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Articles from 2009 In March


Kids' obesity epidemic spurs paradigm shift in schools' vending machine policies

The days of school children flocking to the Coke machine for their daily afternoon sugar and caffeine buzz may be coming to an end. Children may still turn to the vending machine, but future snacking options will be more nutritious than a conventional candy bar and soda. At least, that will be the case if the healthy vending companies that have popped up in California and other states are able to get their wares into more schools, health clubs, recreation centers and other locations that utilize conventional vending machines.

As childhood obesity continues to rise, Americans are becoming more educated on the implications that a sugar-, sodium- and fat-laden diet can have on a child's health — now and later in life. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 25% of obese adults were overweight as children and that if a child is overweight before the age of eight, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.

Because kids spend 35 hours or more each week at school and consume many of their calories on campus, child nutrition advocates are focused on affecting positive change at the school level. Certainly, the work of people such as Ann Cooper — a.k.a. the Renegade Lunch Lady — who has been working to reshape school lunch programs across the United States is crucial to addressing childhood obesity and disease epidemics. But other efforts are needed to confront the fact that many schools still leave kids the option of turning to vending machines for snacks that are chock full of sodium, trans and saturated fats, and sugar and other empty carbohydrates.

Changing Legislation

California legislators took notice of the rising trends of unhealthy meals and snacking in schools and took action in 2005, passing two bills aimed at improving nutrition in schools. Senate bills 12 and 965 require that the sale of all foods on school grounds comply with nutritional standards. Some of the restrictions associated with the new laws include specific parameters on the types of foods and beverages that are allowed to be sold in schools.

Senate Bill 12 states that an individual snack sold on school grounds may not have more than 35% of its calorie content derived from fat, 10% of the calories derived from saturated fat, or contain more than 35% sugar by weight. The snacks must also be 175 calories or less in elementary schools, or 250 calories or less in middle and high schools.

These guidelines have been championed by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation that was created to address the issue of childhood obesity. In late March, Hank Izzo, vice president of research and development at Mars Inc. (which is a member of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation), testified before Congress and urged U.S. lawmakers to base national school nutrition reform on the 35-10-35 formula.

But not all child nutrition advocates are happy with this formula. “The 35-10-35 rule is a travesty,” Laryn Callaway, ND, a practicing naturopathic physician in Arizona and founder and CEO of Organic Bistro Whole Life Meals, told NBJ. “It's basically saying that, as long as a food doesn't have too much of these bad, crummy things, it's healthy. That is like saying, ‘If there's only a little bit of nuclear waste in the sandbox, it's probably OK.’” According to Cooper, who is also author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, the 35-10-35 rule “just allows and supports more junk food in the schools.” She also noted that the rule opens the door for sweetened drinks such as Vitamin Water. “So now we will have a generation of children who think water is supposed to be sweetened,” Cooper said. “Water is a necessity of life.”

Given the popularity of soda and energy drinks, beverages are a hot topic in the school nutrition debate. Senate Bill 965 in California takes aim at improving the quality of beverages sold in the state's schools. The bill says that no less than 50% of all beverages sold on school grounds shall be: fruit-based drinks that are composed of no less than 50% fruit juice and have no added sweeteners; vegetable-based drinks that are composed of no less than 50% vegetable juice and have no added sweeteners; drinking water with no added sweeteners; milk; or an electrolyte replacement beverage that contains no more than 42 grams of added sweeteners per 20 oz. serving. Starting on July 1, 2009, all beverages sold in California schools must comply with the stipulations set out in Senate Bill 965.

Hello Healthy Vending

When the California legislation was first passed in 2005, it not only provided the opportunity for nutrition advocates to be heard on a larger stage, but it also created business opportunities for distributors and manufacturers looking to supply schools with healthier foods and beverages that would comply with the new state laws. “The alarm went off in March of 2006 when we went to [Natural Products] Expo West in Anaheim,” said Mark Trotter, CEO of California-based healthy vending company Yo-Naturals. “Based on our studies, we knew there was a lot of [business] potential with schools [because] the vending industry did not have any healthy products.” Building off of this analysis and the opportunity created by the new California legislation, Yo-Naturals was able to place 40 vending units in various locations around San Diego. About half of those locations were schools.

