NutraCast: Exploring the connection of ‘science to sales’

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

NutraCast: Exploring the connection of ‘science to sales’

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The dietary supplement industry has come a long way. A significant number of new dietary supplement products have appeared in the marketplace since Congress passed the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. At that time, there were an estimated 600 U.S. dietary supplement manufacturers out there marketing about 4,000 products. Today, as many as 100,000 different products are available to consumers. On today’s episode we’re going to take a look at how research and product validation has changed over the past 25 years.

Today’s NutraCast features Susan Hewlings, PhD, VP of research affairs at Radicle Science, and Doug Kalman, PhD, adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern, the co-founders of Substantiation Sciences LLC, where they provide dietary supplement consulting, substantiation expertise and science writing. 

“Prior to 1994, there weren't many companies that were actually interested in having their product tested at a university or a hospital or a private contract research organization to learn what it does, or to ‘prove what it does’ and the growth that has occurred for product validation was spurred on by many things and not just congressional activity," Kalman said. "In the early 1990s, doing clinical research also became a part of marketing in part of the supplement industry because it became a point of differentiation. The companies were then able to say our product has been university tested and that became a moniker that now bleeds over to marketing and other terms that are used."

"One of the big things that's changed–especially recently–is the availability to communicate the science via the internet, social media and the growth that that has undergone," Hewlings said. "You know, it used to be that research was mostly only available to academics, but now that's wide open, and I think that's driven a lot of what we're seeing."

The internet has also introduced what many would characterize as a double-edged sword. 

"It used to be, companies would have a store or they would sell through a GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe or their own web store, and then 30 years ago, along came Amazon, the big dog in the room," Kalman said. "And Amazon basically became a flea market where you could sell anything and everything in a semi-organized fashion which also then made it much more democratic and initially where anybody could put a product up for sale. And it wasn't necessarily vetted. And so there became a lot of ‘me too’ knock off companies. Sort of like what people used to talk about when there would be like the fake Rolexes sold in Chinatown in New York or along the streets."

To hear more about the evolution of the industry, translating the science and state-led restrictive bills on dietary supplements, listen to the NutraCast.

If you enjoy listening to the NutraCast, feel free to leave a review. You can subscribe on iTunes​, Spotify​, Stitcher​ or wherever you get your podcasts.

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