Santa Fe Health
The VMS (vitamins, minerals and supplements) industry is $25 billion strong nationwide, recession proof, and thanks to aging Boomers and an increasingly health-conscious America, growing about six percent a year, according to the Huffington Post. In Santa Fe, which may be more health-crazed than most cities, the VMS business is booming at Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens, and particularly at specialty stores. Industry growth depends on either marketing new products or new research on existing products or, at the store level, having informed and knowledgeable salespersons. What's popular in Santa Fe? Antioxidants have been riding the trend wave for almost a decade, according to local stores. These include vitamins A, C and E, selenium, beta carotene, and foliate, and are the vanguard in the army against "free radicals"-volatile compounds believed to damage cells and contribute to aging. Boomers who in their youth liked the word "radicals" now run from it. Despite recent studies, including a 2007 paper published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) that antioxidants fail to protect against heart disease, stroke and cancer, this vitamin class enjoys no shortage of true believers.
At Whole Foods, according to an employee named Robin, who seemed to know every product in the store's two full aisles of health supplements, the store has several standard best sellers, like a daily multi-vitamin, and vitamin C (purchased more often by women than men, said Robin), but resveratrol is not far behind. One of the newest darlings in the menagerie of antioxidants, resveratrol can be extracted from several plants, including grapes that produce red wine, raspberries, mulberries, blueberries and cranberries. Different brands promise different levels of purity and potency, and are priced accordingly. Also popular at Whole Foods are protein powders, and "pro-biotics," which "build up your good bacteria after it's been depleted by illness and antibiotic medications," said Robin. Also in demand is another antioxidant, spirulina, a simple one-cell form of blue-green algae that is about 70 percent protein, with all essential amino acids in tact (in comparison, beef is only 22 percent protein). Spirulina, which comes as a pill or a powder, allegedly protects against hay fever, arthritis, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, reduces inflammation, and improves memory. Finally, "green food supplements" are ascending in popularity. When diet alone can't provide all necessary vitamins, minerals and enzymes, these supplements are made from all or most of the following: chlorophyll, alfalfa, barley, kelp, green tea, wheatgrass, turmeric root, and algae. "Taking a green food supplement every day works wonders," a customer told me, "especially if you're always eating on the run, or you can't totally junk your junk food habit."
At Vitamin Cottage, bee products, including pollen, royal jelly, and propolis, (a resinous mixture that bees collect from tree buds and sap flows), are customer favorites, according to one VC salesperson. The amazing properties of honey can mitigate depression, heal wounds, improve cardiovascular and hepatic problems, and are a great energy source. No surprise, a bevy of antioxidants like quercetin, lutein, rutin, beta carotene, CoQ10, and natural bioflavanoids, (a group of water-soluble substances that occur mainly as natural pigments in plants and flower) are also in demand. So is Gingko Biloba, a Chinese herb from the Gingko tree used to prevent or treat dementia and Alzheimer's disease, as well as cardiovascular, respiratory and central nervous system disorders. Finally, amino acids supplements (proteins are made up of long chains of building blocks called amino acids, and the sequence of the amino acid is characteristic to a particular protein, which determines its function) are becoming a staple in more diets. I was informed there are over twenty different amino acids, such as Leucine, Lysine, Threonine and Tryptophan, benefiting everyone from pregnant and nursing women to those suffering from inflammation and arthritis.
At Pharmaca, certified herbalist Lynn Childson explained that the popularity of homeopathic remedies varies from season to season, and the store has no single best seller, though CoQ10, Omega 3, 6 and 9 fish oils, melatonin, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates, and calcium capsules are popular year round. "Spring and Fall are the virus and allergy season, and we carry a host of applicable products," Lynn said. About two thirds of Pharmaca VMS clients are women, often menopausal or post-menopausal, and immune response and endocrine issues are important. Lynn often recommends Relshi mushroom capsules to strengthen immune responses, and adaptogens (a natural herb product that increases the body's resistance to stress and trauma), like Fungi Perfecti's Reishi, to help balance endocrine systems. "My older female clients are also concerned about osteoporosis, for which I recommend a special calcium/algae extract," she added. Lynn stressed that Pharmaca takes an education approach with its clients, building long-term relationships and a health awareness that guarantees smarter consumers. All products are competitively priced, and every Tuesday is Senior discount day.