Initially the company selected products to feature in its machines on the basis that they comply with the California legislation, Trotter said. Today, Yo-Naturals — which now has a presence in approximately 800 locations in 105 cities across the United States — offers “Plan-o-Grams,” which take into account a school's or location's specific nutrition guidelines, as well as the particular needs of the age group that is being served. The three most popular products sold via Yo-Naturals' machines are Pirate's Booty snack chips, CLIF Bar's ZBaRs, and individually packaged servings of Horizon organic milk. Other products carried by Yo-Naturals include Barbara's Snackimals cookies, Annie's Organic Cheddar Bunnies, Vitamin Water drinks, and hundreds of other offerings that are primarily natural or organic. “We love offering new products — we grow with the brands,” Trotter said. “We'd also like to see our own private-label brand of Yo-Naturals products.” Trotter told NBJ that he'd like to roll out a Yo-Naturals private-label product line in 2010.

After launching in San Diego, Yo-Naturals received very positive press coverage that soon spread to the national level. As the national media picked up the company's story, the concept of healthy vending gained popularity and Yo-Naturals found itself fielding more requests from potential distributors. The company launched its national distributorship program in February 2007. Typically, potential distributors hear about Yo-Naturals from press coverage or via word of mouth, Trotter said, adding that the company gets as many as 200-300 calls or e-mails per week from people wanting to be distributors. Yo-Naturals sells its machines, which can feature about 35 different products, to distributors. At that point, the distributor places the vending machines in schools or other locations and stocks them by ordering food through Yo-Naturals' e-commerce platform. “We're like the Whole Foods and of the healthy vending business,” Trotter said.

Although Trotter would not share specific revenue figures with NBJ, he did note that the company has doubled in size each of the last two years. Currently about half of the Yo-Naturals' locations are schools, but Trotter said he expects that percentage to be closer to 75% in the next year. “That's because kids are always hungry, they've always got access to resources, and they've got the support of parents and teachers who support healthy eating,” he said.

High schools and middle schools make up about 95% of Yo-Naturals' school locations, but the company does operate a “kid-zone” program for elementary school children, which is still a new initiative and gaining popularity, Trotter said. Kid-zone machines typically have marketing graphics that are aimed at a younger crowd and meet stricter guidelines and restrictions that are required within elementary schools.

Breaking into Schools

According to the CDC's School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS), which was conducted in 2000, 43% of elementary schools, 89% of middle/junior high and 98% of high schools have a vending machine, school store, canteen, or snack bar where students could purchase foods or beverages.

Although many schools have been receptive to the healthy vending concept, significant hurdles for companies hoping to partner with schools still remain. David Sciarretta, who is the principal at the Albert Einstein Academy Charter Middle School in San Diego, said his school operates a Yo-Naturals machine. In an interview with NBJ, he noted that some schools are more hesitant to participate because of the perception of pricing issues. “I think that healthy snacks may sometimes be associated with higher cost, which may make some schools reluctant to use these machines, especially with low-income student populations,” Sciarretta said. “I definitely see a shift happening in education, with the move toward healthier eating and lifestyles. I know there are companies that specialize in organic foods for schools, for example. But the issue of cost is still an obstacle.”

Still, Trotter said he doesn't feel that price is as big of an issue as some may think. Yo-Naturals' products range in price from $1.00 to $2.50, which is on par with, or slightly more expensive than, the prices offered in most conventional vending machines. “It doesn't matter if we are in a low-income area in Philadelphia or a wealthy private school in San Francisco, those kids have access to money — all of them do,” Trotter said. “We don't see a difference in earnings from wealthy zip codes to lower- or middle-class zip codes; the machines do just as well, sales are just as strong.”

