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Between the Sheets

In today’s world, sex has become a much more acceptable topic. However, many people are still a bit timid about opening up and discussing sexual dysfunction with others, sometimes even with their doctor. Whether assuming that they are the only one with this type of issue, or feeling ashamed, sexual issues are becoming a more commonplace.

“By the year 2012, people age 50 years and older in the United States will number 100 million people,” explained Sami Kahn, senior director of business development for Biotropics Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). “Declining testosterone levels is a natural part of the aging process for both men and women. That decline is often accompanied by reduced stamina and vigor. As consumers and health care professionals discover that there are safe and effective non-pharmaceutical approaches to addressing this issue, with no known side effects, we anticipate the market to increase substantially.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately five percent of 40-year-old men and between 15 and 25 percent of 65-year-old men experience erectile dysfunction (ED) on a long-term basis. Further, the Society for Women’s Health Research reports that hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is the most common female sexual dysfunction and it affects approximately one in 10 women. HSDD refers to a women’s chronic low sexual desire. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 40 percent of women have had HSDD at some point in their lives.

While aging can be a factor, poor diet and lack of exercise can also be a part of the reason a person is experiencing sexual dysfunction. “Diet and nutrition influence every conceivable area of health, from brain function in the head to muscle function in our feet, and every tissue and system in between including sexual function,” said James Gibbons, president of Nature’s Plus (Melville, NY). “Most people do not realize that nutrition can strongly influence sexual function. Thus, they have no idea of which foods can promote healthy sexual function or what kinds of deficiencies hinder it. Compound this lack of knowledge with the fact that most people don’t consume sufficient quantities of healthful foods or essential nutrients in the first place, and the need for supplements supporting healthy sexual function becomes quite clear.”

A Booming Market

Getting older can cause a plethora of health issues for both men and women. Men can develop problems with the prostate that can cause a number of other health concerns including ED. Additionally, many menopausal women have also experience a loss of sex drive due to the imbalance of hormones. While Baby Boomers are now experiencing a number of these issues, many of them are being proactive and are doing something about it. “This market, primarily the Baby Boomer generation, is the largest population segment in the U. S. and is re-defining what it’s like to get older,” said Khan. “They are not content to simply accept age-related conditions, and are more accepting of natural alternatives.”

While prescription drugs such as Viagra have opened the door for people to be more open about sexual dysfunction, consumers that have experienced side effects or those who do not want to take another prescription medication go looking for a natural alternative. “The market for sexenhancing products has always been robust, even going back through all recorded history. The category is always competitive, with companies trying various strategies to achieve a leadership position,” said Chris Kilham, founder of Medicine Hunter Inc., and member of the scientific advisory board for EuroPharma Inc.® (Green Bay, WI).

Nature’s Plus’s range of sexual health products including E Fem, which is designed to not only promote healthy female hormonal function, but to also support hormone balance, which is much more important in women. T Male, now available in fast-acting liquid form as well as original capsules, provides men with the supplemental nutrients that promote healthy testosterone production. T Male products include the ingredient, Vinitrox™, which is a combination of apple and grape polyphenols, chosen for their ability to combat the peroxynitrite free radical species, which is particularly aggressive against reproductive and hormonal tissues. According to the company, Vinitrox not only helps the body’s nitric oxide systems (essential for male and female erectile tissue function), but it also improves overall sexual health, including the systems that govern hormone production and balance.

“The market for products designed to support healthy sexual function is large and growing. Evidence of its growth can be seen in the diversification of the products offered in this category,” said Nature’s Plus’s Gibbons. “Aside from the hype-driven sex products you might find in the back of a magazine, a wide range of legitimate sexual function supplements have evolved, including supplements for reproductive support and supplements that support the healthy generation of male or female hormones, which can help in many areas beyond sex, such as energy, vitality, sleep and positive mood.”

Europharma’s flagship sexual health supplement is Andes Organic Maca®. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root that grows in Peru. Traditionally used for sexual enhancement, maca has been clinically studied and naturally supports a healthy libido for both men and women. According to the company, Andes Organic Maca is certified organic, highly concentrated, and offers a significant quantity of pure maca extract in capsules.

“We have an ArginMax for Men and an ArginMax for Women formula for improving sexual function and enjoyment,” said Denny Kwock, president of Daily Wellness Company (Honolulu, HI). “Both are supported by published, peer-review clinical studies conducted at well-recognized medical institutions as well as eight issued U.S. patents. The main reasons they sell so well are because they work, there are specific formulas for men and women, and they just need to be taken on a daily basis so there’s no timing issue. Also, the formulas improve underlying physiology and cardiovascular health so the person not only has better sex, but they feel more energy and healthier overall.”

Tenaga, Biotropics Malaysia’s sexual function product, contains Physta, a patented, natural botanical, which supports overall vigor. Physta contains bioactive components of the extracts from roots of the tongkat ali plant, which has traditionally been used to increase overall energy, enhance sexual potency, strengthen erection, boost the metabolism and improve fertility. Physta is produced using a patented, freeze-dried, water-extraction process developed in exclusive partnership between Biotropics Malaysia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Setbacks

As the market for sexual function products grows, it is important for retailers to direct customers toward products that have the science to back their claims. According to Kilham, there are human clinical studies on various herbs for sexual function including maca, Panax ginseng, tongkat ali, rhodiola rosea horny goat weed and maca, among others. “The more published science, the more products sell,” he said.

Another struggle that supplement manufacturers are facing are copycat products that are put on the market without substantial research. “As always, when legitimate supplement makers develop legitimate products that do well in the market, the hypedriven marketers seem to crawl out of the woodwork,” said Gibbons. “In the case of sexual function supplements, the heavily marketed exaggerated claims are getting so outrageous that they threaten the entire category.”

Don’t be Shy

While some customers may be a bit hesitant to ask questions about sexual function products, retailers can do a number of things to create an environment in which customers can feel at ease to ask questions and inquire about sexual function products. “I’d say go wild and go creative,” said Kilham. “So many people feel a little embarrassed to talk about sex, but it is a part of life. In fact, without sex, there would be no life. Tasteful displays that clearly show what the product can be used for, plus scientific information to show how it works, can have a great impact.”

“Both giving permission to discuss the subject matter and product knowledge are important in selling any sexual function product,” concluded Kwock. “This subject matter can be embarrassing for many people or they have denial. Communicating the fact that many other people also suffer from this problem and that there are credible, effective solutions is a good first step. Being able to communicate how a product works and the studies behind it are important for both generating excitement and gaining a customer’s trust. Also, a gentle reminder of how good it would be to have a great sex life again doesn’t hurt.”

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