Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Sept. 2, 2021As the world emerges, haltingly and unevenly, from lockdown, new challenges emerge. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.
Supplement companies have been known to play fast and loose with the science—and that's not good—but COVID-19 vaccines should be a red line. It makes the whole industry look bad. Supplements makers are making so much money off COVID-19, the last thing they want do is look like they want COVID-19 to keep going.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have sent dozens of letters to supplement makers that were also making unfounded claims for products claiming to cure COVID-19.
And although the companies receiving those letters had all of 48 hours to stop those illegal practices, the game continues.
The king of the heap is Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has attracted a following over the last decade for his muscular advocacy of natural products and complementary medicine. To the mainstream world, Mercola is unconventional. But to vitamin heads, he has been a brave warrior carrying the torch of the power of dietary supplements.
Dr. Mercola then took up the supplements world’s most controversial subject, COVID-19.
There was plenty of runway for Dr. Mercola to address COVID-19 as it relates to nutrition—62 vitamin D studies on outcomes based on sufficiency and another 33 treatment studies, with positive effects around 90%. Or the 35 published zinc studies showing 79% improvement when used early on. Or the 18 vitamin C studies showing 46% improvement when used early. The five probiotics studies showing 35% improvement when used early, 66% mortality improvement when used late. The four quercetin studies showing 79% improvement when used early.
COVID-19 patients fare worse when they present with comorbidities like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues—all nutrition-based conditions.
Like any supplement maker, marketer or advocate, Dr. Mercola could have talked about the power of a healthy immune system. Or the big kerfuffle early on in COVID-19, the elderberry cytokine storm.
Heck, COVID-19 has been a global litmus test that shows how really unhealthy the modern human race really is today. There is a lot to talk about building a strong foundation of constitutional wellness through multivitamins and targeted nutrition.
These are all things in the wheelhouse of natural complementary medicine, which is what Dr. Mercola has long been talking about.
But then Dr. Mercola became a leading member of the so-called Disinformation Dozen—12 people responsible for sharing two-thirds of all anti-vaccine messaging across the social media landscape, according to the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate and called out in a recent New York Times article.
Dr. Mercola certainly is not doing the supplement industry any favors when his emails go far afield to talk about the war in Afghanistan, domestic terrorism and how vaccine passports are “one step closer to dictatorship.”
Supplement makers do not need to play fast and loose with science—or the regulatory guard rails established more than a quarter-century ago around supplements communications—in order to sell products.
This immunity scare sells itself.
Weight management is another surefire winner because so many people saw the pounds pile up as they languished on their couches working from home. COVID-19 begat The COVID 19.
As the pandemic wore on, the nouveau issues of stress, sleep and anxiety have bubbled to the surface—just as they had been trending before the pandemic hit. These three health concerns are responsible in no small degree for ascent of adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola and schisandra over the last decade, as well as the meteoric rise of CBD. So they’ve just been given a surge of their own thanks to the pandemic.
All the more reason why there’s no need to go rogue here.
Responsible supplement companies should be creating consistent, quality formulations that target all these COVID-adjacent conditions. Antioxidants and multivitamins are products that maintain overall wellness, and now come in a great diversity of product delivery formats.
There’s lots to talk to consumers about, especially now that they have returned to stores and are a little more relaxed about talking with store team members about supplements that target these concerns tailor-made for today’s supplements.
There’s fruit all over the tree that anyone, Dr. Mercola included, could and should be talking about.
So don’t use this politically charged crisis to be pound foolish. We should be above the crisis. Precaution is due. Focus on daily immune support, then weight management, stress, sleep and anxiety, and then constitutional wellness. But don’t talk COVID-19. It makes the whole industry look bad.