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Articles from 2004 In August

Delicious Living

September 1, 2004

EC official signals 1000mg vitamin C ‘acceptable’

A prominent European Commission official has backed one gram of vitamin C as a safe daily dose despite the fact the agency responsible for setting upper safe levels has not made a recommendation on this nutrient.

Speaking at the recent International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplements Associations conference in Prague, Basil Mathioudakis, deputy head of unit, DG Sanco at the European Commission, said he was ?astonished? the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had not established a maximum level. ?There was a large difference between the RDA and the upper safe level and nobody could decide—but I don?t think 1,000mg would be a problem,? he said.

However, Hildegard Przyrembel, director of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany, and deputy chairman of the EFSA committee, claimed there was insufficient data for long-term usage and that all food sources of vitamin C needed to be taken into account. Some safety dossiers were unclear or incomplete, she noted.

?It?s not enough to say something has been on the market for 10 years and nobody has died. Food safety levels must be higher than drugs,? she said.

Gert Krabichler, chairman of European Responsible Nutrition Alliance, disagreed. ?Even if no upper level is set, and providing there is no concern by EFSA or the Scientific Committee on Food, then we think products with a history of safe use should be sold,? he said. ?In most EU countries there is a history of safe use for vitamin C.?

EFSA is currently evaluating the safety of a number of vitamins and minerals, a process it expects to conclude by April 2005.

In the absence of an upper safe recommended level for some nutrients, some countries including Denmark, Greece, Spain and France continue to set their own levels based on RDA multiples—even as the international food regulation advisory body Codex abandons RDAs as the basis for establishing maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in the guidelines it is compiling.

Codex has declared its intention to be guided by scientifically substantiated safety levels in the future.

US industry supports adverse events system

The American supplements industry has backed a congressional effort to create a mandatory adverse-event reporting system, but the ?devil will be in the details,? which are still being hammered out, said David Seckman, CEO of the National Nutritional Foods Association.

?People want to make sure they see it, and the specific language hasn?t been developed yet. There are several concepts we will find essential (in this legislation).?

Other industry groups that have come out in support of an AER system include the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Coalition to Preserve DSHEA, the Utah Natural Products Alliance, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the American Medical Association.

It is also being supported by the nonprofit American Botanical Council.

The bipartisan effort is being spearheaded by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, and Democratic Senators Tom Harkin and Richard Durbin, who have been working for months with the Food & Drug Administration and industry leaders on the exact language of the bill.

The industry hopes the legislation will be added as an amendment to the anabolic steroids bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Joe Biden.

Industry leaders hope the bill will contain several key components:

  • That it will require makers of both dietary supplements and over-the-counter products to report serious adverse events to the FDA;
  • That it will include a pre-emption clause requiring any related state bills to conform to the federal act;
  • And that the new law will apply only to products manufactured or sold in the US.

?It is rare for an industry to ask for more regulation,? said Michael McGuffin, president of the AHPA, which spearheaded the push for an AER system in 2002. ?But this industry is confident that it is selling a class of goods with a remarkable safety record and that there is nothing to hide. An effective reporting system will confirm industry?s view that consumers can use their supplements safely.?

In 2003 there were 370,887 reports to the FDA of suspected serious adverse events related to pharmaceutical use.

Industry leaders hope the AER system will model the system already in place for the pharmaceutical industry in at least one way—its definition of a ?serious? event.

The FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Food and Drugs defines a serious event as: ?Any adverse drug experience occurring at any dose that results in any of the following outcomes: death, a life-threatening drug experience, in-patient hospitalisation or prolongation of existing hospitalisation, persistent or significant disability/incapacity or a congenital anomaly/birth defect.?

?We certainly don?t want it to be more restrictive than this,? McGuffin said.

In Brief

China seeks advice on regs
China is set to introduce new dietary supplements regulations before the end of the year and is gathering information on regulatory models in other regions of the world.

At a workshop held in Beijing this summer, the State Food and Drug Administration of China, and its affiliated organisation, the China Center for Pharmaceutical International Exchange, welcomed the guidance given by the International Alliance of Dietary Supplement Associations. China is now seeking further consultations with global industry experts.

Kava talks set for Pacific
Scientists, government officials and producers of kava from around the world are to meet in Suva, Fiji, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, to exchange knowledge about the herb that has been controversially banned in many countries since 2002. The conference is being organised by the International Kava Executive Council in conjunction with the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, the Fiji School of Medicine, the University of the South Pacific and the Fijian government. Abstracts are being called for. Visit for more information.

Whey ahead in the mideast
Two of the Middle East?s most advanced food markets—Saudi Arabia and Egypt—are seeing a whey boom in end products such as ice cream, processed cheese, biscuits, chocolate and processed meat, according to analysts Proteus Insight. First-generation whey products such as sweet whey powder and lactose are most popular, but second- and third-generation products such as whey protein concentrate and other fractionations are finding increased favour.

