Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Role of Supplements in Health and Wellness

Even the most advanced wellness consumers, who one might expect to shun any and all elements of the modern medical establishment, are still buying the one thing that symbolizes allopathic medicine to most of us: pills.

Past Hartman Group research has shown that consumers' movement from periphery to core along the wellness continuum increases their likelihood of using dietary supplements. Some of the triggers that get people started may include nutritional needs, health conditions (such as high cholesterol or arthritis) and aging. The lack of knowledge people have about supplements initially inhibit some consumers from buying supplements. Additional inhibitors include price and the perceived lack of scientific proof of the efficacy of these products.

Consumers continue to purchase and use nutritional supplements, but with less intensity and exploratory nature than what we saw in 2000. Today, mid-level and core consumers appear to have identified key supplements that they use with some regulatory (ranging from three times per week to daily) and have decreased their exploratory shopping for new supplements. We also find new interest in key supplements such as green tea, probiotics and Omegas.

Consumers have dramatically increased the number of phrases and behaviors that define "wellness" to them from 2000 to 2005. Particularly notable is "taking supplements," which is now seen as the path of wellness by 43% of consumers, nearly double the number in 2000 (23%).

The following language map illustrates the most predominate ways in which consumers think and talk about health and wellness. The map progresses from bottom to top, with the bottom representing consumers who are less involved in health and wellness (periphery wellness consumers) and the top representing those who are most involved in health and wellness (core wellness consumers). This map depicts several interesting shifts and changes from 2000. We find that wellness consumers still begin the journey with the desire to eat well, but with more intention towards living a healthier lifestyle.

The predominant themes of the language being used from periphery to core are represented by the black areas. The grayed "bubbles" represent secondary themes that run throughout the language analysis and support the primary themes. Supporting quotes, thoughts, tactics, activities, examples, etc. to what the primary themes mean to consumers are the white areas.
At the bottom, periphery wellness consumers have little or no brand recognition of supplements and knowledge is very limited. Moving up the ladder, brand awareness and knowledge increases among mid-level wellness consumers, but only moderately. At the top, brand awareness and supplement knowledge is at its zenith among core wellness consumers.

In general, except for the use of vitamins and minerals on an occasional basis, periphery wellness consumers have a much lower involvement with products outside of the traditional food groups.

As one moves towards the core, or top on the language map, the importance of specialty supplements to consumers increases more, relative to the other supplement categories, than the frequency in which consumers use the products. In practical terms this means that consumers use of specialty supplements lags behind vitamins and minerals, and herbal and specialty supplements.

Cultural Preferences to Health Products

Most American consumers address general health concerns (e.g., staying in shape, eating well, eating balanced meals, etc.) with daily, lifestyle routines and practices rather than targeted, acute responses (e.g., taking medication). At this level, most Americans use a vague "watching behavior (e.g., "I watch my sugar intake") or, if they are more evolved wellness consumers, they incorporate lots of fresh foods into their diet to address current and long-term general health. What they tend not to use is a specific plan of action requiring health products that target a specific health condition.

When consumers are experiencing chronic or acute health problems (allergies, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, etc.), we find that they definitely shift from more general watching behaviors and high level dietary overhauls (with the requisite focus on avoiding "bad things") to more proactive and targeted health behaviors. In the case of this proactive set, those with diagnosed chronic conditions generally take medications and, if pushed, also alter their overall diet to avoid ingredients that might exacerbate their condition.

However, most consumers with chronic health conditions, we find, will end up turning to alternative medicine - to different pills. The chart below illustrates consumers' preferred delivery of functional ingredients when asked which format they preferred vitamins, minerals and nutrients delivered in. Overwhelmingly, respondents chose pills (72%) compared to the next most popular format beverages (26%).

Consumers view dietary supplements as a key symbolic component that they use in their lives to challenge the hold that they view pharmaceutical companies have over them. The most successful dietary supplement products are those that focus on offering up modes of control, including prevention, for which modern medicine offers either poor solutions, last-minute solutions, or no solutions at all. This fits well with what consumers report as the most commonly used supplements including vitamin C, calcium, fiber and vitamins B, E and D. These supplements use levels reflects consumer concerns about and increasing roles for products that offer antioxidants, bone and digestive health, as well as an overall perceived "increase in wellness."

