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Natural Choices For Men’s Health

EuroMedica
 
Kaneka

While the life-expectancy gap between men and women has decreased, it’s no secret that men still need to pay more attention to their bodies. According to MedlinePlus, several things work against men: They tend to smoke and drink more than women; they don’t seek medical help as often as women; and some men define themselves by their work, which can add to stress.

There are also health conditions that only affect men, such as prostate cancer and low testosterone. Many of the major health risks that men face—like colon cancer or heart disease—can be prevented and treated with early diagnosis. That said, the men’s health supplements market has tremendous potential for growth, according to Kevin Harden, vice president of sales at Georgia-based Private Label Nutraceuticals.

“Historically, the men’s market focused on sports performance and sexual enhancement products, leaving wide gaps in other product offerings for the male segment,” he said. “However, the aging Baby Boomer population has given rise to more men searching for ways to improve the quality of life through preventative care.” 

The market is healthy and growing; the Boomers have ensured that, agreed Eileen Sheets, managing director for New Yorkbased Bioforce USA. “Not to be discounted, the state of the economy and health care mess has driven some to look for lower-cost ways to address their health needs without a doctor. The practitioner market really offers the best of both worlds—professional guidance in diagnosing and using herbal alternatives, that offer safer, gentler treatment. I see this market continuing to grow and gain credibility, particularly with the increase in research on herbal products.”

A Gamut of Issues

The prevalence of Americans wrestling with men’s health issues has been rising progressively over the last 20 years, said Chris Meletis, ND, of Beaverton Naturopathic Medicine based in Oregon. “Certainly, men are more aware of the impact of testosterone and that they don’t have to settle for becoming old men prematurely; yet there is more to it,” he said. “Just like the trends of increasing diabetes and increasing metabolic syndrome, [there are] more erectile dysfunction (ED) commercials talking about male performance.We live in an environment of stress, and environmental pollutants such as plastics, herbicides, pesticides, etc., that act like estrogens. And when it comes to stress, long-term stress in one’s personal life and the world in general is just too much for the average human being to deal with.” 

Men are tired of the grind, continued Dr. Meletis, adding that getting old prematurely is an issue that consumers are very concerned about. “Men are no longer feeling like they can take on the world; more like the world is banging on their door and they can’t get up to answer [it].”

Mental health issues for men are definitely less discussed, but still very prevalent, noted Harden. Although depression is more widely diagnosed in women, more men commit suicide than their female counterparts.Also, “vanity” health concerns are not just for women—men also report being worried about issues such as hair loss and aging. Harden also mentioned weight management as a growing concern for men, as according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 72 percent of the American male population is now considered overweight or obese, which may result in other serious health conditions.

Additionally, Suzanne Munson, director of product development and compliance at Fair haven Health, a Washington-based maker of fertility products, noted that 15 percent of all trying-to-conceive couples suffer from sub-fertility or infertility, with infertility being defined as the failure to become pregnant after one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse. “While it is often assumed that the blame for most fertility- related issues should be placed on the female partner, many fertility experts are quick to point out that in at least 40 percent of infertile couples, it is actually the male partner that is the cause of the infertility,” she said.

For couples with fertility issues, the current medical options are expensive, invasive, not always covered by insurance and, unfortunately, come with no guarantees, Munson continued. “It is undeniable that the number of men experiencing fertility issues is rising rapidly, and poor sperm health is to blame. Alarmingly, the average sperm count among adult men has decreased by 50 percent since 1938, and continues to decline by at least two percent every year. Our modern lifestyle, so often characterized by too much stress, chronic exposure to dangerous environmental chemicals and a diet deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, has taken a toll on male reproductive health, and specifically targets sperm health. As a result, many men suffer from low sperm count, low sperm motility and/or abnormal sperm morphology (the size and shape of sperm).” 

Although mental health issues are becoming more prevalent for men, it is impossible to forget the two big health issues for the gender—heart health and prostate health.Most men do not pay too much attention to their health until they start experiencing the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. It is estimated that around 50 percent of men age 50 experience symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), said Sheets.

