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Supplemental Life

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During a Dateline NBC episode that recently aired on the increase in supplement use by Americans, I was intrigued to look into this social health phenomenon further. For years, we have turned to supplements and wellness products to aid in weight loss, increase muscle mass, provide relaxation, ignite sexual drive and so much more. It seems that over the last several years, the health and supplement aisles at our local supermarkets have doubled in square footage and space offered for point-of-sale opportunities.

Now, on any given walk through your neighborhood supermarket or pharmacy, you'll find Vitamin C fizzy-lifters, caffeine-laced chocolate balls, vitamin D capsules, protein-infused jelly beans, lavender-flavored calming gum and pills of every color, shape and carrier. The user has transferred from the stereotypical jock, marathon runner or germaphobe, and moved to the mainstream consumer. Soccer moms, workaholics, socialites, athletes, blue-collar servers and so many more are now included in the ever-growing target market of this industry. It seems likely, however, that individuals with a favorable and more health-conscious lifestyle are more likely to partake in the supplement market.

CNN reports that more than half of all Americans use supplements. The food and drug supplement market is approaching $27 billion in sales; and we are buying. As Americans are facing increasing healthcare costs and rising concerns of coverage for years to come, is our use of supplements and health-promising products helping to curb this forthcoming doom-and-gloom scenario?

The Tupperware parties of long ago have been replaced with acai-wine gatherings and seaweed-wrap weight loss conventions. Although many would argue, the supplement market has gained steam by use of the traditional direct sales pyramid model coupled with social media. In a conversation with a colleague, a direct sales consultant for a global herbal supplement and body-wrap company shared with me that many of her company's top-tier executives are driving Bentleys and wearing Christian Louboutins to every sales function. Case and point: Those who have chosen to become involved in the supplement or quick-fix health market are reaping the rewards of our need for speed -- and subliminal peace of mind.

What exactly are we supplementing with all of these wraps, pills, chews, tablets and powders? I believe that our use of supplements is actually a mask for further imbedded issues that are plaguing Americans. Rising stress, economic conditions, worry of future vitality and more are all areas of thought that creep into our daily lives. In a year when Americans are faced with electing a new -- or continued -- leader of the free world, there is an incredible sense of uncertainty. Perhaps the use of supplements provides us with an inherent psychological benefit that we immediately condition ourselves to become accustomed to.

My prediction fares with all consumer reports and trendwatching data, in that as this market stands to gain more consistent users, sales will continue to rise. Now that marketing spans beyond a snazzy point-of-sale kiosk or celebrity voiceover, supplement organizations will gain access to grassroots channels and social media outlets, where users easily transition from believers to advocates and, shortly thereafter, to unpaid marketeers.

Subliminally targeted consumers quickly share their stories of success with friends, family and colleagues. This may also be a self-fulfilling prophecy for supplement users, further putting our minds at ease in knowing that others are feeling the same void in their lives, needing a lift or wishing for a more soothing remedy for the predicament called "life."

What would our ancestors say to all of the items placed on store shelves, or our home cabinets filled with pill bottles and jars of green powder? I can see my grandmother shaking her head and coolly commenting that this trend is "for the birds."

There is little argument that our stresses will vanish or that our economy won't turn on a dime. With most given indicators, we should be prepared with our personal response to rising concerns. No matter your stance, it is clear that Americans have found solace in managing increasing strife, by gradually increasing use in a supplemental life.

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