Anthocyanins that attack adipose

What do Spanish olives, berries, the exotic South American fruit açai, purple sweet potatoes and corn have in common? Answer: appreciable amounts of an anthocyanin known as cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G), and a promise of reduced body fat and improved carbohydrate metabolism.

Anthocyanins are low molecular-weight plant pigments in the flavonoid family that appear to act as light screens, protecting green plant parts from inhibition of photosynthesis and from light-induced oxidative damage.1

Commercial applications of anthocyanins in foods and beverages—they are water soluble and acid stable—have rested primarily upon their utility as natural colourants. Recent in vivo studies have explored the kinetics and magnitude of C3G?s bioavailability and absorption.

Bioavailability of C3G is indeed suggestive of this anthocyanin being able to exert biological effects in vivo. Using a purple corn extract (PCE) with a C3G content of approximately 7 per cent by weight, young male mice were fed diets normal (NF) or high in fat (HF; beef lard), with or without the PCE. The PCE-containing diet provided 0.2 per cent C3G by weight.2 Twelve weeks of feeding showed the HF group that did not receive PCE to have gained a significantly greater amount of body weight, despite the food intakes of both groups on the HF diet not being different.

The average body weight of the NF+PCE group did not differ from the control diet group (no PCE; NF), but regional tissue fat weights showed strong trends of being lesser, although not statistically significant. The average fat weight of regional tissue compartments in the HF+PCE group was significantly lesser than that in the HF group.

The mechanism of PCE?s anti-obesity effects in HF+PCE diets appeared to also transfer to the NF+PCE group.2 The expression of proteins involved in the regulation of fatty acid synthesis and adipose mass expansion were influenced in a manner that would reduce tissue fat accumulation and the attendant increase in circulating pro-inflammatory mediators released by fat cells. Another publication by the same group (from the same PCE study) found that animals fed NF+PCE showed significant elevations in a cytokine produced by fat cells (adiponectin) that enhances insulin sensitivity and fat oxidation.3

Elusive still is confirmatory evidence that C3G alone is the primary mediator. No feeding studies in animals, with pure C3G, appear to have been conducted with the focus of exploring this anthocyanin?s effect on whole body glucose disposal, body lipid accumulation and lipid metabolism. This leaves open the suggestion that other edible fruit/plant crops, which harbour abundant quantities of C3G, are ripe for exploitation as agents added to conventional food and beverage formats with biologically functional relevance to consumers.

One novel C3G source that merits additional exploration is açai, which in one study was shown to contain more than 0.1 per cent C3G in the aqueous fraction of thawed, pasteurized fruit pulp (Amazon Energy).4 Confirmation of metabolic response modification in humans, by ingestion of anthocyanin/C3G-rich products, is awaited.

Anthony Almada, MSc, is president and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition Inc.
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.

1. Steyn WJ, et al. Anthocyanins in vegetative tissues: a proposed unified function in photoprotection. New Phytologist 2002; 155:349?61.
2. Tsuda T, et al. Dietary cyanidin 3-O-?-D-glucoside-rich purple corn color prevents obesity and ameliorates hyperglycemia in mice. J Nutr 2003; 133:2125?30.
3. Tsuda T, et al. Anthocyanin enhances adipocytokine secretion and adipocyte-specific gene expression in isolated rat adipocytes. Biochem Biophys Res Comm 2004; 316:149-57.
4. Del Pozo-Insfran, et al. Phytochemical composition and pigment stability of açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.). J Agric Food Chem 2004; 52:1539-45.

Meal replacement revolution

Since their conception as hospital food in the 1970s, liquid meals have grown in stature and popularity to become a weapon in today?s fight against the ?globesity? epidemic. But as families increasingly become starved for time, it?s a format that is even beginning to appeal to non-dieters. Shane Starling reports

Replacing meals with something more convenient is a concept that was born in hospitals many decades ago. Patients who physically could not eat whole meals because of their ailments were given liquid meals, usually in the form of a shake or a purée, to provide them with the nutrients they required to aid their recovery.

Some of these liquid meals were picked up by food companies in the 1970s and marketed predominantly to women who wanted to lose weight. And so a new market segment was born.

Subsequent takeup by sports enthusiasts, particularly gym-users, accentuated the trend and broadened the demographic interested in replacing meals. Indeed, gym-users and increasing numbers of athletes can choose from a multitude of powdered protein shakes and energy bars to replace meals with, even if these products are not necessarily considered meal substitutes by the food companies that make them.

Activity in the sports category has helped drive the market forward to its current status, where meal replacements are being used as a tool to combat the obesity crisis
Activity in the sports category has helped drive the market forward to its current status, where meal replacements are being used as a tool to combat the obesity crisis that has spread across the developed world and, increasingly, the developing world.

