Gretchen Vannice, MS, RD, of Omega-3 RD Nutrition Consulting, is serious about science – or lack thereof – in the dietary supplement industry, and isn't afraid to talk about it. She works with ingredient and finished goods suppliers, providing research and support for product development, claims substantiation, marketing, sales education and regulatory.
Fi: How much has the demand for credible information grown since you started consulting and what do you think is the catalyst for that growth?
GV: I've been involved with the dietary supplement industry for 25 years. The demand for credible information has grown a lot, especially in the last 10 years, as industry is realizing that those who are going to be left standing in the future are the ones that actually have some research on their product; that have substantiation of their claims; and that really stand up and want to be taken seriously as a dietary supplement company. There's a huge opportunity, especially now with this paradigm shift we have in the world of looking at preventive medicine. What's missing is published evidence. There's a lot of evidence out there, but it's not well organized and companies are not using it appropriately, or they don't know how to use it appropriately.
Fi: You will be track chair on digestive health and immunity at Nutracon 2011. I understand your goal is to raise the bar on supplement science. Can you talk about that?
GV: I'm very excited about this track. Many of us forget that what we have in our intestines is not really in our body until it's absorbed through the intestinal wall into our body. Digestion itself – I'm a dietician so I'm biased – is quite fascinating. So, I'm very happy to be track chair because it's giving me the opportunity to bring in some great speakers.
One of our speakers is going to be one of the top researchers in the world on inflammation and immunity. We also have an emergency doc surgeon. He uses dietary supplements in the ER. He's seen it improve the immunity and recovery of his patients. The problem he has is: Which products work? It's hard for him to know as a clinician what products to use. It's a missed opportunity for the industry, anyway.
There are some ingredients that have science on them in the last 20 years, but the study design was poor and so we have finished studies but they are weak. Scientists can tell this right away. I tell my clients, the best study is completely designed before it starts. It’s a real disappointment to have these studies come out that are so poorly done they can't be used for much. And it actually makes the industry look bad.
Fi: You're from Oregon, you were reared in Canada, you went to school in California and now you're back in Oregon. How do you like it?
GV: I know, it's funny. I have not ventured far from the West Coast. Oregon is a beautiful state. I happen to love the weather and I also really like the attitude here, very environmentally friendly. Prevention is not a new thought here. There's a lot of integration with holistic medicine and alternative practice. In fact, the first accredited naturopathic medical school was started in Oregon. I have serious roots in Oregon in that I'm a fourth-generation Oregonian. We have property that's been in the family for 157 years. The house where my mother was born still has family living in it.