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“Start with fear of eating” Interview with co-representative of the start-up company ‘Microsalts’, selling a reduced salt diet for nephropathy patients2018-03-05Hit:720

"I was afraid to eat. I couldn’t judge whether eating was good for me or not. So I did not eat and lose 10kg in a month." said by Seul ki, Kim (30), co-representative of the company. Kim has to control his diet extensively due to his kidney disease. An intake of more than a certain amount of sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein can cause edema or arrhythmia, which can lead to the death of a nephropathy patient.

Kidney disease does not show any particular symptoms until the kidney function has fallen below half. Even though Kim illness was diagnosed during a military medical examination, he had not paid any special attention to his diet until the risk level became critical. He realized the seriousness of the disease after his kidney condition worsened.

"I was so shocked that I closed down my business. At that time, health was the most important thing in my life. It was really difficult to construct my daily diet, because I did not know what nutrients were in what food. Therefore, I ordered food from a company which offers low-sodium dishes for nephropathy patients, but the food was not very tasty. Despite the need for meticulous care as a kidney disease patient, no such company existed. So I thought I had to create a company myself.”

While he was in the KAIST Social Entrepreneurship MBA program, he suggested the idea to his classmate Hyun ji, Kim (31). They closed the businesses that each were doing, and started a new business together last September. And that business is a low-salt meal delivery service ‘Microsalts”.

# Dreaming of delicious meals for nephropathy patients, Hyun Ji Kim and Sul Ki Kim ‘Microsalts’ co-representative.

Microsalts now consists of 6 employees including a clinical nutritionist, two cooks, and one researcher. They develop customized recipes for the patients by analyzing the ingredients, and selling semi-prepared food through the internet.

The number of nephropathy patients in Korea is estimated to be about 220,000. The patients are divided into 1 to 5 levels. The higher the level of the disease, the greater the sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein intake limit., For instance, patients cannot even dream of foods that are high in sodium, such as kimchi or ramen, and also they should be careful about vegetables such as spinach, which are high in calcium. In addition, the amount of protein that can be consumed in a meal is only about 20 grams, about the size of a table tennis ball. Furthermore, phosphorus is found in most foods. Accordingly, most people with kidney disease who need such extreme diet control give up eating at certain point. For those who are tired of diet management, Microsalts provides packages of food each containing a semi-prepared main dish, two or three side dishes, including recipes and nutritional tables.

“It is really important to construct healthy eating habits, however, most of young people ignore this issue. People often do not notice that they have a kidney disease until the kidney's function is halved. So, it would be nice if people would go back to their eating habits and check their current health status. (What if all the kidney disease patients were cured and gone?) I would be happy. That means that we have proven our ability to solve a serious social problem. If that moment comes, we can find a new business.”

Kim Seul-ki, who is constantly thinking about the business while at rest, said, " Since I am also a kidney patient and eating our products, I can guarantee the quality of our products. I am most proud when I see people who have the same problem as me rejoicing over our products.”

Microsalts will hold “Low sodium diet campaign” on the Streets of Culture near Sinchon Yuplex on March 10th, “World Kidney Day”. People can get kidney screening free of charge at this event.

Contact : Bae, Sujee ( sjbae05@kaist.ac.kr )