No definitions hold fast when it comes to meal replacements. As Steve Allen, Nestlé?s global business development manager, notes: ?A meal replacement could be an apple.?

Yes, but would an apple contain all the nutrients of, say, Nestlé?s own long-standing breakfast replacement meal? The answer is no; this is the attraction of formulated meal replacements. ?It is a completely accurate way of eating,? Allen notes, ?which is not true if you go down to the local restaurant or put a meal together at home. It might be nutritious, but you don?t know just what you are getting. You do with a meal replacement because the nutritional information is required to be quantified on the label.?

Paying for convenience
Meal replacements carry more than just a low-calorie meal promise. They are also convenient. ?The meal replacement might cost a bit more, but, in terms of the time it saves the consumer, it might be infinitely valuable,? Allen observes. ?It depends how valuable time is to the individual consumer. It?s hard to get a bowl of cereal and milk into the car on the way to work.?

The convenience/nutrition combination is a vital one, according to US-based market research company Information Resources, which notes: ?To date, manufacturers and retailers have done a respectable job of responding to demands for convenience. However, the convenience trend has certainly not passed. Those who grab the bull by the horns, with respect to nutritionally responsible, convenient food alternatives, will raise the bar and define the playing field of the future.?

UK research company Leatherhead estimates the global weight loss market at $240 billion, with meal replacements making up a small but growing proportion of this figure. In the US, the market for meal replacement food and drink rose from $800 million in 1998 to $1.2 billion in 2002—of which $800 million was spent on beverages.

Unilever?s SlimFast brand dominates, accounting for 75 per cent of supermarket sales and 50 per cent of the weight loss snack bars sector in the US. There are many others such as Ensure from Abbott Labs, Go Lean from Kellogg?s subsidiary Kashi and Nestlé?s Carnation Instant Breakfast.

Adjuncts to the meal replacements market, such as sports nutrition and weight loss, also grew rapidly in the US from about $10 billion in 2000 to just over $14 billion in 2003, accounting for 23 per cent of the $62 billion US nutrition industry. A breakdown of the 2003 figures shows: weight loss pills accounted for $1.78 billion of sales; weight loss meal supplements $2.49 billion; sports supplements $1.9 billion; low-carbohydrate foods $830 million; nutrition bars $2.3 billion; and sports/energy drinks $4.77 billion. The total market is forecast to reach $27 billion by 2010.

Market researcher Freedonia predicts the US meal replacements market will be worth $2.4 billion by 2013 out of a total weight control market of more than $86 billion. It sees many threats to the US meal replacements market, stating: ?Liquid and powder meal replacement beverages will generate much slower growth in demand due to intensifying competition from conventional foods and beverages in low-calorie, low-fat and other health-enhanced formats. Reflecting the increasing popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets, products low in carbohydrates are expected to capture an increasing share of the US meal replacements market over the next several years.?

In Europe, Leatherhead notes sales are smaller, but rising fast. The UK market for slimming aids is worth in the region of $200 million, with meal replacements accounting for 90 per cent of this figure. Again, SlimFast dominates the UK market.

German sales of slimming aids are worth $84 million, while France registers sales of $144 million, with meal replacements accounting for three-quarters of total sales. Spain?s market is worth $48 million, while Italy?s is worth $148 million.

Jurian Taas, German-based external communications manager at DSM Food Ingredients, says the ingredients giant is preparing a move into meal replacements in Europe and in other markets. ?It is a growing food segment, and we are looking at moving into it with our yeast extracts and enzymes,? he says. ?It is growing pretty quickly worldwide, according to our market research. We are concentrating on protein hydrolysis—looking to see what kind of properties we can develop and how we can market it into the nutritional market in areas such as meal replacements. It is an in-house programme at this stage.?

It?s easy to see why meal replacements were a winning concept among those seeking a quick fix to their growing waistlines
Courting a demographic
The meal replacement concept is a simple one—cram all the vitamins, minerals carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients you would normally get in one meal into a drink, and keep the calorie content to a minimum—usually around 200-300 calories. It?s easy to see why meal replacements were a winning concept among the dieting fraternity, especially among those seeking a quick fix to their growing waistlines. Of course, it is this same demographic that is interested in low-carb foods.

But as Mintel notes, meal replacements are consumed by more than just the overweight and obese. ?Manufacturers have created a new weight maintenance market by reorganising and repositioning their product as nutritional supplements, profiting from growing consumer health awareness,? the market research company observes. ?This means that products traditionally targeted at the overweight are now also targeted at the non-dieting consumer. Meal replacements such as SlimFast, for example, are increasingly positioned as an aid for weight control and healthy living, targeting those consumers looking for an extra nutritional intake in addition to their regular diet.?

Interest in meal replacements is being intensified by what has come to be known as the ?globesity? epidemic. The low-carb diet explosion, itself a response to globesity, is also fuelling interest in meal replacements, as many low-carb products are little more than low-calorie versions of former meals and hence, in a sense, meal replacements themselves.

