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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Blood-sugar management in the age of diabesity

Blood-sugar management in the age of diabesity
What can natural products retailers do to aid in prevention of  type 2 diabetes.

Fueled by the obesity epidemic, the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in people young and old is on a startling rise. The American Diabetes Association estimated in 2011 that 25.8 million Americans had diabetes. Of these people, only 18.8 million had been diagnosed—meaning, that 7 million people did not know they had diabetes, which can lead to a cascade of serious health problems including cardiovascular disease and vision impairment.

Perhaps even more frightening is the fact that 79 million Americans are considered to have prediabetes because their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Without intervention, prediabetes typically progresses to type 2 within 10 years.

Another piece of bad news is that prediabetes takes its toll on the body, particularly the heart and cardiovascular system, well before it becomes full blown type 2 diabetes. The silver lining is that prediabetes can be stopped in its tracks with the move to a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle. Blood-sugar-management supplements can help as well. This means that natural products retailers can play an important role in addressing a disease threatening the future wellness of tens of millions of Americans.

Sales and market trends

The blood-sugar-management supplement market has seen impressive growth since 2006, when Nutrition Business Journal put blood-sugar-management supplement sales at $670 million. By 2011, sales had expanded to $1.1 billion—that’s almost 50 percent growth in five years.

The demand for products that can help manage blood sugar is rising, too. In 2005, 26 percent of baby boomers wanted foods and supplements that help balance blood sugar levels, according to Steve French, managing partner of the Natural Marketing Institute. By 2012, 42 percent of the same group wanted these products.

Key blood-sugar-management ingredients

The mineral chromium and the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid are perhaps the most well-researched nutrients for healthy insulin function. Vitamin D, biotin and the minerals magnesium and vanadium are other key nutrients. Meanwhile, mounting research supports the beneficial effects of various polyphenols, especially resveratrol, but also green tea extract and Pycnogenol, a branded extract of French Maritime pine bark. Fibers, especially glucomannan, also can be helpful, along with carbohydrate blockers such as white kidney bean extract.

Retailer tips

Peggy Ranger of Peggy’s Natural Foods says her store is “absolutely seeing people come in trying to manage their blood sugar.” She helps these shoppers by providing nutrition tips—such as avoiding processed sweeteners and refined carbohydrates—as well as by showing them products to help manage normal blood sugar. “You have to be careful about what you say to people—you can’t prescribe anything,” Ranger says. “If [a shopper] has a severe condition, we refer them to a health practitioner in our community.”

Along with being careful how you talk about the diabetes category, you as a retailer also face the challenge of helping the more than 90 percent of people with prediabetes shopping in your store become more aware of the prevalence and danger of type 2 diabetes and how they can prevent the onset of this deadly and expensive disease. You can do this by holding prediabetes education events that stress the importance of blood-sugar management as part of a healthy lifestyle.

3 blood-sugar-management picks

WellBetX Glucose Balance: This combination of herbal extracts—including Gymnema sylvestre (the “sugar destroyer”), bitter melon and fenugreek seed—can help support healthy blood sugar levels.

Enzymedica Reduce: This enzyme supplement (which also contains healthy blood sugar ingredients cinnamon, zinc and chromium) reduces absorbable sugar in the gut when taken with a carbohydrate meal.

Almased: Clinical studies show that this meal replacement supplement—made with fermented soy, honey and yogurt—boosts satiety and metabolism, and supports healthy insulin levels.

Diabetes supplement growth

Blood-sugar-management supplement sales have grown in the last five years from $670 million to $1.1 billion.

2007: 19.80%

2008: 16.78%

2009: 3.02%

2010: 4.61%

2011: 8.41%

Source: NBJ


Want more info about the market for condition-specific products?

Nutrition Business Journal’s October 2012 issue offers a deep dive into the condition-specific supplements market. Learn more or order a copy of the issue at NBJ also coauthored with New Hope Natural Media’s Engredea team the Ingredient Market Forecast 2012-13, which explores the trends, conditions and science driving the ingredient market. Learn more or buy the report at

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