I thought finding the solution that helps to prevent cancer and disease was going to be rapidly embraced and wanted by the world. I have since read a statistic that says it takes an average of 18 years before a scientific discovery even gets accepted by the science community, the consumers are probably another 20 years. I’ve been at this for 12 years. I never knew it was going to be so hard to help people be healthy easily. I thought people would rush to it. I was prepared to really dig in and I’m still prepared if it takes me another 20 years, I’ll still be doing this.

As part of our series about ‘The Future Of The Global Wellness Economy,’ I had the pleasure to interview Catharine Arnston at the 2022 Biohacking Congress in Boston, Massachusetts.

Catharine started ENERGYbits after her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and advised by her oncologist that an alkaline diet would help her heal. Catharine immediately sprung into action to help her sister research alkaline foods and in the process she discovered algae. When Catharine learned that algae was the most alkaline, plant-based, nutrient-dense food in the world and had been used for fifty years in Asia to improve health and longevity, she knew she had discovered something big (and yes, her sister fully recovered).

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I know algae is very unusual. I tell people I didn’t choose algae, it chose me. The reason for that is that I’m actually Canadian, but I’ve lived in Boston for 33 years and 13 years ago, my younger sister in Canada developed breast cancer. Now she’s fine, but as she was preparing for her chemotherapy, her oncologist recommended that she change her diet to an alkaline diet because she said it would help with her healing. Now they didn’t tell her what an alkaline diet was or why it was good for her. So the first call she made was to me after she got home from that appointment. I’m just a really good researcher and of course I love my sister. I told her that I didn’t know what an alkaline diet was. This was about 13 years ago.

I went online and found out it was a mostly plant based diet because of the chlorophyll and the phytonutrients that have been known to help build your immune system. As a Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg discovered that back in the ’40s cancer cannot exist in an alkaline environment at your cellular level. So I discovered alkaline foods, which were mostly plants. My sister changed her diet. She went through her chemo. She completely healed. Meanwhile, I read about 10 books and about 200 NIH articles, and I saw the power of plant-based nutrition. Nobody was talking about it 12 years ago. I’m a very passionate person and I wanted to do something to change the world. So I gave up my 25 year corporate career. I have an MBA and I was doing international business marketing and I thought, well, I need some kind of education.

So I went and got a certificate in health coaching from the Institute for Integrated Nutrition and then I taught plant-based nutrition for a year. This is what truly led me to algae because as I was teaching people the importance of eating more vegetables because of the chlorophyll and the phytonutrients that help build your immune system they would say, “Everyone’s been telling me to eat vegetables since I was a kid, including my mother, but they’re too much work. They’re heavy to carry home from the grocery store. They take a long time to clean, to cook, to eat..they’re carbs. I have bad digestion and my kids won’t eat them. They spoil.” So I knew I had to find a way to get plant-based nutrition into people in a way that’s effortless.

NASA says one gram of algae has the same nutrition as a 1,000 grams of vegetables. That box is checked. It’s got the highest protein in the world. That’s plant protein. The United Nations has endorsed spirulina algae since 1974 as the answer to world hunger because it has the highest protein in the world. It’s the most studied food in the world. Algae is a food. It is not a supplement. It’s grown in freshwater farms and then air-dried and pressed into tablets that we call bits because they’re bits of nutrition.

We encourage you to have at least five or ten a day, but now there’s no work required to get the nutrition from vegetables, period. You want fast food, this is fast food. It doesn’t get any faster and it’s safe and pure. When I saw that this had been used and was documented and available, I decided I would spend the rest of my life teaching people in North America about algae. Algae isn’t new. It’s just new to us. Asians have known about it for 75 years. The Egyptians used it, the Aztecs used it. So that’s what got me into algae.

What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started my career” and why?

I thought finding the solution that helps to prevent cancer and disease was going to be rapidly embraced and wanted by the world. I have since read a statistic that says it takes an average of 18 years before a scientific discovery even gets accepted by the science community, the consumers are probably another 20 years. I’ve been at this for 12 years. I never knew it was going to be so hard to help people be healthy easily. I thought people would rush to it. I was prepared to really dig in and I’m still prepared if it takes me another 20 years, I’ll still be doing this.

I’ve done marketing, but branding is a whole different thing. We’ve been around for 12 years, we’re trusted by doctors. We’re sold nationwide. I was on 200 podcasts last year. The packaging is beautiful and I design it all. So that was number two, that it takes a long time to communicate something to a consumer and you have to do it in a way that they can get excited about because if you try to lecture them, people don’t respond well to being talked down to.