In the same breath, low-carb has also presented a threat to the traditional meal replacement market, prompting Unilever to alter its SlimFast range in the process.

?It is fair to say that sales of SlimFast have been affected by the low-carb trend,? says Trevor Gorin at Unilever?s UK press office. ?Sales in Europe were down 20 per cent in 2003 and a majority of that effect would have been down to low-carb. We introduced a range of SlimFast low-carb products worldwide at the tail end of last year, and they now account for about 20 per cent of SlimFast sales. There?ll be extensions to that range throughout the rest of this year.?

Plummeting sales aside, the brand continues to dominate the meal replacements market, based as it is on a scientifically derived selection of nutrients. ?We describe it as a health and wellness brand,? Gorin observes. ?It?s one of those things where the description of it changes with each passing fad. At one time it is a diet brand, the next it is a weight management brand, the next it is a health and wellness brand. A lot of the terminology is driven by the media?s need for newness, but the product remains fundamentally the same.

?SlimFast is based on sound scientific principles and it is formulated to have enough nutrients to adequately replace a meal. The brand has been going for about 20 years and all through that time it has played on the fact that it has sound medical credentials. It does give you the nutrients you need. The basic idea of SlimFast is to give you the nutrients of a regular meal without the calories.?

Numerous formats
Meal replacement formats have exploded since those meal-in-a-drink days so that meals can now be replaced by energy bars, by supplements, or even by trimmed-down versions of full meals. Like many dieting concepts, nutritionists have not tended to support meal replacements, but neither have they been universally panned; studies have shown that it can be an effective tool for those seeking to lose weight or build muscle.

One long-term 10-year community-based volunteer study found people who followed the SlimFast meal replacement plan to manage their weight were, on average, nearly 33lbs lighter after a decade when compared to a matched control group.

Indeed, even those who trade in meal replacements recommend against replacing all of one?s meals. California-based supplements and meal replacements manufacturer Herbalife offers dietary advice on its Web site that includes replacing breakfast, lunch and an (optional) afternoon snack with its nutrient shakes, but advises on a traditional dinner. It is advice nutritionists agree with, with conservatives advising against replacing more than one meal a day.

?I don?t think they are dangerous over a short period of time,? says Eric Weaver, PhD, director of the nutrition ingredients division at Iowa-based Proliant. ?You can lose weight that way, but you shouldn?t be replacing all your meals, and it is worth remembering that not all meal replacements are nutritionally complete.?

Energy-boosting supplements

Energy-boosting supplements




Asian ginseng
(Panax ginseng)

200–500 mg/day

Helps improve endurance and concentration and facilitates the body’s response to daily stress. Also stimulates the central nervous system and improves physical and mental efficiency.

Gotu kola
(Centella asiatica)

60 mg (of a standardized extract), 1–2x/day

Rejuvenates the nervous system, strengthens the adrenals, improves mental function, and helps prevent fatigue. May also help body respond better to stress.


1,000–3,000 mg/day

Helps transfer fatty acids to the mitochondria, the part of the cell responsible for energy production.

(Thodiola rosea)

200 mg (of a standardized extract)/day

Helps stimulate the central nervous system and boost endurance and adrenal function.

(Schisandra chinensis)

2–4 ml (taken as a tincture), 3x/day

Stimulates metabolic functions throughout the body, aids digestion, and strengthens the kidneys and adrenals. Also improves nerve reflexes.

Source: Kim Erickson, herbalist.

US cracks down on crank claims

Worldwide Regulatory Review: United States

Regulatory agencies in the US are coming down hard on false and misleading claims for foods and dietary supplements. Jeff Hilton highlights some of the potential pitfalls facing manufacturers and marketers, and suggests how best to avoid them

History will document that the passage of the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act in 1994 spurred a wave of growth that swept through the natural products industry. Trade and consumer advertising activity escalated to unprecedented levels, and with heightened visibility came increased bravado in making claims about the health benefits offered by natural products. Structure/function claims were discussed and debated, and many unfair and unsubstantiated claims consequently slipped through the corporate screening process.

By 1996, the Internet was picking up speed, becoming a more integrated part of consumer life. Small, and some might say ?fly-by-night? manufacturers with nothing to lose and much to gain found that it was easy and quick to post outrageous ads and make unsubstantiated claims to a quickly expanding and gullible online audience. And so the stage was set for a new era of intensified scrutiny and regulation by the Federal Trade Commission.

In the years since, millions of new consumers have entered the natural products marketplace, and as manufacturers and retailers have expanded their product offerings, the competition has intensified, fuelling the temptation to be more aggressive with claims language.

Meanwhile, the FTC has become increasingly attentive to the marketplace and diligent in searching out and punishing offending companies, and not with just a slap on the wrist. Redress settlements are now commonly in the millions of dollars.

