Women are seeking targeted supplement formulations.
While women live longer than men on average, women tend to suffer more ill health than men. This creates an abundance of opportunities for manufacturers and retailers that offer dietary supplements for women.
More Aware of Natural
Whether it’s hormonal issues, not sleeping, low energy or low vitamin D, women are buying more product than men according to Nathalie Reed, owner of Thyme Natural Market and Café in Kew Gardens, NY.
And with more research coming out, women are becoming more aware of natural products. Patricia Bassett, owner of Bassett’s Health Foods in Toledo, OH, said she feels that product ingredients are evolving. Top sellers for women at her store include: black cohosh, vitamin E and women’s multivitamins.
Jeff Brucker, vice president of marketing at Florida-based Genesis Today, confirmed the women’s health category is strong, as it experienced double-digit growth in 2015 and was on track for similar results in 2016.
“Over the past 24 months, the category has evolved from the initial beauty, hair, skin and nails products to condition specific items, such as urinary tract support/health, specialized bone support formulas, targeted probiotic formulas and unique collagen building ingredients,” Brucker said.
While the women’s health category is continuing to grow, it can be attributed to many factors—most notably the fact that many women are seeking to proactively fortify their general health and perhaps stave off the inevitable process of aging, said Marci Clow, MS, RDN, at California-based Rainbow Light.
Clow added that the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) 2015 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements suggested that 56 percent of the females who use dietary supplements take them to support overall wellness, while 34 percent said they take them to fill in nutrient gaps, and 31 percent use supplements to support their bone health.
In the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) 2016 Supplements/OTC/Rx Consumer Trends Report, female consumers report the top supplements used are: multivitamin/mineral, calcium, vitamin D, fish oil and vitamin C, followed closely by probiotics, B12, antioxidants and magnesium.
The NMI report also indicates an increased growth in overall supplement use among all generations, with the biggest increase being reported for millennials.
Most important for supplement users is safety, with 65 percent reporting this at the top of the list for supplement purchase criteria, followed by price, evidence that it works and if it is easy to digest.
Clow said she feels that any credible supplement manufacturer is going to be interested in studies that are supportive of the claims that they make on their products, giving a benefit to the end consumer.
Dr. Nick Bitz, CSO of the California-based Youtheory, agreed. “I look for well-designed studies on healthy, non-diseased human populations that can help support my structure/function claims on products,” he said.
With demand growing for specific women’s health products to help combat different indications such as thrush or urinary tract infections, probiotics for women have a strong future.
Natalie Lamb, nutritional therapist and technical advisor for Bio-Kult Probiotics, from Protexin (Probiotics International Ltd.) in the U.K., said she is seeing this trend with their products. Combination probiotic products such as those found in the Bio-Kult range are helping to address this consumer demand, Lamb noted.
Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-strain formula offers 14 different strains of beneficial bacteria. “As each different probiotic strain has a slightly different beneficial effect within the body, a multi-strain is believed to have more positive benefits overall and therefore be able to help a more diverse range of gastrointestinal disorders,” Lamb said.
Bio-Kult Candéa is a multi-strain probiotic supplement with added garlic and grapefruit extract. “Taken daily, it could help strengthen the body’s natural defenses against candida overgrowth and may help to prevent it changing from its yeast-like form to the invasive filamentous fungus form,” Lamb noted.
Bio-Kult Candéa contains seven strains of probiotic bacteria to reinforce the gut microflora, helping to prevent candida from finding sites in the gut to grow. “They [the probiotic strains] also lower the gut pH so that candida, which prefers a more alkaline environment, cannot thrive,” she reported. “Garlic and grapefruit extract are both well-known natural antifungals. They are also proven to be compatible with the probiotic bacteria in Bio-Kult Candéa.”
Bio-Kult Pro-Cyan is a triple-action formula that works with the body to help maintain normal levels of bacteria in the gut for maintaining a healthy urinary tract. Two capsules contain cranberry extract standardized to give a minimum of 36 mg proanthocyanidins (PACs containing A-type), known to restrict the adhesion ability of bad (pathogenic) bacteria.
Pro-Cyan also contains two specifically selected probiotic strains and vitamin A, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and the maintenance of mucous membranes. “The strains within the Bio-Kult probiotic range are extensively researched and form part of an on-going investment in clinical trials in adults and children,” Lamb said. “Only recently, these strains were shown to greatly increase the efficacy of conventional treatment in the management of bacterial vaginosis in women.”
