Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Most people would agree that keeping our brains healthy, if you had to choose, is more important than keeping our abs healthy. A strong brain is more important than strong triceps, we can probably all agree.

Yet we talk about strong physiques much more often, and with more fervor, than strong minds. Social media scrolls are filled with ways to tone up your body, while when it comes to our brains, our strategy is opening a Duolingo account, or maybe start meditating, and hope for the best.

Perhaps it’s because we’re a bit mystified by how to maintain strong brains.

Parable, which raised a $2.75 million seed round led by M13 and Break Trail Ventures to build a business around brain nutrition and health, wants to change that. Today, Parable launches its first product, Daily, a science-backed supplement packed with eight powerful ingredients to support cognitive, mental, and neural brain health.

Founders Cristina Poindexter and Brian McGrath Davis, who met as founders-in-residence at M13, wanted to come up with a formulation to help people build strong brains with proven nutritional ingredients.

“When we talk to consumers, they overwhelmingly value having a healthy brain,” Davis said. “But then you ask the follow up question, ‘okay, what do you do to take care of your brain?’ They say, ‘I don’t know.’ That bridge was our inspiration to really building a solution for consumers.”

They dug through six decades of brain neuroscience and pinpointed eight ingredients that significantly benefit the brain: curcumin, lemon balm, ginseng, phosphatidylserine, green tea extract, and B vitamins 6, 9, and 12.

And while the FDA doesn’t require supplement manufacturers to conduct clinical trials, Parable wanted to launch a product backed by solid science addressing their specific product. So in addition to mining data that already existed, they also recruited some of the country’s top neuroscientists for guidance, and tested Daily’s formulation using an independent research organization.

The study recruited 40 people for a battery of digital tests to measure cognitive function. They spent 45 minutes doing “highly intentional” brain games powered by Creyos (formerly Cambridge Brain Sciences). The study also measured mental wellbeing using a digital questionnaire, and they rounded out the testing with blood draws to measure inflammatory markers.

The participants completed the three tests four times: before consuming Daily, and then 1, 7, and 31 days after taking it every day. The product was unmarked—no marketing materials or branding.

The results were promising: Ability to handle stress increased by 10%, anxiety decreased by 28.6% brain fog decreased nearly 29%, mental clarity increase 15%, productivity increased nearly 32%, energy levels increased nearly 27%, and burnout decreased 29%. Working memory also increased nearly 34% and focus increased more than 54%.

Taken together, the results speak to the promise of an overall more functional society, with less individual suffering from things like brain fog, burnout, stress, anxiety, fatigue, and lack of focus, which Poindexter says for her was a big impetus for launching Parable.

“I’ve seen what happens when the brain goes wrong from various perspectives,” said Poindexter, who before M13 hailed from Headspace, which provides meditation and mindfulness tools. “I myself have experienced the challenges of mental illness and burnout. I’ve had a number of concussions. I also had a grandma that I was really close to that had Parkinson’s.”

For his part, Davis has a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from Emory University, and has held posts at Supersapiens, Scoutmob, and Blakely Ventures, a business incubator under the umbrella of Spanx. He says his interest in the brain is rooted in philosophy, but is ultimately practical—he wants to make it easier to be human.

“If I had to sum up my academic career, it would be: ‘It’s tough to be human,’ Davis said. “It’s one of the things that undergirds my interest in building consumer businesses. And so for me, when I think about the brain, I think of access to freedom and joy and the fully-lived human experience.”

Daily is not a hack for concentration, or energy, or any other quick fix to get you through your day. It’s a longterm strategy for combating inevitable brain atrophy, which begins around age 30 (!).

“We’re not interested in helping people get amped-up superhuman brains,” Davis said. “We’re not interested in being a replacement for Adderall or caffeine. Those things have their place in the market, but we think the performance angle is tired and we think there’s an alternative that’s actually so much more rich and long-term provides more benefits, which is care. The brain is a fragile organ that needs to be cared for.”

The product is pricey—a month’s supply costs $90 ($75 with a subscription). But the founders point out that taking each of Daily’s eight powerhouse ingredients separately would be much more expensive and actually sort of terrible.

“If you were to go out and buy all these ingredients in their biologically available forms and in the right dosages, you’d be paying somewhere between $190 and $270 a month,” Poindexter said. “You’d also have to take about 10 pills a day—so over 300 pills a month to get the same active ingredients. When you compare it to that, it changes the conversation.”

Following this first product, Parable has many more launches in the works—and Davis hinted they will go beyond supplements.

“Some (future products) will very likely be in the supplement category, and some will likely be in other exciting categories that can also help to support our customers as they are learning to adopt daily brain care.”

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