Current FTC battlegrounds include weight loss and sports nutrition, but others are on the horizon including sexual enhancement, cardiovascular disease and cognitive function. Marketers need to understand how the FTC functions and what types of claims and language might put them at risk.

How the FTC works
The FTC is the primary federal agency regulating advertising and overseeing products sold directly to consumers. It also has broad authority to ?prohibit deceptive acts or practices? in advertising that makes deceptive claims, fails to reveal material information, is unfair, or makes an objective claim for which the advertiser did not possess a reasonable rationale.

The FTC defines false advertising as advertising that is misleading in a material respect—?material? meaning in a way that would likely influence a consumer?s decision to purchase or not purchase a product.

It is important to recognise that FTC investigations are private, but FTC enforcement is very public. Press releases are distributed when a consent order is issued and once it is approved. FTC investigations are initiated in many ways, but are most commonly based upon FTC market surveillance, referral from another agency, competitive complaints, consumer groups or an offended individual. Consent orders are the most common resolution of an FTC complaint. A consent order outlines the steps required for a company to resolve the complaint, including financial redress. While it is not an admission of legal wrongdoing, it is legally binding with civil penalties for noncompliance.

The FTC applies three general legal standards to the regulation of all advertising: substantiation, deception and fairness.

  • Substantiation means that the advertiser is accountable for backing up all objective claims, before they are disseminated, at the level and type of substantiation represented in the claims advertised.
  • Deception means that the advertiser makes a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer. And that representation must be a material one. The FTC always looks at the practice from the perspective of a ?consumer acting reasonably.?
  • Unfairness refers to an act or practice that causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers that is not reasonably avoidable.

Be aware
Manufacturers need to protect themselves by knowing their product in terms of ingredients, supporting science and intellectual property. Many unsubstantiated claims are made out of ignorance. Some good advice is that the better you understand your product offering, the better equipped you will be to create advertising that represents the product responsibly.

It is vital to also understand the market you are doing business in. Be careful of emotion-driven categories, such as weight loss, breast enlargement and sexual enhancement, because the consumer is often more willing to believe and can be more easily misled or deceived. And obviously, steer clear of FTC lightning rods such as AIDS, SARS or cancer. In addition, be cautious with serious disease statements because the consequences to a misled consumer are much more substantive, particularly if they forgo traditional treatment to pursue a natural course of action. This includes categories such as heart health, brain health, eye health and joint health.

Finally, it helps to understand your consumer. Be careful with vulnerable consumer segments such as the elderly, children and the handicapped. Fairness issues quickly come into play since these groups are more easily misled or deceived.

Working guidelines
In 1998, the FTC published guidelines for dietary supplements advertisers. These guidelines address several issues of importance to supplements advertisers.

Substantiation is required for both express claims (stated) and implied claims. Implied claims can be the result of both graphics and copy, including the product name. Advertisers are warned to consider the ?net impression? of their ads in evaluating their liability. The FTC holds advertisers responsible for all ?reasonable interpretations? of their advertising.

Deception has its own set of issues and accusations to avoid. Advertisers should be certain to include any qualifying information on the product?s health benefits—for example a proven weight-loss formula that was only tested on participants already on a diet and exercise programme. In other words, avoid misleading by omission. It is also important to disclose in the advertising any significant safety concerns, and that disclosure must be both clear and prominent in terms of language and type size.

Research support must include studies that have been conducted and evaluated by qualified people using procedures that yield accurate and reliable results. In addition, studies must match the ?level of support? promoted in the ad.

For example, if copy in an ad claims that ?scientists now agree? about the benefits of a product, the advertiser must be able to prove scientific consensus beyond simply a supporting study or two. Consumer testimonials can be powerful advertising tools, but some caution is in order. Consumers in ads should not make claims that would be deceptive or could not be substantiated if made directly. The advertiser must also provide adequate substantiation that the testimonial experience is representative of what consumers will generally achieve. And keep in mind that anecdotal evidence is generally insufficient support for a claim.

Expert endorsements can likewise be effective but also dangerous. The qualifications of the expert must be both appropriate and relevant to the nature of the product and the health benefits it provides. In other words, a physical therapist has little credibility talking about cardiovascular health. It is also critical to disclose in the ad any material (financial) connection between endorser and advertiser.

Play smart
The regulatory environment will continue to evolve, but the FTC will no doubt get bolder as the consent orders continue to pile up. They will fish where the fish are, and that leaves functional foods and nutraceuticals advertisers in a tenuous spot. Manufacturers and marketers need to play smart by calculating risk, keeping a long-term perspective and seeking out professional guidance to step over the land mines in the marketplace.

Jeff Hilton is president, partner and co-founder of IMG, a branding and marketing agency. He has been recognised by Advertising Age as one of America?s top 100 marketers.
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.