Excluding multivitamins, protein and obvious male-specific products, Andreas Koch, vice president of marketing at Texas-based Natural Vitality, said the majority of supplement purchases ultimately come from the pockets of women. “With the natural product industry seeing continual year-over-year growth, this too means women’s health product sales will continue to rise,” he said.
Women’s lives today have become more stressful, juggling multiple tasks and over-extending themselves beyond any prior generation. “As a result, women are experiencing more anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches and muscle tension, to name a few issues,” Koch added. “These are classic symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Women are so concentrated on activity and stimulants of one kind or another to pump up their activities that women are increasingly ignoring their resting balance. More women are stuck in temporary or chronic circles of stress.”
Researchers suggest that the ideal balance of calcium (the action mineral) to magnesium (the resting mineral) should not exceed two parts calcium to one part magnesium. This is from all sources including food, water, and supplementation. But approximately 70 percent of Americans are magnesium deficient, according to Koch, which is why it’s important that women supplement daily with magnesium.
Ionic magnesium citrate is highly absorbable and the most effective, Koch said. Magnesium can also be absorbed trans-dermally with cream (Natural Vitality makes a Natural Calm Cream). Magnesium can also be soaked in a relaxing tub using Natural Calm Bath. “Though these ingredients are primarily magnesium, these are alternative ways to supplement,” Koch noted.
Terry Naturally/EuroPharma has developed new formulas directed at some key concerns that women share. Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs, explained what their new products offer.
For example, CuraMed Breast and CuraMed + DIM Complex expands the already strong line of supplements that feature clinically studied curcumin that is blended with turmeric essential oil for enhanced absorption and additional cell-protecting benefits by the value of its tumerones.
“I think you’re going to see tumerones becoming much better known in the near future,” Myers said. “These components from turmeric have many of the same attributes of curcumin and show some amazing cell-protecting and tumor-fighting potential.”
CuraMed Breast is focused on the health of breast tissue. It features clinically studied CuraMed curcumin, French Grape Seed VX1, pomegranate seed oil and fruit extract, plus vitamin D. “Curcumin has a wide spectrum of benefits,” said Myers, “which is why we include it in a variety of formulas.”
In CuraMed Breast, Myers said curcumin is included because it stops damaging inflammation and free radical damage. “Inflammation and oxidative damage set up a spiral of circumstances that can lead to tumor formation, because it damages DNA,” she said.
Curcumin stops the body from overexpressing various inflammatory markers that fuel cancer growth, including interleukin 1b (IL-1b), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a). According to Myers, in the case of breast cancer, there is research that shows that curcumin stops the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. “You’ll see that line of cancer cells used as a standard in much of the research, and ingredients we provide in CuraMed Breast have been shown to have an effect on them, preventing them from spreading and growing,” she said.
An interesting plus with curcumin is that it also has been used as an addition to chemotherapy or radiation treatment, according to Myers. “That’s because it increases the activity of cancer drugs and protects healthy cells from the effects of conventional cancer interventions,” she said.
Grape seed extract, in the form of French Grape Seed XV1, is in CuraMed Breast for very specific reasons, according to Myers. “Grape seed extract has been shown to inhibit aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgens into estrogen,” she explained. “Understandably, breast tissue typically has higher levels of aromatase.”
A study published in the journal Cancer Research discussed the valuable potential of grape seed extract, when research showed that it inhibited aromatase activity and reduced growth in MCF-7 breast cancer cells—the same cell growth inhibited by curcumin.
“Grape seed extract also stops cancer by preventing cancer cells from connecting to blood vessels, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients,” Myers continued. “A natural protein associated with the development of blood vessel growth is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and the drug Avastin is a conventionally used inhibitor of VEGF. But the drug has the potential for severe side effects, including high blood pressure, headache, dry skin and rectal bleeding.
“But the process of blood vessel creation—angiogenesis—involves many steps, and in each one, grape seed can intervene and prevent it without side effects,” Myers added. “The grape seed we use in all of our formulas, French Grape Seed VX1, is a tannin-free, high-absorption extract. Many extracts include tannins, which do not absorb and do not provide the benefits of tannin-free oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs.)”
For women’s health, specifically breast cell health, omega-5 from pomegranate seed oil has emerged as a very strong natural therapeutic agent, Myers noted. “If you have a history of breast cancer in your family or have concerns about it yourself, the strong omega-5 power of pomegranate seed oil is a must,” she said.
