• Saana: A New Nutrition Platform for Cancer Patients Founded by a Jersey City Resident

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    After losing her mother to leukemia when she was a teenager, Jersey City resident Stéphanie Roland founded a personalized nutrition platform for cancer patients. Roland launched Saana with the goal of fighting cancer with evidence-based nutrition.”Saana is on a mission to fight our current outburst of chronic illnesses by combining food, science, and intelligence. We believe in a world of decreasing {and not increasing} rates of cancer, diabetes, CVD, etc. by offering tailored and actionable advice and products to the people,” Roland tells Hoboken Girl in an email. Keep reading to learn all about this new nutrition platform for cancer patients founded by JC local, Roland.

    saana cancer nutrition

    ^ Stéphanie {pictured second in on the left} and her team at Saana! 

    Nutrition + Cancer

    Because teaching nutrition is not a top priority in medical schools, Roland feels many oncologists’ diet recommendations for cancer patients must be taken with a grain of salt. If an oncologist isn’t authorized to advise cancer patients on their diets, then who can?

    “Today, only one out of five medical schools imposes nutrition classes to their doctors,” Roland says. “This explains why most oncologists recommend ice creams and cookies to their patients to avoid weight loss during their treatment. However, research has been showing for a long time that cancer cells actually have a higher demand for nutrients than normal cells, to sustain their exponential growth. Glucose and other types of food compounds are promoting cancer growth. It’s basically saying that by doing nothing or worse, we are feeding our cancers.”

    See More: Humanly: A Social Network for People Impacted by Cancer {+ Founded by a Jersey City Local}

    How Sanna Came to Be 

    The 29-year-old engineer and entrepreneur began investigating the link between diet and cancer two years before founding Saana and operating as its CEO. She discovered that food caused about 35% of cancer cases. Additionally, there was an alarming amount of scientific research that showed food was a “big promoter” of cancer growth.

    That’s not something you typically hear about when it comes to cancer.

    “I must say that my ‘epiphany’ didn’t happen a long time ago,” Roland admits. “At first, having lost my mother and maternal grandmother to cancer when I was young just gave me a strong belief that cancer was in my genes. Let’s embrace it!”

    Roland continues, “But when I moved to the U.S. two years ago because the food is different {there are antibiotics in the meat} and after having watched some documentaries, I learned, almost for the first time, that food had a big impact both on cancer initiation and growth.”

    Originally from Belgium, Roland began cracking down on the relationship between cancer and nutrition.

    “Sensing that I was wrong for years, I got directly passionate about the link between cancer and nutrition and armed with my chemical engineering background, I started researching, reading, and studying all facets of the topic for a year,” she says. “As a former entrepreneur, I couldn’t let this problem [go] unsolved. I had to spread the message and let people know that nutrition can change their faith like I didn’t know years ago.”

    With her mom’s memory as her motivation and her own health a priority, Roland — who is originally from Belgium — has committed her career and life to fighting cancer through the combination of science, technology, and nutrition. Saana is an all-in-one platform that delivers personalized plant-based meals and herbal enhancers to patients based on their own personal medical profile.

    “What we want is to help cancer patients fight better and have better chances of remission via personalized diet interventions,” Roland says. “That’s why we partnered with World-Class Cancer Experts to develop a smart algorithm that is able, based on the patient’s data and the latest research, to select the most appropriate food at any given time of their treatment to help relieve their side effects and boost their immunity.”

    The Nutrition Plan 

    saana meal 2

    So much goes into Saana’s process of curating foods for cancer patients. Saana uses an algorithm that takes into account many different aspects of the patient’s diagnosis and progress.

    “Everything we ask in the online questionnaire is taken into account in our algorithm calculation/meal curation process,” Roland explains. “Mostly it is based on the cancer type and stage, treatment, medication, symptoms, drug interaction, [the] person[‘s] metabolism, and food restrictions. We also use the patient’s weekly feedback on side effects {on a scale of 1-10} and specific blood test results to adjust the algorithm recommendations.”

    Read More: How to Eat Healthier While Traveling {It’s Possible, Promise!}

    One of the most shocking things Roland discovered in her research was how many elements can affect the initiation and growth of cancer cells. While it’s widely known that sugar “feeds” cancer cells, it’s not the only factor at play.
    “Glucose {AKA sugar} is the main fuel of cancer cells,” Roland explains. “Because the mitochondria in cancer cells are reprogrammed, the cell uses up to 18x more glucose than normal cells to provide the same amount of energy. It’s insane!”

    “But there are so many links aside from this: high glycemic index food, processed food, the gut microbiome, free radicals, etc.,” Roland continues. “What I hate the most is when people say, ‘eat everything in moderation.’ That is completely false. Then you can eat a little bit of every crap in moderation and you’ll be fine. Wrong. Cancer takes 10-15 years to initiate and all our small habits count.”

    How Saana Works

    New York and New Jersey have some of the highest rates of cancer nationwide. As of 2017 data, New Jersey ranked seventh in the highest cancer rates in the U.S. and New York ranked fourth.
    saana meal 1

    “Because we know that cancer treatment is exhausting, we wanted to make it as convenient as possible: patients only need to enter their medical information to start receiving ready-to-eat food to their doors,” Roland adds.

    With 44% of women and 38% of men expected to experience cancer at least once in their lifetime, Saana is a platform that has the potential to help so many people. A quick online survey is all it takes to kick-start Saana. The company then organizes its plant-based meal delivery services based on the survey and matches up with the patient’s needs through partners like Plantable and Veestro. As the patient’s symptoms change and evolve, the algorithm adjusts in order to ensure optimal nutrition.

    The name Saana cames from Latin etymology: “Sana” in Latin means “healthy.”

    “[We want people to know] that we care about them first. Saana was born because we believe cancer can be fought differently,” Roland says. “Because we believe cancer patients can take back control of their healing journey. We are all about patients. To do so, we use science and technology to become the most reliable and trustworthy source of integrative information and services to help them feel better and have better chances of remission. We want to become their reference in cancer wellness in nutrition.”

    Saana believes in the power of food as medicine, that a plant-based diet combined with artificial intelligence and cutting-edge science in nutrition can make people healthier. Ultimately, the goal of Saana is to pave the way for a future of decreased chronic disease rates. Saana hopes to become a role model in redefining the future of healthcare methodologies.

    If it’s true that food is fuel and that we are what we eat, then we better start taking our eating habits seriously.

    Oh, and because Stéphanie lives in Jersey City, we had to ask her favorite go-to local spot. “Taproot Organics! It’s a local JC organic natural soap shop. I love their concept,” she says.

    “People tend to forget that personal care and lotions are super important for their health. Whatever you put on your skin, enters your skin and bloodstream. A lot of processed soaps contain proven endometrial disruptors, playing further with our hormones. Other compounds are even carcinogenic. We need to think of skin as we think of food. It has to come in its most natural state!”

    Do you know someone doing good in the community? Let us know!


    Written by:

    Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.


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