Health Supplements-Growing Demand and Credibility

A growing number of consumers are turning to health supplements as an alternative or addition to mainstream medicine. Today’s consumers are savvy and understand the benefits of the ingredients found in health supplements for good health and well-being. While they are apprehensive of nutritional products, they value brands that offer manufacturing credibility and prefer products formulated under doctor supervision.

As more consumers place priority on their health, health supplements are fast becoming a popular choice.This focus is reflected in the booming growth of the U.S. dietary supplement market, presently estimated to be valued at $24-25 billion. In spite of prevailing doubts about the integrity of health supplement manufacturers, the rising cost of raw materials and new regulations, the health supplement industry is projected to rise by 4-6% in the next year. By the year 2010 growth in the global nutraceuticals industry is projected to reach $187 billion.

According to NMI’s 2007 Health & Wellness Trends Survey, the top health categories for supplements are weight loss, cardiovascular support, digestion, arthritis or joint pain relief, seasonal allergy relief, vision and eye health, and diabetes.”Customers believe in the industry. A recent study found that 34% of consumers looking to lose weight first turn to a dietary supplement as their adjunct in the battle against obesity,” says Douglas S. Kalman, director of nutrition and applied clinical research at Miami Research Associates and chair of the Nutrition in Complementary Care Dietetic Practice Group (NCC-DPG).

According to an annual survey conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), Washington, D.C. “Consumers’ use of dietary supplements remained fairly consistent in 2007, with 68% of American adults saying that they take dietary supplements.”Consider these statistics by the Office of Dietary Supplements:

* 31.8% of American children use dietary supplements (18 and younger).

* 47% of American men use dietary supplements.

* 57% of American women use dietary supplements.

The most commonly used dietary supplements are multivitamins and minerals (18.3%). A recent study conducted by the NCAAM, shows a list of why people use dietary supplements, the most common reasons are general health, arthritis, memory improvement, to prevent osteoporosis, for energy, recommended by physician, friend, family or through media, for immune health, to prevent colds/influenza, and as sleep aids.Health supplements most commonly purchased are:

* 40% vitamins

* 29% herbals & botanicals (ginkgo, echinacea, St. John’s Wort, ginseng, garlic)

* 10% sports nutrition

* 8% minerals

* 8% specialty supplements (melatonin, fish oil, amino acids, etc.)

(www.snac.ucla.edu)

The top supplements used by consumers in 2007, in order of frequency are multivitamins, calcium, vitamin C, fish oil, vitamin E, antioxidants, vitamin B/B complex and omega 3s. (NMI survey).Why are Health Supplements Gaining Credibility?

There are more than 20,000 products on the market. Many consumers believe that health supplements can support their bodies to fight disease or improve health. Exactly why are health supplements gaining credibility?One of the reasons is the advances in science and technology. Most credible health supplement manufacturers use strict manufacturing policies combined with a professional team of researchers who develop products based on evidence based scientific research.

Through clinical studies and systematic reviews scientist evaluate the health benefits and safety risks of health supplements. This has built consumer confidence.An example of this is omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. There is strong evidence from epidemiologic and clinical trials indicating the consumption of omega-3 fatty acid as being beneficial to people who are at risk of coronary heart disease. The American Heart Association validates this: “Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of – or who have – cardiovascular disease”Consumer interest in health supplements is now reinforced by doctors and healthcare professionals.

A report from CRN’s Healthcare Professionals Impact Study states that “more than three-quarters of U.S. physicians (79%) and nurses (82%) recommend dietary supplements to their patients.” As dietary supplements receive more support from clinical trials, there will be a rise in the number of recommendations of health supplements by healthcare professionals to their patients.

Another factor which will boost future sales is the recent finalization of U.S. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) rules and requirements for the manufacture of dietary supplements and the new Adverse Event Reporting (AER) law. “The burden of compliance is really key for consumer confidence,” says Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific affairs, Natural Products Association (NPA), Washington, D.C. Health supplements are the future in preventive medicine. With DNA diagnostics becoming more common, and the role of nutrition against disease gaining surer footing, the health supplement industry is poised to meet the challenges of the future health industry.

What to Look for in Health Supplements

With millions of people worldwide learning about the benefits of health supplements, the market has grown tremendously. Unfortunately, that has meant that providers of substandard products have put supplements on the market that may not deliver on their promises. If you are interested in using dietary health supplements, there are several steps you can take to help ensure you’re getting the best product for your money.

Freshness Counts

First, you should take a look at the expiration date on the label of the vitamins or supplement bottle. Out of date products probably won’t hurt you, but they may not be as effective as a fresher product, depending on what type of supplement it is.

