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Predicting the next wave of condition-specific supplements

Predicting the next wave of condition-specific supplements
This letter from the editor prefaces Nutrition Business Journal's 2012 Condition-Specific Supplements Issue. It looks at how product formulation has become more sophisticated as the market for condition-focused supplements has grown. Click here to see this issue's table of contents.

Whatever primordial force, evolutionary equilibrium or intelligent architect it was that first danced this universe into existence did a pretty bang-up job designing the human body. It’s labyrinthine, but efficient. After centuries spent trying to figure ourselves out, we’ve developed some impressive, complex solutions to foster health for this complicated corpus—eye surgery, Prozac, heart transplants. And yet the solutions that that primal force devised to sustain the body’s existence are far more sophisticated than we could ever hope to dream up.

The single-molecule solution is the hallmark of the pharmaceutical industry—a paradigm desperately in need of disruption. Supplements then rode in on the white, holistic horse, carrying the banner of wholesome, nutrient-based prevention. And yet the supplement industry too has shambled down the road of synthesizing single extracts for the sake of specificity and reproducibility.

Peel away the layers of the Western medicine onion, and at its center, what will you find? Willow bark, orange rind mold, licorice and poppy. Bayer was quick out of the gate on the aspirin game, but the willow tree figured it out first. And consumers are catching on.

The renewed energy in whole-food supplements and whole-food diets speaks to the consumer reaction against the forces of pharmaceuticalization, both for drugs and nutraceuticals. Back-to-nature is the consumer’s guiding star, and back-to-the-complexity-of-nature should guide condition-specific solutionaries.

How long can we keep throwing single servings of calcium, ginkgo and probiotics at such multifarious organs as bones, brains and intestines and expect positive results? In the brave, new, natural, holistic-minded world, smart supplement companies get erudite when they get condition-specific, and take a broad look at managing conditions.

Brains, bones & guts

Brain health is promising—no doubt. It will do for the supplement industry what heart health did ten years ago. But brains are more than smarts—mood, stress, sleep and outlook tumble around in there as well.

Bones are more than calcium. Smart companies get vitamin K, D, and magnesium into the equation.

And, as you’ll learn in more depth in NBJ’s Condition-Specific Supplements issue, guts are certainly more than probiotics. The winners here will focus on targeted solutions, personalization and prebiotics.

And the biggest winners in the condition-specific game will be companies that not only recognize that calcium is one of a thousand integrated nutrients that a body needs, but that supplements are only one of a thousand integrated steps to better health. Food, work, exercise, family, friends, purpose, outlook—companies that can successfully embed their product into this broader lifestyle spectrum will deliver the most value to health-hungry consumers.

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