Trotter went on to note that he believes healthy vending may be a better channel than large retail outlets for penetrating traditionally underserved communities with natural & organic products. “Whole Foods wouldn't go into a lower-income zip code; no one would shop there,” Trotter said.

Other healthy vending operators, however, do feel price can be an obstacle in some communities. “[The] challenge is the unavoidable fact that all-natural, organic products cost more to produce and are therefore more expensive,” said Joe McCullough, owner of Enlightened Vending, a Santa Cruz, California-based healthy vending company. “To encourage students to make healthy choices, we have made every attempt to keep our prices as low as possible. As a result, we cannot realize the kinds of profits that a vending company serving inexpensive junk food and beverages can make.” Products offered by Enlightened Vending range in price from $.75 to $2.00, McCullough said.

Taking on Coke and Pepsi

Another challenge that companies entering the healthy vending space must overcome is the multi-year contract that many schools have with The Coca Cola Co. and PepsiCo. “The biggest hurdle by far has been trying to overcome the stranglehold that Coke and Pepsi have had on the beverage and snacking industry,” McCullough said. “Both Coke and Pepsi pay tens of thousands of dollars to schools, hospitals and businesses to ensure that their products are sold, often exclusively.”

Currently, Enlightened Vending has machines in only one California school, but the company hopes to expand that number in the coming years, said McCullough (who himself is a school teacher, along with his wife and Enlightened Vending co-founder, Tara McCullough). Enlightened Vending has stringent requirements for the foods it will offer, and McCullough said he hopes that schools will embrace the company's efforts to rid vending machines of unhealthy ingredients. None of the snacks featured in the company's machines contain hydrogenated oil, artificial colors or sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives or MSG, McCullough said.

Perhaps most puzzling for McCullough and Trotter is the mixed message that institutions are sending by continuing to partner with companies whose offerings are not seen as being nutritious. “A major reason we did not get an account with a well-known hospital in Santa Cruz was because they were not willing to give up the large commission that they were receiving from Coke,” McCullough said. “It is a reflection on our priorities as a nation that a healthcare institution decided to choose money over the health of their patients and employees.”

Trotter echoed those sentiments. “Kids want to eat healthy,” he said. “They are taught to eat healthy, and they are aware of healthy foods. That's why it's always a surprise to us when educators take money from big soft-drink companies when they are teaching health.”

McCullough said his company is rapidly working to devise a strategy that will enable it to better compete against heavyweights such as Coke and Pepsi. “Our hope is that schools and healthcare institutions will choose the overall health of their students and employees over money,” he said. “However, budget shortfalls are making this a tremendous challenge. This is one of the reasons we plan to hold educational seminars that highlight the many benefits of a healthy lifestyle. We feel that the better educated people are, the more likely they will be to make healthy decisions.” Enlighted Vending also runs a program through which it donates 5% to 10% of its vending profits to a school or charity.

For its part, Yo-Naturals said it doesn't view Coke and Pepsi as competitors because of the minimal beverage product crossover that exists between Yo-Naturals' and the soft-drink companies' machines. For this reason, it's not uncommon to see a Yo-Naturals machine sitting next to a Coke or Pepsi machine, the company said.

Kids Embrace Change

By all accounts, kids seem to be receptive to the idea of healthier snacking options. Sciarretta said that one of the best parts about having a healthy vending machine is that the kids still feel like they have the choice to decide what they want to eat. “We decided, as a school, that we wanted to cut down on high-fat, high-sugar snacks,” he said. “We also knew that if we outlawed these snacks without providing a healthy alternative we would spend the whole year policing the foods students ate rather than focusing on teaching and learning. Having a vending machine with healthy snacks and drinks that taste good means that students still have choice, but now it's from a healthier perspective.”

Anne Ronzoni, director of marketing for Robert's American Gourmet, which makes Pirate's Booty and other brands of better-for-you snacks, noted that parents seem to be drawn to the nutritional appeal of her company's foods — the product line is baked instead of fried, and the snacks are trans-fat and gluten free — while kids prefer the products because they taste good. CLIF's ZBaRs are also a good fit in vending machines because of their convenient size. “They're even made for kids' mouths [and are] narrow enough for kids to take healthy bites,” Jen Yun, brand director for CLIF Kid, told NBJ.

