue, Priego says. The clinical laboratory market experienced growth throughout the pandemic. Base, for example, launched and raised a $3.4 million round of funding during this time, while London-based blood-testing brand Thriva raised a $4.8 million extension to its series A funding in May 2020. “The so-called ‘lab on a chip’ technology is developing rapidly,” says Clayton, adding that Theranos, the failed blood-testing company, is an example of how badly things can go wrong. “It’s eventually going to become something like what Theranos promised but couldn’t deliver,” says Clayton. For the time being, most of these companies outsource to established labs to get the results.

The state of our blood can also affect our skin. Without healthy circulation and microcirculation, the skin, like any other organ, doesn’t function as well. “It leads to accelerated aging of the skin and reduced elasticity, hydration capacity and probably immune function,” says Clayton. Holey frequently looks to blood tests for guidance when troubleshooting a skin symptom. She says she sees correlations between anemia and perioral dermatitis or rosacea, while low vitamin D levels sometimes connect with psoriasis and eczema, and high cholesterol and poor digestion with breakouts or seborrheic dermatitis. “I am not an M.D., so it is never about diagnosing,” says Holey, who studied engineering and cosmetic chemistry. “If what I am seeing topically lines up with my hypothesis given what I see from labs, then I can better direct to the most appropriate M.D. or specialist.” She encourages her skin clients to keep up with annual blood work. “You can start to see trends or catch low or high levels from year to year,” says Holey. “It’s like starting a library of your health.”

“The so-called ‘lab on a chip’ technology is developing rapidly.”

— Paul Clayton

In the practice of TCM, blood plays a critical role. “We are constantly thinking about how strong the quality of blood is and how well it moves throughout the body,” says Sandra Chiu, acupuncturist, herbalist and founder of Lanshin, a Chinese medicine clinic in Brooklyn. But the method by which blood is evaluated is radically different from Western medicine’s approach. “We often look at, or ‘read,’ the skin to ascertain the state of blood,” she adds. For example, says Chiu, in eczema when the skin is dry and itchy, that is considered excessive heat in the blood manifesting on the surface; when skin is dark red or almost violet, as is the case with rosacea or some types of cystic acne, that means there is significant stagnation. Looking at the blood, via the skin, helps guide Chiu’s treatment approach.

Getting the details of my own blood work served as a guide for me as well. After I submitted blood and saliva samples to Base, my results were transmitted a few weeks later via the company’s app, along with an invitation to set up a consultation to discuss them. Some of the information was unsurprising: My HbA1c (blood sugar) levels were elevated, which meant I should cut back on refined sugars and carbohydrates, and my cortisol levels were wreaking havoc on my sleep, so I needed to reduce my stress levels, relax and meditate. Discovering that I was low on vitamin D—and learning how to improve that score with exercise, diet and supplements—did pinpoint a possible source of fatigue, brain fog and dry, patchy skin. While blood work can certainly offer helpful data in regard to our health and beauty choices, Holey cautions against letting it be our only guide. “Take it all with a grain of salt,” she says. “What we have really learned is that blood work is just one piece of the puzzle.”


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China’s EV Juggernaut Is a Warning for the West

Competitive pressure and creativity have made Chinese-designed and -built electric cars formidable competitors

Thu, Jun 8, 2023 4 min

China rocked the auto world twice this year. First, its electric vehicles stunned Western rivals at the Shanghai auto show with their quality, features and price. Then came reports that in the first quarter of 2023 it dethroned Japan as the world’s largest auto exporter.

How is China in contention to lead the world’s most lucrative and prestigious consumer goods market, one long dominated by American, European, Japanese and South Korean nameplates? The answer is a unique combination of industrial policy, protectionism and homegrown competitive dynamism. Western policy makers and business leaders are better prepared for the first two than the third.

Start with industrial policy—the use of government resources to help favoured sectors. China has practiced industrial policy for decades. While it’s finding increased favour even in the U.S., the concept remains controversial. Governments have a poor record of identifying winning technologies and often end up subsidising inferior and wasteful capacity, including in China.

But in the case of EVs, Chinese industrial policy had a couple of things going for it. First, governments around the world saw climate change as an enduring threat that would require decade-long interventions to transition away from fossil fuels. China bet correctly that in transportation, the transition would favour electric vehicles.

In 2009, China started handing out generous subsidies to buyers of EVs. Public procurement of taxis and buses was targeted to electric vehicles, rechargers were subsidised, and provincial governments stumped up capital for lithium mining and refining for EV batteries. In 2020 NIO, at the time an aspiring challenger to Tesla, avoided bankruptcy thanks to a government-led bailout.

While industrial policy guaranteed a demand for EVs, protectionism ensured those EVs would be made in China, by Chinese companies. To qualify for subsidies, cars had to be domestically made, although foreign brands did qualify. They also had to have batteries made by Chinese companies, giving Chinese national champions like Contemporary Amperex Technology and BYD an advantage over then-market leaders from Japan and South Korea.

To sell in China, foreign automakers had to abide by conditions intended to upgrade the local industry’s skills. State-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group developed the manufacturing know-how necessary to become a player in EVs thanks to joint ventures with Toyota and Honda, said Gregor Sebastian, an analyst at Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Despite all that government support, sales of EVs remained weak until 2019, when China let Tesla open a wholly owned factory in Shanghai. “It took this catalyst…to boost interest and increase the level of competitiveness of the local Chinese makers,” said Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights, a research service specialising in the Chinese auto industry.

Back in 2011 Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent, explained what set Chinese capitalism apart from its American counterpart. “In America, when you bring an idea to market you usually have several months before competition pops up, allowing you to capture significant market share,” he said, according to Fast Company, a technology magazine. “In China, you can have hundreds of competitors within the first hours of going live. Ideas are not important in China—execution is.”

Thanks to that competition and focus on execution, the EV industry went from a niche industrial-policy project to a sprawling ecosystem of predominantly private companies. Much of this happened below the Western radar while China was cut off from the world because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When Western auto executives flew in for April’s Shanghai auto show, “they saw a sea of green plates, a sea of Chinese brands,” said Le, referring to the green license plates assigned to clean-energy vehicles in China. “They hear the sounds of the door closing, sit inside and look at the quality of the materials, the fabric or the plastic on the console, that’s the other holy s— moment—they’ve caught up to us.”

Manufacturers of gasoline cars are product-oriented, whereas EV manufacturers, like tech companies, are user-oriented, Le said. Chinese EVs feature at least two, often three, display screens, one suitable for watching movies from the back seat, multiple lidars (laser-based sensors) for driver assistance, and even a microphone for karaoke (quickly copied by Tesla). Meanwhile, Chinese suppliers such as CATL have gone from laggard to leader.

Chinese dominance of EVs isn’t preordained. The low barriers to entry exploited by Chinese brands also open the door to future non-Chinese competitors. Nor does China’s success in EVs necessarily translate to other sectors where industrial policy matters less and creativity, privacy and deeply woven technological capability—such as software, cloud computing and semiconductors—matter more.

Still, the threat to Western auto market share posed by Chinese EVs is one for which Western policy makers have no obvious answer. “You can shut off your own market and to a certain extent that will shield production for your domestic needs,” said Sebastian. “The question really is, what are you going to do for the global south, countries that are still very happily trading with China?”

Western companies themselves are likely to respond by deepening their presence in China—not to sell cars, but for proximity to the most sophisticated customers and suppliers. Jörg Wuttke, the past president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, calls China a “fitness centre.” Even as conditions there become steadily more difficult, Western multinationals “have to be there. It keeps you fit.”


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