When Dr Jau-Fei Chen’s not busy running a multi-million dollar business empire, she’s giving educational talks to packed auditoriums or can be found in the lab, lost in hours of research on her lifelong passion – the science of nutritional immunology. Since establishing E. EXCEL International 28 years ago, it doesn’t look like Dr Chen is slowing down any time soon. Recently, Top 10 of Asia gets to speak with the dynamic entrepreneur about her background and her untiring efforts in making a difference to the well-being of humansthrough nutritional immunology.
Speaking to Dr Jau-Fei Chen, the founder and chairman of E. EXCEL International, one gets the vibe that she could master anything she puts her mind to. Beneath her calm and gentle demeanour, lies an insatiably curious and scientific mind that has been finely honed from a very young age to transform the world through good nutrition. “I’m a nerd,” she admits with a winsome smile. But this self-professed ‘nerd’ wears many hats, be it scientist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, author, speaker, educator, pianist, wife and mother of three.
Dr Jau-Fei Chen
Whether it is harnessing the latest technology to create life-enhancing products or building a business that spans many countries including the United States, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, she knows exactly what it takes to be the best. “In my dictionary, there’s no such word as failure,” she says. “There’s only results. Every time I do something, I get a result. If it’s not the result I want, I make sure I’m not going to get the same result the next time. That’s how I improve. And I’m one step closer to where I want to be.” People like the legendary Thomas Alva Edison inspired her with his tenacity and spirit of never giving up.
Dr Chen’s story started in Taiwan where she was born. When she was 10, she emigrated to overseas with her family. Her academic achievements were nothing short of impressive. At the age of 19, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology with a minor in chemistry from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah and continued her studies until she earned her PhD in microbiology with a focus in immunology when she was 26. At the same time, she conducted extensive research on cancer for over 20 years. Disheartened by the discovery that cancer treatments such as chemotherapy destroy healthy cells and cause immense suffering to the patients, she decided to focus on the ways our body can defend itself from the disease instead. “The path I was on led me to discover the link between proper nutrition and the health of the human immune system. And the best source of nutrition are plant foods.” It was then that she decided to dedicate her life to the prevention of disease rather than labouring over a cure.
Shortly after her momentous discovery, Dr Chen founded E. EXCEL International, a global platform to spread awareness about Nutritional Immunology and support her continuous research of plant foods. However, when she was looking for research funds, no one wanted to support the young scientist to do research on the vegetables in the supermarket aisle. “They would ask me whether my research on broccoli will result in the making use of its extract to make a pill.” She told them frankly that she had no intention of doing that. “I told them that I just wanted to know what’s inside the broccoli that makes it such a miracle. And I would like to use that knowledge and educate the public to eat more broccoli.” Unfortunately, that resulted inher not getting any funds to support her altruistic research.
Entrepreneurship was the natural next step to take as she needed to support herself in her research work and commitment to public education. Based on Dr Chen’s research on how different nutrients relate to the human body, the company developed health products of the highest quality using different types of natural wholesome plants that have been carefully studied. The processing method chosen, be it freeze-drying, spray-drying or concentrating polysaccharides, is selected after careful consideration of the unique characteristics of each plant.
“Bear in mind that our products are for convenience and are not a cure. If you do not have the time to buy and prepare vegetables at home, you can use our products as a substitute,” Dr Chen says adding that she is not interested in hawking a bottle of miracle pills that will cure diseases. “I’m more concerned about what mothers would buy in the supermarket because that’s where true change begins – from the choices we make in the supermarket that will end up on the dining table.”
Citing the example of a typical Chinese home-cooked dinner featuring an average of five dishes. She explains, “Out of the five dishes, four would contain some sort of meat and only one dish would contain vegetables. I’m suggesting, why not reverse it? I’m not asking everyone to become a vegetarian. Just by having four vegetable dishes and one meat dish will do wonders in the long-run.” She adds, “My research into the different types of vegetables in the supermarket on how they affect our immune system involves research on phytochemicals, polysaccharides and antioxidants. But in layman terms, what we teach to the public is that variety is good. As long as you have the different rainbow colours of vegetables on your plate, you’ll be able to prevent up to 40% of all types of cancers.”
“When I started in 1987, it was really, really hard,” she recalls. It was the era where vitamin supplements and miracle cures rule over the humble vegetable. “I would tell people, you do not need vitamin supplements. All you have to do is to eat the vegetables in the supermarket. And they would look at me strangely.” Never one to shy away from challenges, she took on the massive task of educating the public about the health benefits of plant-based foods. She realised that network marketing was the most effective platform to share her research findings with the world.
“E. EXCEL, which stands for Extra Excellence, is all about education. Our mission is to share the gifts of health and knowledge with mankind. We want people to be able to get the help they need through our educational activities. They do not have to use our products. As long as they can change their lifestyle, that’s good enough for us,” she says adding that she doesn’t even talk about their products in her public speeches. “We have never succumbed to being just a profit-making company. From Day 1 to this very day, we believe and share about the power of wholesome vegetables and shun man-made products like vitamin pills,” she says.
Her determination to stick firmly to her principles paid off. “E. EXCEL has remained very stable through all the financial turmoils. Our growth has been consistent and stable year by year, which is what we aim for.” Her tireless efforts have garnered numerous awards including The China Dynasty Award by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission of Taiwan and Outstanding Individual of Our Time Award by the media in the Asia-Pacific region, and E. EXCEL won the Asia Pacific Super Excellent Brand—Outstanding Brand Excellence Award. Dr Chen was also named as one of the Top 100 Chinese in America and March 8, 1996, was declared Jau-Fei Chen Day in the state of California.
A philanthropist at heart, Dr Chen, through E. EXCEL, has supported numerous charitable organisations throughout the world including World Vision, the American Cancer Society and YayasanNanyang Press. In line with her passion to support and raise the next generation of nutritional immunologists, Dr Chen has set up the Jau-Fei Chen Scholarship and Research Endowment via her alma mater, BYU. She has also written a number of books, the most recent of which is Nutrition • Immunity • Longevity, a practical and power-packed tome that explores the most common diseases affecting people today and how suitable nutrition intake can help strengthen the immune system.
According to Dr Chen many people perceive cancer to be an invasive disease that happens overnight. “We tend to think of a colleague, a friend or someone who got diagnosed with cancer and in a year or two, they are gone. But it actually started a long while ago.” She gave the example of breast cancer taking six to eight years to develop fully from the appearance of the very first breast cancer cell until the time we can see it from the x-ray. As for lung cancer, it will typically take 10 to 20 years. “This means that two thirds of the time, there may be cancer cells growing within us right now and we don’t know about it. It is during this time that we can heal ourselves and where nutrition comes into play,” she emphasises.
Dr Chen is gratified that more and more people are aware of and accepting the fact that the human being should be eating wholesome vegetables rather than supplements. “Many scientists and members of the public today agree with what we’ve been saying nearly 30 years ago. The journey has been long, but so very rewarding,” she says. “Just knowing that we have somehow been an influence and have made some positive change in the world is what really makes it all worth the while.”