Yo-Naturals is looking to partner with other manufacturers to develop products that are of proper size for vending machines. One of the challenges the company has faced when picking healthy products is finding packaging that is small enough to fit in a vending machine. Trotter said that foods that can fit in a lunchbox are appealing products to offer in a vending machine.

Despite this and other obstacles, Trotter said Yo-Naturals is bullish about the future of healthy vending and hopes to be in 5,000 locations within the next four years. “More and more companies have focused on [rolling out products for the children's market], but it needs to come a lot further,” Trotter said. “The opportunities are endless for savvy product developers and marketers.”

The NBJ Bottom Line

Snacks and beverages in school vending machines are going to continue trending in a healthier direction — regardless of who the vendor is. Legislators are getting involved at the local, state and national levels, and it's only a matter of time until all schools have some form of regulation on the foods and beverages they are permitted to sell. What will be interesting to see is whether smaller companies such as Yo-Naturals and Enlightened Vending are able to garner the multi-year contracts that have typically gone to The Coca Cola Co., PepsiCo and other companies with large distribution and deep pockets. California will be the state to keep an eye on, because, as of July 1 of this year, all beverages sold in schools must comply with new healthy guidelines. Will Coke and Pepsi be able to shift their product line fast enough to keep up with this trend? The answer is probably yes. After all, Coke's acquisition of Glacéau and Honest Tea and Pepsi's purchase of Naked Juice and the IZZE Beverage Co. demonstrate that these companies, too, are serious about the better-for-you market.

Cutting-edge research

Prolacta: mother's milk
A Prolacta Bioscience assessment concluded that the oligosaccharide content of Prolacta human-milk-fortifier product samples, H(2)MF, did not differ substantially with respect to size and composition as compared to typical mother's breast milk.
Read the full article...

Palatinose makes athletes faster
BENEO-Palatinit's Palatinose, a low-glycaemic functional carbohydrate, was shown in a German placebo-controlled study to help bicyclers bike faster. During the time trial, the athletes who were given Palatinose finished one minute (three per cent) faster than the placebo group — a significant difference in a cycling race. Furthermore, the Palatinose group also had more sustained energy, with a special power increase in the final five minutes of the test, and a significant higher fat oxidation and better maintenance of blood-glucose levels through the end of the exercise.
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Sharp-PS makes brains sharper
Enzymotec's Sharp-PS, a phosphatidylserine supplement, showed promising results for elderly people in an open-label study in Israel. Thirty subjects with memory complaints were treated with Enzymotec's Sharp-PS for 12 weeks. Subjects' cognitive performance was assessed using a computerized assessment battery. The results show that treatment with Sharp-PS improved memory and attention parameters.
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Pomella may reverse skin ageing
A new study indicates a pomegranate extract standardized to punicalagins may help promote healthy, young-looking skin in several ways. The study, performed at Texas A&M University and published online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, explored the protective effects of the clinically researched pomegranate extract against ultraviolet rays (UV-A and UV-B) in SKU-1064 human skin fibroblast cells.
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Fruitflow ingredient returns to market

Coke and Unilever showing interest in tomato extract

Sirco will be the only product containing Fruitflow on the market.A functional fruit-juice beverage offering blood-circulation benefits has returned to UK shelves less than two years after it was axed.

Sirco was originally launched in January 2006 by research company Provexis, the developer of Fruitflow, the active ingredient in the product.

It was then withdrawn in July 2007 as part of a re-alignment of Provexis's corporate strategy. But it re-emerged in March under the ownership of the food and drink business, Multiple Marketing, with a new recipe and packaging.

Stephen Moon, chief executive of Provexis, said Sirco was not withdrawn because it was a failure. "It went reasonably well. But the business had to make up its mind what kind of a business it was. When I took over [in 2006] we were pressing on with a pretty full R&D pipeline, and we were also investing heavily in Sirco. So I talked to the board and got agreement to focus exclusively on being a functional-food discovery, development and licensing company."

