In health more than in any other sector, the ‘cheapest’ option always comes at a price. If consumers want high quality products made from excellent raw materials, they have to be prepared to pay a little more for them. A number of independent organisations have recently brought to light the scandalous practices employed by low-cost supplement companies. Some, for example, have been found to be substituting palm oil for saw palmetto, the excellent extract for improving urinary problems, or poor quality gelatine extracts for chondroitin, the essential component of cartilage. Cases run into the hundreds of thousands but the fact that such trickery exists is not that surprising: how are you going to produce quality supplements using mediocre raw materials and secretive manufacturing processes? In supplementation, just as in food, quality costs.
Supplements which contain patented ingredients such as Mirtoselect® (Eye Pressure Control), ZeroPollution® or Go-Less® (Complete Uricare) tend to be a little more expensive because the companies that make them have invested in research to ensure their ingredients are more effective. So while you might have to pay a little more, you can be sure you’re getting a scientifically-researched supplement with demonstrated safety and efficacy.
The source of the raw material can also affect the cost. Marine-source glucosamine (Joint Support Formula), for example, costs a lot more than the bovine alternative but the latter has raised important concerns in the past in terms of mad cow disease. It’s a similar case with the form of vitamin and mineral selected: calcium carbonate is very inexpensive but numerous studies have shown other forms (such as calcium orotate) to be much better absorbed. Similarly, some cheap synthetic vitamins are suspected of aggravating health problems and producing the opposite effect from that intended! The way in which a supplement is manufactured can also influence price: while tablets tend to be cheaper than capsules, they are more difficult to digest. The gastro-resistant and extended-release capsules we use for our probiotics are dearer because they benefit from cutting-edge technology, which means they guarantee maximum efficacy. Freeze-drying plant extracts, which preserves their nutritional value much better than drum-drying, can be more expensive, as can the organic products which we select whenever possible (Organic acacia, Organic Royal Jelly, Organic MycoComplex).
Despite our commitment to excellence, we at SuperSmart have this year managed to lower our prices and are proud to offer unprecedented value-for-money. This has been possible due to growing demand from consumers (which has made high-quality products more accessible) and increasingly advanced logistics. In the current economic climate, this is a very welcome development: while few of us are prepared to sacrifice our health by opting for the cheapest product, we nonetheless always want to pay the lowest price possible for a top quality supplement.
And since price is not always the best indicator of a product’s quality (consumers are well aware they can sometimes pay ‘more’ and get ‘less), SuperSmart has recently established an independent and reliable customer ratings system whereby consumers can give feedback on products and thus provide new customers with objective quality markers. It also allows us to hear the views of as many people as possible to help us constantly improve our products: criticism remains the driver of excellence.
Will our diet improve in the decades to come ? It’s difficult to predict. Though the wind seems to be changing as public awareness grows, the extreme instability of our farming systems, our overpopulated and deteriorating planet, the strength of lobbying by the agrofood industry, and the risk of a global crisis all combine to give us little cause for optimism. We’re thus likely to see further erosion of expenditure on food due to weak economic conditions. This is alarming to say the least when we know the impact nutrition has on all aspects of life – health of course, but also longevity, well-being and mood. The dramatic deterioration in our food is also ironic given that our nutritional knowledge has never been more sophisticated and that we continue to learn more each day!
In this respect, we’ve realised quite recently that Western medicine may have got it wrong: a number of new studies have shown the link between our state of mind and the production of various substances (hormones, proteins, neurotransmitters) which modulate multiple physiological functions. Conscience (thought, belief and emotions) affects the endocrine system, the four main glands of which coordinate activities vitally important to the body. And yes - stress and depression can, in the long term, cause serious health problems such as cancer and degenerative diseases! Indian and Asian systems of traditional medicine, which have always supported the strong and complex relationship between mind and body, were therefore right.
As medicinal plants have come back into favour, traditional approaches are triumphing again. Indeed, the desire to re-engage with natural compounds that have been used for thousands of years has never been greater. This growing popularity is due both to the continuing discovery by scientific researchers of these compounds’ mechanisms of action, as well as the high levels of satisfaction experienced by those who have gradually put their faith in them. Irrefutable ‘scientific’ evidence has thus come to complement the empirical evidence which has long been under-recognised, and even ridiculed in the past.
It is this combination of tradition and research from which we draw inspiration when developing our natural, yet cutting-edge, products. By way of example, our product Lactoxira, the first psychobiotic for mood disorders, draws on the virtues of fermented foods such as kefir, shoju and garum, traditionally considered to promote vitality, and at the same time benefits from the very latest research demonstrating the astonishing communication taking place between gut bacteria and the brain. Similarly, in our supplement Complete Uricare, we’re using plant substances traditionally associated with improving urinary problems, but only those that are most scientifically-supported. We also maximise their effects by increasing the content of the molecules responsible and supplying them to consumers in the best possible form.
Clear, transparent and documented information is the key to making educated choices. Nowadays, we’re faced with such a huge range of diets, schools of thought and fanciful theories on nutrition-related matters that doing nothing would effectively make us complicit in this rampant stream of disinformation. By gradually improving our product descriptions, we will also be able to influence, from our viewpoint, the required changes in dietary behaviour by giving our readers the resources they need to take a more active and responsible role in their own nutrition. We at SuperSmart do not simply wish to offer the most reliable means of compensating for a diet that’s ‘lost its way’, but to be a real engine of change in people’s eating habits, both in nutritional and environmental terms. Of course, these enhanced descriptions are intended to complement, and not eclipse, the exceptional information service provided by our call centre team, who are always ready to respond to your questions and listen to your comments. We must also lead by example by responsibly selecting environmentally-friendly raw materials whenever possible. Since the beginning of the year, therefore,we have been gradually phasing out all ingredients that do not meet these criteria and introducing more and more organic products.
The New Year is therefore an opportunity to take on exciting challenges both in terms of our personal health and the health of our planet. We’re delighted to be addressing these issues with you for the 27th consecutive year.