More specifically, according to Dan Lifton, COO of New York-based Quality of Life (QOL) Labs, the awareness of prostate cancer risk has become very high. “Men are very concerned about the side effects of prostate cancer surgery, so more men are focused on prevention through supplements.BPH (or enlarged prostate) presents a significant nuisance due to frequent urination particularly at night. So men are also increasingly reaching for herbal compounds that can provide relief without any side effects.Women continue to be both influencers and buyers of men’s supplements, so they continue to be an important target customer group even in this category.”

Natural Approaches 

Consumers are increasingly turning to natural non-pharmaceutical treatments for many men’s health issues. Very often though, they need to look at their own lifestyle first and foremost. According to Rob Streisfeld, NMD, of PHD Professionals, the biggest problem is that men often don’t look for health help.

“They don’t like going to doctors.Hormone replacement therapy (using testosterone and growth hormone) is fairly popular, but basic lifestyle changes and improved nutrition are often overlooked.” Therapeutic lifestyle change is ultimately necessary, continued Dr. Streisfeld, recommending an evaluation of diet, supplements, exercise, stress levels, as well as thoroughly reviewing lab work for functionality. “I actually combine natural therapies with science and technology, utilizing a state-of-the-art software system that analyzes blood lab results. The program helps the practitioner identify imbalances in the body, and assists in creating a plan for improving the individual’s health. It even includes some recommendations for remedies and dietary supplements.” Dr. Streisfeld advised that changes should be made gradually with consideration to the individual’s personal style and daily regime.“Compliance is definitely a key to success in any health plan. It is foundational to work on nutrition, which can be a combination of diet, dietary supplements and possibly intravenous nutritional therapy.” 

Additionally, in terms of infertility, many lifestyle factors impact the quantity and quality of the sperm, said Munson. Smoking cigarettes, using chewing tobacco, drinking large amounts of alcohol and exercising excessively all decrease the quantity and quality of sperm. Quitting, or simply cutting back on any of these activities will help improve sperm health. Eating well and supplementing the diet with key ingredients (vitamins C, B12, E and zinc, to name a few) will also help with sperm health, she said.Fairhaven’s line of products for male fertility includes: FertilAid for Men, CountBoost for Men, MotilityBoost for Men, ViriliTea and FertileDetox. These products are intended to optimize male reproductive health by promoting sperm health, said Munson.

Of course, for heart and prostate issues, medication has long been the traditional approach. “We’ve all heard the commercials that end with reciting a long list of numerous side effects from the medications,” said Bioforce’s Sheets. “Most hear that list and feel there must be a better way to address long-term and chronic health issues. Plus, more research has been published on natural treatments such as fish oil and saw palmetto making a natural approach more credible.” Saw palmetto has numerous published studies on its ability to promote healthy prostate and urinary function.A study recently published in the journal Phytotherapy Research showed how it improves sexual dysfunctions, particularly those that occur along with BPH, Sheets offered, noting that her company’s Prostasan is an herbal remedy made from organically grown saw palmetto berries.

Moreover, one emerging area of treating prostate cancer is immunotherapy—the use of the body’s immune system to go after the tumor, said QOL’s Lifton. “The opportunity that natural immuno-therapeutic compounds offer is that they can be used preventatively and proactively, rather than just reactively after the cancer appears. So many of our customers are taking a daily dose of our ImmunoKinoko product, which contains the fermented medicinal mushroom extract AHCC to maintain peak immune function.” In a recent 70-subject clinical study funded by Japan’s National Cancer Institute, AHCC was shown to stabilize the PSA levels of men with early stage prostate cancer, Lifton said.

Trends 

Undoubtedly, men’s health has moved closer to the forefront in the past few years as more public and private groups work to build awareness of the major health issues men face, said Private Label Nutraceuticals’ Harden. Groups such as the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) have built awareness through creating the Men’s Health Network, which sponsors Men’s Health Awareness Month in June.Other events were developed to bring awareness to specific health issues, such as Movember, which is a mustache-growing charity event in November that was created to educate men about prostate cancer.

There is also a lot of “buzz” around sexual health for men, said Sheets.“In fact, sexual performance products are currently a hot button for the FDA. And the amount of advertising that is done on both pharmaceuticals and other types of sexual health products has brought the issue into the public awareness,” she said.