Blaine Becker is Director of Communications for Hartman Group, an online information source educating consumers about organic foods, natural products, health and wellness.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Are Vitamin Supplements Really Beneficial?

Humans are designed to perform various tasks. Meaning, they are also designed to consume very high levels of energy. With this regards, it is a must that humans must incorporate into their daily diets the vitamins and minerals that will act as vital supplements to keep them going. The generation in which everyone of us currently lives in is a health-conscious generation. Vitamins, minerals, and most of all, nutrition, have become very important topics. Schools, health organizations, hospitals, and clinics emphasize the importance of such to human life. Care for the human body is vital. With a malfunctioning body system, work, challenges, and health will just be dreams which will be out-of-reach.

The busy lifestyle as engaged to by all individuals now hinders proper nutrition. Why so? It is because of the reality that these busy individuals tend to eat less than what is required. They no longer eat a sufficiently balanced diet that will enhance their immune system in fighting off foreign bodies that attack the body systems. This malpractice as exemplified by the people these days has paved the way for the boom of the vitamin supplement industry.

It still cannot be denied that the intake of a sufficient balanced diet secures proper nutrition. Multi vitamins though, come in varied forms. There is the liquid vitamin, vitamin pill, and some of them come in gel capsules.

Taking in a multivitamin, be it in whatever form, will obviously give a person the very benefit of what is known as convenience. It will be much convenient for a person, particularly the very busy ones, to take one multivitamin supplement than to take a lot other of the varied kinds that contain separate vitamin supplements. For one, the children need to take only one dose of a complete set of vitamins which will further enhance their resistance. It will be very difficult to let the children take a large number of vitamin supplement. Although it is best for them to have the vitamin liquid supplement. For older people, it is as well considered beneficial to take in the traditional tablet form of vitamins.

There are a myriad of health benefits which can be derived out of vitamin intake as part of your daily diet. You may have recalled how your mother would pump you with different types of vitamin supplements. You may have clearly remembered how you managed to trick you mom or your nanny so you will not be obliged to drink your vitamin supplements for the day. Now that you have grown up from your childish ways, it is now clear to you how beneficial vitamin supplements can get, right?

Vitamin supplements provide antioxidants such as that of the Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A. These antioxidants function by combating what is known as the reactive oxygen intermediates or that which is commonly known as the free radicals. It is a known fact that the free radicals are the root of serious illnesses like that of cancer, hypertension, and the rheumatoid arthritis.

What are free radicals really? And how do they harm humans?

These free radicals are the sets of atoms that contain unpaired electrons in the outer shell. They are hence fatal. And because of their struggle to attain a more stable outer shell, they need to get an electron that will be paired with the rest of their electrons. When taken inside the human body, the free radicals operate to oxidize the nearest molecule. Therefore, these free radicals are able to take their needed electron. Now, the oxidized molecule will hence become a free radical as well. A chain reaction follows and starts disrupting the living cells around.

Do you know what the free radicals do?

The free radicals primarily attack the DNA, the lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates. In all cases, the prime target is the DNA. When the DNA is the one disrupted, then mutations start on the part of the cell cycle then automatically leads to malignancy.

What must be done?

It is essential to take antioxidants as provided by the Vitamins A, C and E. These substances tend to protect the human body against the damaging and harmful oxidation reactions.
Not anybody wants to be a victim of diseases and some other illnesses. The protection against the harms brought by the free radicals and some other dangerous factors can impede good health. That is why, it is extremely a must to protect one's self. Vitamin supplements will help.

Ben Adams is the author of: 'Vitamin Supplements Health Boosting Secrets' an informative guide on how to naturally improve your health. Claim your free 5-part 'Vitamin and Supplement tips' course here: Free Vitamin Supplement Tips