Assessing Covid-19’s impact on the VMS industry

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Despite various countries going into lockdown, governments are still allowing “essential” services and businesses to remain operational, putting the role of the dietary supplements industry in the spotlight. In some countries, like New Zealand, supplement marketers are allowed to maintain their operations as long as they are supplying “essential” businesses, such as pharmacies and supermarkets. However, according to the guidance provided by New Zealand Natural Health Products, health food stores do not fit the description of “essential” businesses.

The situation is similar but more complex in the USA, home to the world’s No.1 VMS market. While essential food and drug suppliers are open for business during Covid-19 restrictions, industry leaders are working to ensure that the same applies to speciality health food stores and cannabis dispensaries. No specific federal regulation is in place, but “essential business” status is being determined at state and local level. While California most decisively classified workers supporting cannabis and dietary supplement retail as essential workers, and Illinois added licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centres to its essential healthcare operations list, not all states have set such guidelines.

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In a letter to state governors, industry associations including the Consumer Healthcare Products Association urge that supplement supply chains remain open in all states, arguing that now more than ever, consumers need essential nutrients to stay fit and healthy and proactively reduce their risk of chronic diseases without burdening an already overstretched healthcare system. They write: “As each of you plan your own approach to this challenging issue, we respectfully request you mirror White House / Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines and make special accommodation for critical infrastructure industries that specifically include not only conventional foods but all subcategories of food, including dietary supplements, infant formulas, medical foods and spices & flavours.”

As for how the Covid-19 crisis will affect the VMS market, it’s clear that some categories stand to benefit more than others. Herbal & natural immune stimulants and vitamin C supplements are likely to see the biggest boost, as long as supply chains can be maintained. In certain markets, such as India and China, there is likely to be a rise in sales of country-specific natural remedies (Ayurvedic medicine and TCM) positioned for immunity support, though marketers will have to be wary of government clampdowns on products that are claimed to prevent or cure Covid-19.

For a full analysis of Covid-19’s impact on the global CHC market, pick up a copy of our all-new Hot Topic review Coronavirus 2020 and its potential impact on CHC from Nicholas Hall’s CIMA division. Buyers of this report will also receive a situation update in six months time. For more information, or to purchase your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Vit D may prevent cold & flu

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“The sunshine vitamin”, also known as vitamin D, is vital for healthy bones and a strong immune system, says an analysis published in the British Medical Journal. This study also suggests that foods should be fortified with the vitamin.

Public Health England (PHE), however, argues that the infections data is not conclusive, although it does recommend the supplements to improve bone and muscle health.

According to the research, the immune system uses vitamin D to make antimicrobial weapons that puncture holes in bacteria and viruses. As vitamin D is made in the skin while out in the sun, many people, particularly in the UK, have low levels during colder seasons.

Trials on using supplements to prevent infections have so far given varied results, so researchers pooled data on 11,321 people from 25 separate trials to try to gain a more conclusive result. The team at Queen Mary University of London looked at respiratory tract infections, which covers a wide range of illnesses from a runny nose to flu to pneumonia.

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The study overall said one person would be spared infection for every 33 taking vitamin D supplements. That is more effective than a flu vaccination, which needs to treat 40 to prevent one case, although flu is far more serious than the common cold.

There were more beneficial results for those taking pills daily or weekly, rather than in monthly super-doses and in people who were lacking vitamin D in the first place. The main purpose of vitamin D supplements is to normalise the level of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are crucial for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

In extreme cases, low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets in children, where the bones become soft and weak and, in some cases, misshapen as they continue to grow. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which leads to severe bone pain and muscle aches.

One of the researchers taking party in the study, Professor Adrian Martineau, commented: “Assuming a UK population of 65 million, and that 70% have at least one acute respiratory infection each year, then daily or weekly vitamin D supplements will mean 3.25 million fewer people would get at least one acute respiratory infection a year.”

For more vitamin D developments, please follow this link.

Vit D shows metabolic syndrome benefits

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It is well known to some that a diet high in fat can trigger a metabolic syndrome; a group of symptoms that pose as risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Scientists have now discovered that vitamin D deficiency is necessary for this syndrome in mice, with primary disturbances in gut bacteria.

If these findings can be validated in humans, sunbathing and vitamin D supplements may be affordable approaches to improve or even prevent metabolic syndrome.

“Based on this study, we believe that keeping vitamin D levels high, either through sun exposure, diet or supplementation, is beneficial for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome,” says Professor Stephen Pandol, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USA, who collaborated with Yuan-Ping Han’s research group at Sichuan University, China in the study.

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Metabolic syndrome affects nearly one-fourth of the world’s adult population. Characteristic symptoms include obesity around the waistline and at least two of the following: high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure or high cholesterol; sufferers also typically have excess fat in their liver.

Vitamin D deficiency decreases the production of defensins, which are antimicrobial molecules essential to maintain healthy gut flora. As expected, an oral supply of a synthetic defensin recovers gut bacteria balance, decreases blood sugar levels and improves fatty liver.

In summary, a high fat diet alone is not enough to cause metabolic syndrome but ultimately it is needed in combination with vitamin D deficiency.

Vit D recommended for all

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A report by a committee of independent nutrition experts has recommended that everyone in the UK should take vitamin D supplements. This has been advised despite the initial thought that only certain groups of the population should take the supplement.

The new guidance advice, which applies to England and Wales, suggests that everyone over the age of four should take 10mcg of vitamin D everyday. The guidance advice also suggests that during the chillier seasons this is particularly advised.

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The report strongly suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding women, people from ethnic minority groups with dark skin, elderly people in care homes and those who wear clothing that covers a majority of the skin, should take 10mcg of vitamin D everyday all year round.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) looked at the issue and decided that, to ensure a majority of the population has enough vitamin D in their blood all year round, daily intake is advisable.

For pregnant women and some children up to and including the age of four, the supplements will be free under the government’s ‘Healthy Start’ scheme. The Department of Health will now have to decide whether to fund free supplements for other groups of the population.

Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels of the vitamin in their bodies.