Sirco was, and will be again, the only product containing Fruitflow on the market. However, the ingredient has attracted the interest of Unilever and Coca Cola, both of whom are engaged in research collaborations with Provexis to examine possible applications in, respectively, the dairy and beverage sectors.

Derived from tomatoes and patented by Provexis, Fruitflow works by smoothing platelets in the blood. These disc-shaped structures are important for blood clotting after injury and are normally inactive. But they can become 'spiky' as a result of smoking, high cholesterol or being overweight, and in this form can inhibit blood flow by forming an unwanted clot in a blood vessel.

In for the krill: NKO earns EU safety spurs

Crustacean extract more powerful than other omega 3s, Neptune says

KrillThe quest to make krill oil the next big thing in omega-3s received a boost from a decision by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to approve it under the Novel Foods regime.

The decision, which applies specifically to Canada-based Neptune Technologies & Bioressources' Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) brand, means the ingredient can be marketed legally for the first time in the European Union in food and dietary supplements.

NKO is a marine omega-3s phospholipid produced from Antarctic krill, a small crustacean, using a proprietary extraction technique Neptune developed, which is said to preserve the natural bio-activity of the ingredient.

The first NKO krill-oil product to be launched in Europe will be a dietary supplement, most likely introduced in the UK. The first functional-foods launch will be a weight-management protein bar, to be introduced soon in both Europe and the US, where NKO has GRAS status.

Having negotiated the tricky Novel Foods process, Neptune is preparing to submit Article 13.1 and 13.5 claims for NKO to EFSA for approval under the European Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation. The company claims its krill oil has the edge over other marine sources of omega 3s, such as salmon, because clinical trials show it is more effective in reducing bad cholesterol levels and raising good cholesterol levels, and it is more bio-available.

Tina Sampalis, Neptune's chief scientific officer, said: "According to EFSA regulations, functional-food and dietary supplements can only be commercialised at the daily dose established as safe, which is not always necessarily the effective dose. Fortunately, the daily dose accepted by EFSA as safe for NKO is also the one proven to be effective in all clinical studies with NKO."

Neptune said its sales are currently at the $10-$12 million mark, but expects them to rise to $16-$18 million by the end of the financial year, and to double within two years following that.

Carrot-Chickpea Tagine

27 MINUTES. Serves 4 / Prep tip: For quickest, most even cooking, use a wide-bottom pot. Serving tip: The tagine is delicious alone but is even better spooned over whole-wheat couscous.

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup sliced onions
1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
¾ pound carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch coins
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
⅓ cup pitted green olives, halved
10 pitted prunes, halved

  1. Heat a wide-bottom pan over medium heat. Add oil, then onions and ginger. Cook until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add cardamom, cinnamon, and cayenne. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.

  2. Add carrots, chickpeas, and broth. Cover and simmer until carrots are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Add olives and prunes. Cover and simmer until carrots are fully tender, 8-10 minutes. If tagine is a bit dry, stir in a few extra tablespoons broth. Add salt to taste.

PER SERVING: 231 cal, 26% fat cal, 7g fat, 1g sat fat, 0mg chol, 6g protein, 39g carb, 8g fiber, 256mg sodium

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Gray Area: Sean Gray of EWG on ingredients

Identifying ingredients to avoid in personal care products is a sticky business. While it’s a no-brainer to stay away from certain highly toxic substances—such as mercury and lead—many others are harder to place in the “good” or “evil” category.

For the past five years, Sean Gray, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, has been part of the team producing EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. The world’s largest and most-viewed personal-care product safety guide, it contains safety ratings on more than 40,000 products and 8,000 ingredients. NFM recently spoke with Gray about the challenges and rewards of investigating products for Skin Deep.

NFM: Why is it difficult to call certain ingredients good or bad in personal care products, and what’s a classic example of an ingredient that’s tough to classify?

