Fish oils remain the darling of the natural-products industry. They are the clear leaders no matter how you slice it — up 65 per cent since 2007 in mainstream markets, and 42 per cent in naturals, according to SPINS data. While fish oils have an FDA-minted qualified health claim for cardiovascular disease, they are the Swiss Army Knife of ingredients, and it's impossible to know for which health condition consumers are buying them.

Meanwhile, vitamin E continued its downward slouch, which began in 2005 when a misreported meta-analysis was reported to find vitamin E increased the risk of death. This was a great example of failing to get ahead of a false rumour. Even still, vitamin E remains the seventh most popular supplement in mainstream markets (18th in natural-food markets), according to SPINS data.

Where vitamin E sales have fallen about 16 per cent from 2007 levels, coenzyme Q10 is picking up the slack. It is up 33 per cent in mainstream channels while essentially flat in the naturals channel, trumping vitamin E by all counts. Co-Q10 is a far more expensive ingredient than vitamin E, but its benefit for cardiovascular is far less assailable. Not to mention that word has not really taken hold among mainstream medical doctors that the blockbuster statin drugs deplete the body of co-Q10, leaving cardio patients on statins with lower LDL levels — and still dead of cardiovascular disease.

The other major player in the cardio world is plant sterols. While off 16 per cent in the naturals channel since 2007, sterols are up a significant 44 per cent in mainstream markets, buttressed by their inclusion in everything from orange juice to yoghurt and oatmeal.

Statistics, please:
No. 1 cause of death in the world: heart disease.
17,000,000: number of annual heart-disease deaths (including stroke).
25,000,000: estimated annual number of deaths by 2020.
40 per cent: percentage of all deaths.
625,000: annual American deaths from cardiovascular disease.
$258 billion: cost to Americans for heart disease in 2006, including health-care services, medications and lost productivity.

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