Common advertising mistakes
The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection keeps a careful eye out for common mistakes made by marketers of natural health products. Beware of the following pitfalls as you develop claims language.

  • Tested (researched) product is materially different from advertised product in ingredient, dosage, mode of delivery or potency.
  • Tested population in research is materially different from the population targeted by the ad.
  • Advertiser uses consumer testimonials to make claims not supported by science.
  • Copy reads ?traditionally used for? to cover up a lack of specific and applicable scientific support.
  • Copy presents the most dramatic and extreme product benefits as ?typical.?
  • Advertiser uses words like ?may improve? or ?helps treat? to attempt to make up for shortcomings in the science.
  • Copy makes comparative or pre-emptive product claims without supporting data: ?best,? ?most,? ?preferred,? ?leading,? ?most effective? and ?more potent.?


Delicious Living

Transform Your Career

Transform Your Career
Laurie's Goal: "I want to change jobs, but I don’t know where to start."

By Joel Warner

The Situation
During her afternoons serving dim sum at a trendy Asian restaurant, Laurie Halee’s thoughts are often elsewhere. “I pretty much revolve my time around when I can get outside,” she says. On her days off, Halee can be found rock climbing or tackling trail runs, as evidenced by her perpetually tanned face and lean frame.

Laurie Halee
Age: 35
Status: Single
Occupation: Waitress

Waiting tables has its advantages, especially the flexible schedule that allows her to soak up the sun when many people her age are sitting in office buildings. She also has time to pursue other interests, including construction work and professional photography. But the restaurant job has downsides, most notably low pay and minimal satisfaction. With tips, Halee pulls in barely enough to cover her mortgage. Furthermore, she longs for a more meaningful occupation.

What Halee really wants to do is fight fires. For years, she has watched heroic firefighters battle blazes near her Rocky Mountain home, and she wants to join them. “I want to be there, making a difference,” she says. “You are at risk, for sure, but that is part of the draw.” She yearns for the camaraderie, the physical exertion, the ability to give back to her community, and, best of all, the chance to work outdoors.

But becoming a firefighter isn’t easy. Applicants must complete basic training courses, an expensive and time-consuming process. And competition for positions is fierce.

But perhaps Halee’s biggest challenge is finding the self-confidence to make the change. She struggles with dyslexia, and school was always difficult; the only subjects at which she excelled were gym and languages. She finished college with a degree in environmental design, but struggled in various graduate programs and jobs. “I felt dumb all the time,” she says. Frustrated by school and bored at a desk, Halee turned to her strength: athletics. But her passion for climbing and running has done little to further her career, and working for tips doesn’t boost her self-image. Overwhelmed by the obstacles to career change, Halee stands at an impasse.

Our Advice
The life coach says:
Although Gloria Silverio does not discourage Halee from pursuing firefighting, “I think there are lots of opportunities that Laurie is not even looking at,” she says. “The secret is to find something she can really enjoy doing.” Alternative worthwhile occupations might include park ranger, travel guide, fitness trainer, or rockclimbing guide, all jobs that would provide Halee the camaraderie, exertion, and outdoor environment she craves—and which may be easier to obtain. Silverio is careful to note that there is likely no one “perfect” job for Halee; the trick is to consider the options and then decide which is the best fit.

Exploring new careers isn’t easy, so Silverio recommends further consultation with a life or career coach; if cost is a concern, Silverio says that some in-training coaches offer pro-bono work to gain experience. And Halee shouldn’t overlook the people who know her best. “Laurie should ask her friends and family what they think she would be good at,” says Silverio. “These people often come up with some great things we never think about.”

Meditate on your career intention daily and stay focused and disciplined on that goal.

Silverio suggest that Halee gather a group of five good friends, preferably those who have been successful in their own careers, to discuss her options—a combination of brainstorming and barn-raising that Silverio calls “brain raising.” In such a gathering, each friend takes a turn coming up with jobs he or she believes would suit the subject, while one person takes notes. The subject then reads the list and goes through a mental checklist for each job: “Does this really fit who I am? Can I imagine myself getting up each morning knowing this is what I am going to do?”

Once Halee has decided on a job that appeals to her, she should go after it—one step at a time. She could start by interviewing people who already have the desired job. To focus the information, Halee should ask three to five questions, such as what they like and don’t like about their job and what training or preparation they recommend. The final question should always be, “Who do you know who could help me obtain this job?” As Silverio notes, “you are always one step away from the person who could help you.”

The naturopathic physician says:
Debra Rouse, ND, agrees that it’s time for Halee to hunker down and aggressively seek her dream. “I am a firm believer in goal-setting—reaching for the stars,” says Rouse. “Laurie should meditate on her intention daily and stay focused and disciplined on that goal.”

To boost her self-esteem, Rouse recommends Halee consult a psychotherapist, possibly through a local teaching clinic, where costs are dramatically reduced from those of private practitioners. Halee could also borrow motivational books, audiotapes, or videos from the library, says Rouse.