GRAY: The whole bloody world [defies classification]. There are some classically hard things to determine the safety of, because in high concentrations they are problematic, but in low concentrations, they are just fine. For example, sodium hydroxide is in a lot of products. Now, if you went out and bought 100 percent lye, like Red Devil to clear out your toilet, one drop will burn a hole in your skin. But if it is used in small quantities to balance acid in a product, it’s perfectly fine.

With some things, we just don’t have enough information. Citric acid is a classic example. One or 2 percent will simply act as a preservative. I like to use the example of lemon. You would squeeze lemon over fruit salad to prevent it from browning, but if you suck on a lemon, it’s bitter; it hurts. Citric acid is sometimes in products at high levels—for example, in facial peels, which are literally meant to rip off a layer of skin. [Citric acid at this level] has actually been banned in Canada and other places, but in the U.S., manufacturers are not required to print percentages, so you can legally sell really high percentages of it. There are really no regulations. It can be totally benign or it can be enough to rip your face off.

Then there are other things that have minimal data available, like parabens, which, I’m sure, are actually worse than it says on our website. They have been found to show weak endocrine disruption in some studies. I believe we just don’t know enough. In almost every product the noninformed consumer uses—from your morning shower, to every time you wash your hands, to the time you wash your face at night and even in brushing your teeth—you can be exposed again and again. We’re seeing all these phenomena, like earlier puberty in girls and later puberty in boys, increased type 2 diabetes—which could be weight-related or environment-related—even an increase in juvenile type 1 diabetes, more birth defects. These things and others could indeed be related to all the parabens we are literally bathed in on a daily basis. That’s hard because we don’t have the studies yet to prove that they’re as bad as everyone in the environmental [advocacy] world believes them to be. The early data looks pretty bad, and it could be a lot worse.

NFM: What’s the best advice you can give for deciphering these “gray areas?”

GRAY: The gray area is in the preservatives, the parabens, again. That is why they’re added to products. If there are no preservatives in something like shampoo or baby wipes—you have these wet, warm products with lots of nutrients in them that are very susceptible to bacterial infections. You don’t want to be stocking or buying products like this for your wet, warm shower that don’t have preservatives. So, the question is: What is the least toxic option? I almost certainly think the answer is not parabens. But some of the other alternatives could be much worse. These ingredients, by their very nature, are meant to kill stuff. They have a very specific purpose in life—to create a hostile environment.

NFM: Are there any ingredients that have made you do a 180, or at least made you reconsider an assumption?

GRAY: Our scoring system starts off with everything being kosher, until we find out otherwise. As we gain more information, our scores only ever go up [indicating higher toxicity]. There have certainly been a lot of studies on ingredients in the past five years that have expanded the knowledge, but our basic concern is that nearly 90 percent of the ingredients used in cosmetics have never been tested for use in cosmetics, yet we smear them all over our bodies.

NFM: What’s been the most surprising thing to you about this process of investigating ingredients?

GRAY: How is it that we can use 10,000 ingredients in these products and only really know much of anything about 1,000 of them? This becomes even more true in the natural products world than in so-called traditional products, because they’re using all these extracts from crazy plants and botanicals. We found penicillin and aspirin from taking extracts from things. We’ve found things that are bioactive in the past. There’s no doubt in my mind that some of these 9,000 ingredients are bioactive. These companies will take the approach that no news is good news, but we need to test these things for internal bioactivity. We know the skin allows chemicals to come through it, and people aren’t perfect. Sometimes we have cuts on our skin. When we are brushing our teeth, some toothpaste gets swallowed; and when you wash your face, some of it gets in your eyes. We know these things are getting into our bodies.

Even with natural essential oils, some components are strong irritants to human skin. I’m so excited [companies have] decided not to add artificial fragrance and to use essential oils instead, but [they’re] also introducing concerns. Natural does not mean safe.