As such, the practitioner market is reaping the benefits. The existing American health care system has traditionally encouraged reactive rather than proactive behavior, continued Harden. However, with the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, private insurers will be required to provide a variety of preventative services without patients needing to meet a deductible, or provide a co-pay. “This will strengthen the practitioner market, as more men utilize these services. Because an emphasis is placed upon identifying warning signs rather than treating a costly illness, the market for preventative care, such as supplements, will continue to expand.” 

Younger generations may not necessarily see the benefits of adding a supplement to their daily regimen, and pose a difficult challenge to marketers of supplements, said Harden. “Generation Y, for example, has become more desensitized to ‘natural’ products given their prevalence in the market, and although they are brand loyal,they tend to shy away from large brands in favor of smaller ‘niche’ brands. They also have an overall positive view of pharmaceutical products. This may work in the favor of natural practitioners who create customized, private label brands and products with a medical aesthetic.” 

Primary care doctors are increasingly being asked by their patients to recommend supplements for prostate health, added Lifton. “So the doctors are forced to educate themselves and make recommendations, particularly since they are increasingly competing with integrative doctors who possess strong knowledge in this area. This is feeding the market in a very positive way.” 

Patient Support 

Patients rely on natural practitioners to educate them and give them the necessary advice to improve and maintain their health. Dr. Streisfeld said he suggests practitioners incorporate natural products and dietary supplements, but it is an expansive category with new products and ingredients entering the market almost daily, so they must be careful.“Care should be given, not only based on the ingredients, but also with regard to knowing the manufacturer and their processes.” 

Practitioners should encourage preventative care, and educate patients on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle through exercise, diet and supplementation. Men are more likely than women to stick with a nutritional supplement regimen, yet less likely to visit a doctor for regular care, so vitamin and mineral supplements can be a beneficial tool for the male segment, said Harden.

Additionally, because men tend to be less communicative about what is going on with them, a practitioner must be able to address sensitive subjects, such as prostate health, in a way that allows a man to respond, said Sheets. “People skills are important in a healing relationship. A practitioner who can develop a strong relationship with a patient is in a better position to guide that patient to better health. It’s a tall order for the practitioner, but a real blessing to a patient to find this kind of health care partner.”

Healthy Take Aways

Since men smoke and drink more often than women and don’t seek out medical help as frequently, they should be paying more attention to their bodies than they currently do.

More than 72 percent of the American male population is now considered overweight or obese.

In at least 40 percent of infertile couples, it is actually the male partner that is the cause of the infertility.

A key to better men’s health is to prevent health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.

Practitioners should encourage preventative care, and educate patients on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle through exercise, diet and supplementation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Bioforce USA, (800) 641-7555, www.bioforceusa.com  Fairhaven Health, LLC, (360) 543-7888, www.fairhavenhealth.com  

Private Label Nutraceuticals, (888) 240-4835, www.privatelabelnutra.com  

Quality of Life Labs, (914) 251-0981, www.q-o-l.com

Men, Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late!

As part of National Men’s Health Week in June, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) encourages all men to build a healthful eating plan to help prevent the development of illness and disease later in life. National Men’s Health Week is designed to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.

“A nutrient-rich diet and a healthy lifestyle are the strongest lines of defense against preventable illnesses, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke,” said registered dietitian and Academy spokesperson Jim White. “Even small steps toward a healthier lifestyle can really add up over time, giving men a much better chance of staying strong and in the game as they age.” 

According to White, a healthy diet for men includes:

• Filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. “Be sure to include tomatoes or something made from tomatoes like pasta sauce because research indicates that the antioxidant lycopene found in tomato products may help prevent prostate cancer.”

• Making at least half of your grains, whole grains. Replace refined grains with whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice or oats.

• At least two to three 8-oz. Servings of fish per week. Choose lean meats.

• At least 38 g of fiber a day for younger men; 30 g of fiber a day for men older than 50.

• Choosing unsaturated fats like oils, nuts and salad dressings instead of saturated fats like full-fat dairy foods, butter and high-fat sweets.

• Consuming 4,700 mg a day of potassium from fruits, vegetables, fish and milk.

• The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt.

For more information, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at www.eatright.org.