For choosing nutritional health supplements such as fish oil capsules or omega-3 fatty acid supplements, you should look for products that are certified not to have mercury in them. Other substances that can affect how safe a supplement is and how your body reacts to it include wheat, corn, and dairy products in the filler ingredients. Allergies to these are fairly common.

Laboratory Testing

Look at the label and confirm that the product has been tested in a laboratory to ensure that the stated amounts of nutrients printed on the label are accurate. Other label information you should look at when choosing health supplements includes whether the ingredients are organic and do not contain pesticides.

Speaking with your health care provider, a dietitian, nutrition expert, fitness trainer, or health food store operator can help you learn about which supplements are best for your particular age, gender, health status, and lifestyle.

While some consumers thoroughly research the different types of supplements, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs, others just want to ensure that they are getting enough of the nutrition that is recommended for them. For this purpose, you can find high quality multi-vitamin supplements, some of which contain important minerals like iron and calcium.

Specialized Supplements

If you determine that you have a particular nutritional deficiency, you can often get a supplement that only contains that particular product. Single vitamin supplements are commonly available for vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, and the many B vitamins. You can also find supplements that contain just a collection of the various B vitamins.

Health supplements like omega-3 fatty acids usually come in gel capsules and do not contain other supplements. Calcium supplements often include vitamin D. Iron supplements may come as single-product supplements or combined with other minerals and vitamins. In short, whatever single supplement or combination you seek is almost certainly available in a health food store or online.

For Women Health Supplements Can Help Treat Specific Conditions

Women, who lead busy, stressful and demanding lives, putting other’s needs first and their own last, should consider taking women health supplements to prevent nutritional deficiencies in their bodies. When considering which of the many supplements for women on the market are best for you, you need to know what nutrients to look for.

All good women health supplements will contain vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. These are essential ingredients. Vitamin C is particularly important for women because it helps to keep both the heart and the immune system healthy. It also lowers blood pressure and raises good cholesterol (HDL) which reduces the risk of heart disease. Vitamin E, also lowers the risk of heart disease and also reduces the risk of stroke. Antioxidants such as Vitamins E, C and A may also lower the risk of cancer and muscle degeneration.

Supplements for women are particularly important because as women age, the hormonal and other physical changes place additional nutritional demands on the body. It is particularly important that women over the age of 50 ensure they are getting enough Vitamin D which will help them absorb calcium which is essential to protect against osteoporosis. While women are going through menopause, it is recommended they take additional vitamin E and B12 than what might normally be in women health supplements.

Supplements for women should also include organic iron. Women need iron in order to produce red blood cells and an iron deficiency cause anemia. Specially formulated, women health supplements are vital to a women’s health. This is because women have very specific health needs which need to be addressed and our modern polluted world and busy lifestyles make it hard to do so. Most women have serious gaps in their nutritional intake. Largely as a result of poor diet and increased stresses on the body, women are increasingly suffering from breast cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome, infertility and skin problems. Pregnancy and menopause also place serious stresses on a woman’s body.

The best supplements for women will include calcium and magnesium which combine to reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. However, if PMS is a particular problem, there are women health supplements available for specific needs. A supplement designed to assist people with PMS should include Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, choline, taurine and herbs such as licorice root, dong quai root and peony root. These ingredients work synergistically to help relieve PMS. Essential fatty acids can also be beneficial to women who suffer from PMS.

Even if you think you are eating well and therefore do not need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement, if you are in one of the following groups you may need to think again:

o Post menopausal women experience a sudden decline in their levels of estrogen which in turn causes an increase in bone loss. Supplements for women containing Calcium and Vitamin D will help to prevent this bone loss.

o Women who have heavy menstruation may have an iron deficiency due to excessive blood loss. This can cause the blood to be low in hemoglobin (anemia) which carries oxygen in the blood to the tissues. Women health supplements containing organic iron can replace the depleted iron and avoid anemia and its effects.

o Women who are trying to become pregnant or who are already pregnant would benefit from taking various women health supplements. In particular, they should ensure their supplements contain calcium, Vitamin D, folate and iron. It is best to start taking a good supplement before getting pregnant.

Women have nutritional needs that are unique to them and cannot be met by just taking a broad-spectrum multi-vitamin supplement. Supplements for women should certainly contain the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes that we all need, but they should also include ingredients that meet the specific needs of women. You can find women health supplements that are both comprehensive and specific to certain needs.

If you avoid synthetic products, buy a natural broad spectrum women’s supplement, eat a healthy diet, exercise and reduce stress where possible, your health should improve. If you are still experiencing ‘female problems’, look for a specific supplement to meet that need. You won’t look back.