I like to use the example of my son, who loves to eat tomato sauce. He gets it on his face and if you wipe it off right away, it’s fine, but if you were to leave it on, his face would turn red. So, I can grow super- organic tomatoes that taste great, but I wouldn’t want to smear them all over my son’s face.

NFM: What’s the most inspiring thing about your work?

GRAY: I’m inspired by these naturals companies. A lot of them are taking really strong steps to move away from synthetic chemicals. Instead of turning coconuts into oil, then reacting that oil with four more things to make sodium lauryl sulfate to make a shampoo out of it, they’re using this really old technology that’s been used for thousands of years.

More and more companies are paying attention to how the ingredients get into their products, what kind of reactions they have when applied onto the human skin and, ultimately, what effects those ingredients could have when they’re flushed down the drain, into the environment.

I know these companies have great hearts, great minds and great ideas. What I’d love to see is for it to eventually wear off to the companies that have money to really invest in the research. I’m so excited that we’re seeing this market trend where cleaner products are getting larger and larger shelf space, and more and more people are buying them. It’s about accessibility. And now we have stores like Walmart thinking very strongly about who they stock and who they don’t stock. You have Whole Foods consciously deciding which ingredients to allow in their gold standard. Slowly but surely, the products on store shelves are becoming less toxic to the consumer and, ultimately, the environment.

A lot of manufacturers are interested in occupying that top-shelf space at Whole Foods, so they’re making adjustments to their formulations in order to earn Whole Foods’ gold standard certification. The Environmental Working Group has some disagreements with them on their certification methods, but overall, I think what Whole Foods is doing is great for the world because mainstream companies are greening their products. They’re not going to have one product for Whole Foods and another one for everywhere else.

Within the realm of who calls themselves green, it’s different from the big picture. While you can look at some mainstream products and say you obviously shouldn’t go within 20 feet of them, there is still a lot of green washing in the naturals category. It makes me happy to go into the grocery store and pick up products and see that the ingredients are getting cleaner and cleaner. But, the further we go, the further we have to go.

Eco Lips Introduces Organic Face Stick

Eco Lips, America’s premium organic lip balm company, introduces Face Stick, the revolutionary way to protect the lips, nose, face and ears naturally and organically from the harmful effects of the sun. With SPF 30, this easy-to-apply sun screen not only blocks UV rays but also moisturizes dry skin, working effectively to shield the body from the effects of sun, wind, dry heat and cold.

According to Mark Patterson, the company’s CEO, “Eco Lips’ new Face Stick contains 82% certified organic ingredients making this the most organic sunscreen on the market. Consumers will love the quality of ingredients and attention to detail we have put into this formulation offering a new and innovative solution for the entire family.”

The rich ingredients of Eco Lips Face Stick, which include organic Sunflower, Jojoba, and Coconut oils along with organic Aloe Vera and Calendula offer powerful nutrients to help protect and soothe exposed skin. Applied just like lip balm, the tube makes application easy and simple. “No need to carry bottles of sunscreen any longer,” says Mark. “Each tube comes with an Eco Clip carabiner that can be attached to the belt, pants, purse or tote for easy access during sports, travel or outdoor activities. No more messy hands when applying this option.” Face Stick goes on smooth and delivers an even application providing balanced protection for all parts of the body that may otherwise become compromised due to exposure.

Professional triathlete Haven Barnes who proudly wears the colors of Team Eco Lips says, “When I run or bike, my sunscreen has to be easy, effective and have that lasting “stay power” to see me through the race. I enjoy using Eco Lips Face Stick and love that it helps the environment too!”

Eco Lips Face Stick comes in a .15 oz tube with a suggested retail price of $7.49 without Eco Clip or $8.99 with Eco Clip. The new product can be found at Vitamin World, as well as other retail outlets or online.

Eco Lips manufactures the highest quality certified organic lip care products on the planet. With a mission of satisfying the needs of every customer, Eco Lips is making its way around the world, one set of lips at a time. The company initiated Iowa’s largest solar power project which is powering the neighborhood in which Eco Lips is located. Eco Lips sponsors Team Eco Lips, a high-powered group of athletes competing in various sports. Eco Lips also donates 1% of its profits to non-profit environmental initiatives. Eco Lips is a member of the Organic Trade Association and Coop America. Products are available at health food stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, outdoor stores and other retail outlets. Don’t panic, it’s organic!

