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The Changing Face of the Supplement Industry

Isaac BloggyThe dietary supplements available to us here in the United States–ranging from simple ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and other isolated nutrients–to complex homeopathic formulas, food concentrates, flower essences, essential oils, essential fatty acids, herbs in capsules, a perhaps bewildering variety of minerals, and so much more–are remarkable in their variety and scope! Like our postal and library systems, these are facets of living in a first world country that one quickly gets used to.
I’ve worked in the supplement department at The Kiva for several years now, and I’d like to share some of my observations regarding supplements in general and at The Kiva specifically.
The supplement market, like our world, has changed dramatically over the last decade, and as a growing part of the economy it has expanded in all directions. It’s highly competitive and, in truth, not always as regulated as one might hope; it’s on us as buyers to educate ourselves as to what we’re putting in and on our bodies. Doing one’s own research is important, but can be difficult. Our staff’s knowledge and experience, much of which is simply the natural result of long term observation and dialogues with the community, is something for which people often thank us.
The internet is awash with information (and kittens wearing toast?),
This iStock image (1312913) was downloaded on 6-26-06 for: EVERY DAY THOUGHTS CALENDAR KITTENS (MAS90 #11970)

No kittens were harmed in the making of this image.

yet to separate hype from fact is not always simple. The lack of regulation with dietary supplements is most acute when it comes to sports, bodybuilding, and weight loss supplements. For example, these supplements often contain stimulant or pro-hormone ingredients that are on the cutting edge of what is known and what is legal. These often highly faddish, obscure ingredients may become accepted or they may be banned, as thousands of people try the supplement and effectively test it out. At the Kiva we don’t even sell sports or weight loss supplements, for the reasons outlined above. I don’t intend to promote fear, just reasonable caution and an awareness about the big picture.

Thankfully, just as third party certifications for Fair Trade, Organic, and Non-GMO have become more common for grocery items, third party certifications for supplements (and health and beauty products) are increasingly happening. This is an emerging movement towards voluntary, sustainable self regulation instead of increased governmental oversight. So we can more easily choose purchases which have been certified free of GMOs and traded fairly, companies that donate a percentage of profits to various causes, cooperatively owned companies that benefit remote communities, and more!
Lastly, with numerous cut-rate internet vendors entering the market, it can be difficult or impossible for local retailers to offer a lower price. Yet internet vendors cannot offer the warmth and immediacy, face-to-face interaction, sharing of specific information, and accountability that is integral to the way we do things here at The Kiva. I feel confident that this is the major reason we continue to thrive in such an altered landscape – in a word, community.
by Isaac Boatright

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