March 25, 2024

Paradigm Shift: In Conversation with Dugal Bain-Kim

photo of Lifeforce

Written By


photo of Vinita Tandon, MD

Medically Reviewed By

Vinita Tandon, MD

Lifeforce Medical Director

Paradigm Shift: In Conversation with Dugal Bain-Kim

Dugal Bain-Kim grew up in Australia, swimming, playing rugby, and studying hard. When his elder sister got sick in her early teens, it planted a seed — a fascination with health and a commitment to making life-extending health services available to everyone. That seed eventually germinated into Lifeforce, which Bain-Kim co-founded in 2021. We met with him at his home in Southern California to find out more about his motivations, his personal approach to health, and his ambitions for Lifeforce.

Lifeforce: What was your first memory of the importance of health in your personal or family life?

Dugal Bain-Kim: It was when my sister got sick when she was 13. She's five years older than me and had always been a pretty regular kid — healthy, played sport, and she used to be a good swimmer. And then she started experiencing a lot of gastrointestinal symptoms with some other unexplained things. She got sick quickly, and that was a turning point for my family. My sister continued to deteriorate and my mom quit her job to look after her. It's been one of the dominant activities and presences in the family, trying to support my sister — who has been incredibly resilient and inspiring throughout that journey — and trying to understand what's affecting her health. I look back at the period before she got sick and then after she got sick and they feel like two very different chapters.

Lifeforce: Did that play a large part in you pursuing a career in this field?

Dugal Bain-Kim: Not initially, but eventually. Initially I was on a more traditional path. I went into finance — this was in 2007 and that was seemingly the place to go. But in my late twenties I started really thinking more about mission and purpose. And I think I realized that in order to be happy I needed to be working on a problem or an area that I thought was meaningful. There needed to be some sort of mission. So I spent a couple of years of reflecting and trying to work out what that was and it was in that process that this conversation around health came to the surface for me.

Dugal Bain Kim Athletics Body Performance

Lifeforce: You also have athletics in your background — when did you first start caring about how your body was performing? 

Dugal Bain-Kim: I've always been really into sports and really cared about my own physical performance. Growing up it was mainly rugby, cricket, track and field, swimming — I tried a lot of stuff. I always had that as a core piece of my identity. So I'd say that that interest in understanding my body has been there as long as I can remember. 

I played rugby competitively until my early thirties, and when I stopped, that mentality stayed with me. There was a period in-between my sports career finishing and more recently where I was still in decent shape, where I felt like I knew what I was doing with my performance and my body. But then when I had my first child, Billie, I went through 12 months of bad habits where I put on weight and had poor energy and all the stuff that young parents go through. That was the first time where I didn’t really have control of the reins around my health. Not being able to manage my performance in my late thirties was scary because it had been such an important part of my identity. It made me realize that what I'd done to get here wasn't what was going to keep me healthy and performing well for the next two decades.

Lifeforce: So how did your approach to health and fitness change from the days of being an athlete to the busy dad and founder?

Dugal Bain-Kim: I was complacent, really just doing a version of what I'd done before, working out a lot, trying to limit my carbohydrates, the basics. But it was definitely not tailored to my new stage of life or to anything around the health risks that I'm susceptible to. It was a pretty blunt approach to understanding my health and performance. The concept of personalized medicine and health optimization in a truly science-backed, personalized way, just wasn't on the radar.

Lifeforce: What are your biggest health, fitness, and quality of life goals right now?

Dugal Bain-Kim: One that I'm thinking about a lot at the moment is reducing my risk of getting the top five diseases that are most likely to take me out early. We just had our second child, and the more I've dug into this space, the more I understand just how long the runway is for these diseases and specifically ASCVD (Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease), dementia, osteoporosis, even cancers. These things pop up decades sooner than people realize. I feel grateful that I'm in this position to have my eyes open now. It feels like just at the right time to really throw everything I can on the preventative diagnostics and preventative therapy side so I get ahead of that. Also I've got a history of heart disease in my family with elevated ApoB. (Apolipoprotein B is a protein encoded by the ApoB gene. It is commonly used to detect risk of ASCVD.) So the risk factors are there for sure. 

But I think now because I have the right team with Lifeforce and the right information, I can be really aggressive on my risk and potentially change the trajectory of my life. When I look at where my biomarkers are trending, it’s less about the numbers and more about what they unlock for me — more time to make an impact, more energy to show up at my best for my wife and kids, more peace of mind knowing I should have many more good years ahead.

Dugal Bain Kim Family Motivators

Lifeforce: And as a new dad, is that the prevailing inspiration to get a handle on all of this? Or are there other motivators for you?

Dugal Bain-Kim: Yeah, another motivator is that my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's recently. I think about the trajectory of his health a fair bit, back to when I was a kid and going along to watch him play tennis. He was a competitive social tennis player, and I remember watching him on the court and him being this really vital, strong, energetic man. And since then he's just progressively declined with age and had to give up on things he likes to do. Now in his mid- to late-sixties, the idea of him doing anything active is just not on the table at all. I think that reflects a lot of what people go through and that really scares me. I just don't want that to happen. 

With  his recent dementia diagnosis, it’s definitely led me to look at things like sleep as a way of protecting my brain. There's really compelling research around the relationship between sleep deprivation and dementia and Alzheimer's as well. So I think it's another example of this mindset shift where now I understand that you really can take action to adjust your risk. That feels really empowering.

Lifeforce: Can you talk a little bit about how Lifeforce is filling this gap for people?

Dugal Bain-Kim: There's a huge number of people who understand this idea of getting on the front foot about their bodies. I think that we're seeing this paradigm shift — people are no longer feeling like their health is some kind of a lottery. There are things that you can influence and you can do it early. But I think that before Lifeforce, it's been way too hard to do that, to come in and find a solution at a reasonable price with real expertise. So that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to bring this together so all the pieces work together and people are excited by the concept.

Lifeforce: As a founder, what is the legacy that you want to leave behind with Lifeforce?

Dugal Bain-Kim: At a personal level, I often talk about the rocking chair test: when I'm in a rocking chair on a hypothetical porch when I'm in my 70s, have I spent my one precious life working on something that I think is meaningful and net positive for society? I think helping people understand their bodies, show up better, and live longer definitely meets those criteria. But I really like the theme and have always liked the theme about companies that take things that are niche and only available to a small group of folks — usually because they have a lot of money or connections — and level the playing field to make it more available to regular folks. 

That's what Lifeforce is trying to do. We are trying to use the best of technology and medical science, and take this thing that has been available for a while if you had a lot of money and a lot of connections, and really open the door and say to people, if you want to be healthier, if you want to be around for your kids, if you want to show up at your best for society, we have the tools to help you. I think that if we look back on Lifeforce in the future, and say that we've improved hundreds of thousands or millions of lives, not to mention the families around those people, that'll be an important legacy to leave behind.

Ready to take charge of your health and longevity? Learn more about the Lifeforce Membership HERE

This article was medically reviewed by Vinita Tandon, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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