Rouse advises Halee to see a homeopathic doctor, who can suggest remedies and an appropriate diet and lifestyle. “Keeping her diet simple—low sugar, balanced with low-glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fats, and adequate protein—will help her mind be more clear and keep her immune system strong,” says Rouse.

For a whole-body approach, Rouse suggests Halee set aside an hour each day to research firefighter training programs and applicable scholarships. “She needs to put in the necessary time,” Rouse counsels. “That may include some desk work she doesn’t want to do, but putting in the legwork is how people feel empowered about their own destiny.”

The herbalist says:
Setting aside time should also involve a healthy dose of self-care, says herbalist Kim Erickson. “Even something as simple as getting up every day and looking in the mirror and telling herself how confident she is and how good she is,” says Erickson, will make a big difference.

A little pampering wouldn’t hurt either. “Laurie definitely owes herself some indulgences,” says Erickson. “When she hops in the shower, she should pamper herself with wonderfully scented shower gels based on plant oils and herbs such as lavender, rose, and jasmine, which are all relaxing.” By setting aside some special time for herself, says Erickson, Halee will boost her morale and open up moments in her day for clear, calm thinking.

Erickson also recommends valerian (Valeriana officinalis) to help Halee deal with her career anxiety. “The common use of valerian is for insomnia, but low doses might help calm her. She could take it in the evening, when she has nothing to do, to help her relax.” A milder option is hops (Humulus lupulus), which can also be used to settle nerves.

The yogini says:
One reason Halee might feel uneasy, says yoga expert Rainbeau Mars, is that she’s primarily been exercising her body, not her mind and spirit. “If you feel like you can only relate to one aspect of yourself—for example, you are only comfortable in the gym and not in other places—then insecurities are going to arise,” says Mars. If Halee pursues yoga and meditation along with more strenuous exercise, says Mars, she will feel balanced and able to take on the challenges of jump-starting a new career.

Eye exercises are a simple way to start: Mars recommends looking left and right, up into eye corners, and rotating eyes in half circles. “These exercises, plus meditation, are indicated for situations where there are mental blocks or disturbances,” says Mars.

Mars also suggests pranayama, or breath control. By focusing on breathing, Halee will clear her mind and realize what she needs to do to accomplish her goals. “A lot of time we focus on our fears, our doubts, and our insecurities,” says Mars. “When we focus on our breathing, we become unattached, and our minds become clearer.” Halee might want to try a sitting practice, says Mars, taking long, deep breaths with her throat slightly contracted. By drawing air deeply into her body, expanding her chest, and then maintaining a sense of lift throughout her exhale, Halee will stimulate increased clarity and control, attributes necessary for the challenges ahead.

Joel Warner once considered getting a job in investment banking or management consulting. Now, as a freelance writer, he may not be getting rich, but he’s never regretted his career choice.

Delicious Living

Transform your energy

The situation

Lori Bernstein dreams about spending her after-work hours hiking with her dog, or taking a cooking or ballroom dancing class with her partner, Jeff. In reality, Bernstein is so physically and mentally exhausted by 6 p.m. each day that she isn’t able to enjoy any of these activities. “I am never very active in the evenings,” the 43-year-old says. “That’s a problem, because the evenings are when Jeff and I are together. He often wants to go out at night, but I never have enough energy.”

Lori Bernstein
Age: 43
Status: Lives with longtime partner, Jeff
Occupation: Courier

For Bernstein, the average workday begins at 5 a.m., when she pulls herself out of bed and gets ready for her job as a courier. After six hours of sorting, hauling, and delivering packages, Bernstein hits the gym, where she does one hour of aerobic exercise and lifts weights. “When I’m in the car on the way to the gym, I never feel like working out,” says Bernstein, who goes there at least four times a week. “But I always feel so much better when I do.”

Bernstein’s courier job, which she’s had for 20 years, is taxing—both physically and mentally. Along with walking a lot, lifting heavy boxes, and sorting through mounds of packages each day, Bernstein must work—and drive—under constant deadline pressure. “The job is stressful, particularly when I have to drive in the snow,” she says.

Making matters worse, Bernstein suffers from allergies triggered by dust, mold, ragweed, grass, and trees. Her allergy symptoms include clogged sinuses, impaired breathing, and itchy and watery eyes. The allergies also seem to drain her energy levels.

Bernstein has tried to combat her fatigue (and the effects of her allergies) by drinking plenty of water—downing at least two glasses first thing each morning. She also eats a balanced diet of mostly natural and organic foods, including fruits, vegetables, hummus, yogurt, brown rice, poultry, and soy. Although she doesn’t drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages and limits her sugar intake, Bernstein does indulge in a little dark chocolate almost every day. Rather than eating three big meals, Bernstein nibbles on smaller snacks throughout the day. “My work is very physical, and I feel hungry all of the time,” she says.

