Knowing the Facts and Myths in Dietary Supplements

April 24, 2012

Almost every food product with dietary guidelines make it very clear that your nutritional needs should be met primarily through your diet. For some people, however, supplements may be a useful way to get nutrients they might otherwise be lacking. But before you go shopping for supplements, get the facts on what they will and won’t do for you. In this special feature, HealthCareAsia had a tete-a-tete with Ricky Ngiau, Appeton’s general manager for OTC/Consumer to share with us the company’s latest products as well as how consumers can get the most out of their dietary supplements.

HCA: We notice your company has a wide range of products for both men and women. Which of these products are popular? In certain countries in Asia, which product is more in demand/marketable? Why?

Ngiau: Child Health Supplement (CHS) category with Vit C and Lysine is our key products. This CHS range has been the flagship of our company since its inception in 1982. Subsequently, we have introduced health supplements for teenagers and adults (AHS), as well as nutritional supplements for weight gain, for both children and adults.

More recently, we have introduced niche nutritional supplements for seniors 60 years and above and those suffering from diabetes and pre-diabetes, to aid their nutritional intake. Thus, we have a wide range of health and nutritional supplements for healthy living covering the young to the elderly.

As for international demand, we employ a strategic approach, whereby we study to determine the market needs. Because we have a large range of products covering children, adults and seniors, we have the luxury of introducing the right products to the right markets.

This approach and the quality of our products ensure there is a constant demand for our products, and thus far the response has been very positive. It is difficult to narrow down to which product has the highest demand due to our aforesaid approach.

In Malaysia, we are the leading brand for children’s vitamin C, due to its’ uniqueness and taste; Appeton Weight Gain (AWG) is well accepted and unique; and Appeton Wellness60+ is the only nutritional supplement specially formulated for seniors 60 years and above. Overseas, our CHS) category is in demand in Myanmar.

HCA: As more people turn to nutritional supplements to boost their health and wellbeing, how can one choose the right food supplement? Share with us your key steps to making informed decisions.

Ngiau: When selecting health or nutritional supplements, it is vital that the consumers understand their dietary needs and eating patterns to better understand and identify their body’s nutritional needs. Through this process consumers are able to make an informed decision on the types of supplements needed in their diet. However, if one is unsure, it is best to consult a doctor, pharmacist, nutritionist or other healthcare professionals.

HCA: How can customers differentiate from a standard to a fake/sub-standard product? What labels must they check?

Ngiau: To ensure one’s safety, it is best to purchase health supplements from reputable companies such as Kotra Pharma, as we take stringent care to ensure our products are of the highest quality. We would also advice the consumers to purchase their products from reputable retail outlets such as chain or independent pharmacies, hypermarkets, supermarkets, sundry druggists etc. However, if a consumer has any doubt about a particular product, it would be best to contact the manufacturer or supplier via their helpline or customer inquiry line.

HCA: Is it necessary to consult with a physician before taking in supplements? How about doing your own personal homework?

Ngiau: Doing your personal home work is easy nowadays; especially with easy access of communication technology to read up on benefits of various health supplements etc. but it is recommended that one should always consult a doctor, pharmacist, nutritionist or other healthcare professional if one is unsure of what supplements to take.

HCA: Is there any danger from taking supplements that contain ingredients that have not been carefully studied?

Ngiau: All the ingredients used would have naturally undergone in-depth studies for any reputable pharmaceutical company, and all such supplements must be approved by the Drug Control Authority (DCA) before they are allowed to be sold in the market place; hence such a danger should not arise.

HCA: Supplements come in various forms (powder, liquid, tablets, gel, etc.) Can this impact the supplement’s potency?

Ngiau: As mentioned earlier, for health supplements, in-depth studies have been carried out to determine their efficacy and quality. Therefore, the various forms do not affect the potency of the supplements. Additionally, extensive stability studies have been conducted to support the product’s potency throughout the shelf-life.

However, it is important to remember that each form has a different function and each of these forms has been studied to ensure that the right amount is delivered with each dosage e.g. tablet, soft gel and capsule forms come in time-release or natural release, while effervescent are for an immediate boost.

HCA: Who needs food supplements? Is it true that overfed people don’t need these types of products? How can one tell that he is getting enough of those vitamins/nutrients?

Ngiau: In today’s rat race, we tend to eat out more and what we consume may not be a balanced meal. More often than not we consume food that is high in fat, sodium and low in nutrient value. Being overfed does not mean you are consuming the right amount of nutrients. If you consume more than the recommended amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat, this could eventually cause health problems. So it is always prudent to ensure that one is well covered by taking the right health supplements. The best form of monitoring your nutrient intake is through regular medical check-ups and self-monitoring.

HCA: Are your products compliant with a certain food and drug regulation? If so, please indicate.

Ngiau: We ensure our product compliancy right from the quality of ingredients used to the packaging of the product. Our manufacturing plant is cGMP, ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 13485: 2006 HACCP certified and our company Kotra Pharma was one of the four pharmaceutical companies selected to be audited for the application of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Scheme (PIC/S) membership by the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB). The PIC/S is an international agreement between the countries’ pharmaceutical inspectorate authorities, which together provide an active and constructive co-operation in the field of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).

On top of this, all our products are certified Halal and registered with the Drug Control Authority (DCA), hence compliant with the regulations for health and nutritional supplements. We have our own R&D, which is continuously researching for better products to serve our customers’ needs and I am proud to say that our efforts have been acknowledged by the industry, when we were awarded the “Best Pharmaceutical Company of the Year” award in 2011 by Frost & Sullivan.

HCA: How does the company educate consumers on the use of dietary supplements?

Ngiau: To reach the masses, we employ several forms of communication. We believe that it is important to engage with the key opinion leaders and we work closely with various health and pharmaceutical associations/authorities to educate the public on the right dosage and consumption of health supplements. On top of that, we also actively organise health forums in hospitals for the public as well as participate in healthcare exhibitions and fairs, such as the National Diabetes Institute’s (NADI) health exhibition and the most recent being the Health and Beauty Fair organised by Aeon, One Utama, Petaling Jaya.

As a responsible pharmaceutical company, it is our aim to ensure our consumers have the right information to make an educated decision for their health and nutritional supplements’ needs as we strongly believe that “Everyone Deserves a Healthier Tomorrow.”

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