Punicic acid from pomegranate seed oil has the ability to inhibit estrogen-sensitive and estrogen-insensitive breast cancer cells, according to Myers, who noted that in a cellular study, it inhibited proliferation of two types of cancer cells by 92 percent and 96 percent, respectively. In that same study, omega-5 fatty acid (punicic acid) also supported apoptosis in two types of breast cancer cells, by 86 percent and 91 percent, she noted.
“One of the reasons for pomegranate seed oil’s protective activity for breast tissue is it that it is an aromatase inhibitor,” Myers explained. “Aromatase is an enzyme that affects the body’s steroid metabolism. Imbalances have been linked to issues with both breast and prostate health.”
In other research, according to Myers, pomegranate extracts, including seed oil extract, were found to inhibit aromatase activity by 60 to 80 percent. This study also found that pomegranate seed oil showed a 90 percent inhibition of MCF-7 cells. The researchers stated that pomegranate has excellent chemo-preventive potential—either on its own, or as an addition to conventional therapy—meaning less dependence on dangerous drugs.
Myers said that in CuraMed Breast, the company includes a complete pomegranate extract, combining the seed oil and the fruit, for the most effective strength.
Research conducted by the National Cancer Institute of Thailand found an association between low vitamin D levels and advanced stages of breast cancer presenting with large tumors, according to Myers. “In Europe, a French observational study found that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women who were also undergoing hormone therapy,” she noted.
Myers pointed out that vitamin D3 is important because it stops some of the inflammatory factors involved in tumor generation by inhibiting the replication of inflammatory NF-kB, which can lead to increasing tumor risk. But genetics can also greatly determine how vitamin D levels affect susceptibility to breast cancer. If we have a variance in our vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene, we may be more susceptible to breast cancer (or other diseases) because our body can’t utilize vitamin D efficiently.
“This can be an issue for many people, and studies around the world have examined this issue as well,” Myers remarked. “It’s all the more reason why higher levels of vitamin D3 supplementation can be so helpful—the higher the level, the more likely you’ll be able to overcome any built-in tendency toward deficiency.
“We include vitamin D3 in our CuraMed Breast formula because it is already in a form that the body synthesizes from sunlight,” Myers continued. “While there is vitamin D2, derived from vegetable sources, it still needs to be converted after consuming it in order to be protective. And chances are, it will lose some potency in the process.”
At Terry Naturally/ EuroPharma, CuraMed formula for women is CuraMed + DIM Complex. “I think we all hear a lot about estrogen, and there may be some misunderstandings regarding it,” Myers said, noted that estrogen has three major types, called estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3).
“These subtypes occur in different forms, too, so it’s a big family. And like many families, some of the members are safer and more helpful, and a few may be dangerous and problematic. When these estrogens metabolize
down good pathways, there’s little risk. When estrogens or estrogen mimics, also known as ‘xenoestrogens,’ commonly found in pesticides, herbicides, and the BPA in plastics, linger in the body, they can cause a great deal of trouble. The proper metabolism of estrogen can mean the difference between hormonal health or risk of breast, uterine or cervical cancer. Poor estrogen metabolism is also linked to endometriosis and problematic PMS or perimenopause symptoms. It is critically important,” Myers said.
Therefore, clinically studied BioResponse DIM (diindolylmethane), is featured in the formula. “Most people are familiar with DIM, a compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables,” she noted. “As a component for women’s health, you couldn’t do better than DIM. It shifts estrogen toward a healthy pathway, for better hormonal health, reduced risk of certain hormonally related cancers, and reduction in fat deposits. Some women are more at risk of breast cancer risk because they lack the required levels of one of the body’s methods of fighting off tumors—a gene and its protein called BRCA1.”
According to Myers, a Canadian clinical study found that women taking supplemental DIM group saw a 34 percent increase BCRA1 expression. “Using DIM in this fashion could be a potentially major shift in the way we think about breast health—using a natural compound to reduce genetic risk—and mark real progress,” Myers concluded. VR
For More Information:
Rainbow Light, (800) 475-1890
Genesis Today, (800) 383-6008
Probiotics International Ltd., +44 (0) 1460 243230
Natural Vitality, (800) 446-7462
YouTheory, (949) 395-4417
Terry Naturally/EuroPharma, Inc., (866) 598-5487