Bernstein’s daily vitamin and supplement regime includes calcium and vitamin B. She also takes nettles and quercetin, both natural allergy remedies, and antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E with selenium, Co-Q10, and a green-source multivitamin.

Although Bernstein tries to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, she often wakes up feeling tired in the morning. “I always seem to want more sleep.”

Energy-building advice

The life coach says:

Bernstein’s body may require more than eight hours of sleep to function properly, says life coach Gloria Silverio. “She could experiment with taking a 30- to 40-minute nap during the afternoon, or going to bed a little earlier,” Silverio says.

Bernstein may also want to consider changing jobs within her company or looking for a new career “that doesn’t require as much physical exertion or isn’t as stressful,” Silverio says. “It is important that she be involved in a career that is not constantly draining her energy.”

Silverio suggests Bernstein add balance to her life by scheduling time for activities she enjoys, such as walking her dog, or going to a movie with Jeff. “Lori says she never does things that are fun,” Silverio says. “By making time to do things she enjoys, she will have more energy to handle her many obligations.”

Reducing the number of “tolerations” in her daily life would also be helpful, Silverio adds. “A toleration can be a messy desk, a dirty car, or even a button missing from a favorite jacket,” Silverio says. “The list of things that we tolerate is usually quite long, and not handling them can zap our energy. By working to get rid of her own tolerations, Lori will have more energy to do the things she wants to do.”

The naturopathic physician says:

According to naturopathic physician Debra Rouse, the good news for Bernstein is that she is already doing many things right. Bernstein supplements her healthy diet with important vitamins and other nutrients, drinks plenty of water, and eats several small meals rather than three big ones each day. “Many of the foods Lori eats are healthy; she will just want to make sure she isn’t eating things that convert to sugar too quickly, leaving her hungry in no time and drained of energy,” Rouse says. Good choices would be foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. These foods burn more slowly, balance blood sugar levels, and sustain energy for an extended period of time.

In addition to Bernstein’s current supplements, Rouse suggests she take 600 mg of magnesium a day. “Magnesium will help with the allergies as well as support her adrenals, along with the B vitamins she is taking,” Rouse says. “I would also add flaxseed oil or a fish-oil supplement. More stress requires more good, essential oils in the body, and more protein. Both oils and protein are important components that make up every cell in our body. When our bodies are stressed, we place more demand on the function of our cells.”

To rule out the possibilities of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism—both of which can exhibit symptoms of fatigue when left unchecked—Rouse says Bernstein should also ask her doctor to check her thyroid levels.

The herbalist says:

Herbalist Kim Erickson suggests Bernstein find ways to be kind to her body and incorporate relaxation into her life. One way to do this would be to indulge in regular massages, Erickson says. “Because massage can be costly, perhaps Lori and Jeff could take turns giving each other aromatherapeutic massages at night, using essential oils, mixed with almond or grape-seed oil. Geranium, citrus, rosemary, and marjoram essential oils can all help the body recover from fatigue. Lavender oil is good for easing stress.”

Erickson also suggests Bernstein take an “energy bath” in the late afternoon to revitalize her mind and body for the evening ahead. To make the bath mixture, add 1 tablespoon of almond oil to 5 drops of lavender oil, 4 drops of peppermint oil, and 3 drops each of grapefruit and lemon grass oils, and then add to cool bath water, Erickson says. “After 15 minutes, Lori should get out of the tub and briskly dry off with a towel to stimulate her circulation and energy levels."

For Bernstein’s allergies, Erickson recommends taking 25 mg of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) twice a day, in addition to the nettles and quercetin she currently takes. “A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that butterbur is as effective as [the prescription allergy medication] Zyrtec at easing allergy symptoms,” Erickson says. (It’s important to note that the butterbur preparation used in the study was a trademarked product called Petadolex, which has had certain toxic compounds removed. Using any form of butterbur that has not been certified free of these compounds is not recommended.) “Allergies can really wear you out, and it’s good that Lori is using natural remedies instead of prescription drugs, which can cause drowsiness.”

The yogini says:

Because Bernstein is physically active at work and then exercises at the gym for at least an hour most days, she may actually be asking too much of her body, says yoga instructor Rainbeau Mars. “If Lori is too tired to work out, she shouldn’t force herself,” Mars says. “There are other ways to enjoy exercises that may be more balancing.”

One such way would be for Bernstein to begin doing some yoga stretches at home, says Mars, who suggests vinyasa flow, ashtanga, or power yoga. “These types of yoga increase blood flow and oxygen throughout the body,” Mars says.

Yoga poses that could help boost Bernstein’s energy include sun salutations, plank, cobra, downward dog, and lunges, Mars says. “With proper instruction, inversions and backbends are great for energy, as well.”

Freelance writer Carlotta Mast is a regular contributor to Delicious Living.