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

What it is

This odorless, tasteless sulfur compound is found in eggs, meat, and green vegetables. Processing or cooking, however, greatly reduces the mineral's potency, so food sources — unless they're raw — generally don't provide enough MSM.


MSM helps nourish hair and nails, relieve joint pain and inflammation, reduce allergies, and promote gastrointestinal health.


A 2004 study found that 1,500 mg per day of MSM (in combination with glucosamine sulfate) over the course of 12 weeks helped decrease inflammation in people with knee osteoarthritis. And last November, researchers conducting a review of existing studies concluded that MSM may reduce pain and increase joint function, and recommended additional research be done.

How to take it

Start with 1 gram per day, divided, taken with food. After a few weeks, increase dose to 2 grams per day, divided.

Side effects

MSM is safe to use over long periods of time, but it may upset digestion or cause loose stools if introduced in high doses.

*Talk with your health care provider before starting any supplement regimen.

Is canola oil bad for you?

Just when you thought you knew the good fats from the bad, Internet rumors trashing canola oil's polyunsaturated fat content may have you puzzled. The gossip claims canola's omega-6 fatty acids are too high in proportion to its omega-3 fatty acids. “The optimal balance is between 1:1 and 4:1,” says Steven Pratt, PhD, assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego. “Unfortunately, the typical Western diet contains 14 to 25 times more omega-6s than omega-3s,” a discrepancy linked to increased inflammation and blood-clot risk. He points out, however, that canola oil contains 21 percent omega-6s and 11 percent omega-3s. That works out to a healthy 2:1 ratio.

If you're worried your diet contains too many omega-6s, offset your vegetable oil and canola oil use by substituting with omega-3-rich walnut or flaxseed oil. (Heat destroys omega-3s, though, so don't use these oils for high-heat cooking.) And don't believe the GMO buzz either: Canola oil was not developed using genetic engineering. In fact, Canadians bred canola from the rapeseed plant in the early 1970s — almost a decade before biotechnology company Monsanto genetically modified the first plant cell.


Canola is a play on words: Canada + oil.

Embria Health Sciences Hires Naz Kalantari as Regional Sales Representative

Embria(R) Health Sciences, raw material supplier of science-backed natural ingredients, is strengthening its foothold in the U.S. specialty ingredient market with the recent expansion of its sales force. Naz Kalantari is the newest addition to the Embria sales team, the company announced today. In her position of regional sales representative, Kalantari will be responsible for cultivating and managing customer relationships throughout the eastern region of the U.S. Kalantari will report to Embria's vice president of sales, Greg Thornton.

Kalantari joins Embria with more than a decade of sales experience within the nutrition and personal care industries. Most recently, she held senior sales positions with nutritional ingredient suppliers, Harten and Chart Corporations. Kalantari holds bachelor's and master's degrees in psychology from Saint Peter's College and Montclair State University, respectively.

"Naz's knowledge of the current nutritional ingredient landscape and vast regional sales experience make her a definite asset to the Embria sales team," remarked Thornton, "She will be instrumental in helping to grow our client base in the East and we are pleased to have her on board."

About Embria Health Sciences:
Embria Health Sciences,, combines science and nature to bring high-quality, research-based natural ingredients to the global human nutrition market. Embria's flagship ingredient, EpiCor(R), is an all-natural product designed to modulate and balance the human immune system and is manufactured using a proprietary technology, which produces vital metabolites, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that deliver nutritional benefits and support increased bioavailability. Recent clinical studies show EpiCor significantly decreases the incidence and duration of cold and flu symptoms, reduces allergy symptoms, possesses anti-inflammatory activity, and activates crucial defense cells (Natural Killer, T-, and B-cells). For more information on immune health, visit