Number three, I didn’t realize it would be so lonely. As any founder will say, there’s never going to be anybody as passionate about your product as you are. But I thought that I could get people excited. That’s why I love the biohacking community, because they are eager for information. They want to know. They may not know about your product, but they’re eager to learn. I’m a very curious person. When I used to go on vacation with my family, my mother would buy me about 12 books that I could read over the week and she would hide them and I would find them before the vacation, read them and she would have to buy me another dozen. I just love learning and I thought everybody loved learning, turns out that it’s not the case. So it’s been a little lonely knowing I’ve got this amazing knowledge that I’m so eager to share with the world and trying to find a community that’s eager to learn has been challenging, but I’m finding them. Thank God for the biohacking community. People who are realizing that what you put in your body does affect your health.

How has wellness played a big role in your life?

Well, having my sister who I’m very close to face a life threatening challenge totally brought wellness into focus for me because you never think it’s gonna happen to you. Her life changed and my life changed. Until then I was in a corporate career. I had a good job. I wasn’t as passionate, but it was okay. I used to publish an interior design magazine, but wellness became everything for me, absolutely everything. It still is and always will be and it’s like when you find a great hair salon or a great food or a great movie, you want to share it.

In fact, I was on ABC’s Shark Tank and they didn’t invest. I didn’t want their money, but Mark Cuban said, “We don’t think you’re in love with being an entrepreneur. You’re just in love with algae.” I said to them, if you knew as much about algae as I did, you would be in love with algae too. Algae’s been here for 4 billion years. It’s just been waiting for someone to take notice, and that’s me.

As you know, COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share some examples of how health and wellness companies will be adjusting?

Fortunately, I think they’re growing because the average person is realizing that they can’t not take action. You need to be proactive about your health. Nobody knows you better than you. So even if you go to a doctor and they ask about your conditions, you’ll never be able to communicate everything to them. So educating yourself about yourself is number one. People know more about their cell phones than they do about their bodies and then educating about what your body needs, either through books or podcasts. You have to be careful about the Internet because there’s some stuff that’s not accurate out there.

Don’t put off going to a functional medicine doctor just cause they’re not covered by your health insurance. It’s more expensive to get cancer. It’s more expensive to get heart disease. When you are sick, that illness takes over your life. I’m so excited to see biohacking taking off, seeing more labs, more longevity centers, and more podcasters. There’s a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of practitioners out there and I’m so grateful to be part of it. I had COVID. I was sick, almost all my team got COVID. We got through it and it sharpened people’s focus on the fact that it’s up to us to look after ourselves because the food industry isn’t going to do it.

In my work as a Board Certified Wellness Coach who caters to the cancer survivor community, I have found the theme of “second chances” to be a powerful motivator. What keeps your spirit still firing?

Well that’s interesting about the second chance because I’m 65 and this is my second chance. This is my chance to live my path. I had a job and things were okay, but it didn’t fire me up and helping my sister fired me up in a way that I can’t even put into words. When I realized I could help other people avoid cancer, avoid any illness, that’s my second chance. This is my path and I am so grateful that I have a second chance at my age to make the difference.

According to The Cleveland Clinic, we’re going to live till 90, it’s going to be the new 40. So I will probably live till 120. It made no sense for me to pursue this. I had no science background, no nutrition background. I had no money. I couldn’t not do this once I learned the key health benefits of plant-based nutrition. I just felt the responsibility to get that to the world, whatever it took. I was prepared to die for this cause. I know what it’s like to have a second chance. I am so grateful for mine. It’s going to keep me going for the next 30 or 40 years and if I can help anybody, even one person not get sick, that will have made my life worth it.

You are a “wellness insider”. How would you describe the “perfect wellness experience”?

It’s very gentle, it won’t be dramatic. It feels so natural. You wonder why you didn’t do it earlier. It’s something that you can do repetitively without any effort. It makes you feel clean and at peace. It could be energizing, but it’s at peace. It’s like meditation. The perfect wellness experience makes you feel better, healthier, and more you. It will reveal you to you is probably a nice way to say it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Part of the reason I wanted to get out of the corporate world was because back then large corporations didn’t treat people very well. It was very high pressure and long days. I decided when I was going to build a company, it was going to be with kindness. We have a sign on the front of our office — kindness is so gangsta. I truly live that life. So I wanted to change people’s lives who I may never meet. I also wanted to make a contribution to the lives of the people who I have met in day to day interactions. It wasn’t easy because for the longest time we were so tiny and had so little money, but I always made up for it with vacations and treating people respectfully. Treating every single person respectfully is my number one vision.

How can our readers follow your company online?

You can find us on the internet at Energybits.com. We not only sell all our products there, we write a very rich blog every month. This month’s topic is mitochondria health. We are also very active on social media, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube, all @ENERGYbits. We have a second handle for our second spirulina brand called BEAUTYbits.

Algae, as I said to people earlier, isn’t new, it’s just new to you and I’m here to provide the science, the comfort, and the experience. Any small amount that you take will make an improvement and it’s good for children, pets, and grandparents at age group. Can’t beat effortless nutrition. I also call it your nutrition insurance because it gives your body everything that you need to live optimally.

This was very inspiring, Catharine. Thank you.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.