“Mom, I have a little present for you!” Camille, a 31-year-old Parisian, hands her mother a pretty colorful box: chewing gum for menopause!
Marie, 58, is amazed in more ways than one. “I found the attention adorable, but I didn’t expect it at all, because it doesn’t look like me,” she confides. Having been very ill as a child, I have always associated good health with the luck of not taking any medicine. When I suffered from hot flashes and night sweats in my late fifties, I consulted specialized health sites that pointed to herbs with soothing effects. Sage, blackcurrant and celery were on the list and I incorporated them into my diet. I wouldn’t have thought of capsules, much less candy-like “gummies” which I’m not fond of. But Marie let herself be tempted, moved by her daughter’s gesture and seduced by the attractive packaging. She thus consumed half of the box, without being able to say if it had been really effective. “I realized at that time that my daughter was taking food supplements, not only to prevent potential deficiencies related to her vegetarian diet, but also for the beauty of her skin, her hair… Most of her friends do the same, she told me. A generational effect, wonders Marie? Not only.
The successive barometers of the National Union of Food Supplements (Synadiet) are formal: the trend has been on the rise for several years and the health crisis has amplified the movement. “While active urban women, CSP+, were the main consumers until then, men (43% of users), seniors (24% aged 50-64 and 19% over 65) and young people ( 27% of 18-34 year olds) have also started it. All aspire to become more involved in their health throughout their lives. In the 1990s and 2000s, buyers of dietary supplements aimed above all at slimming. Today, vitality, immunity, sleep and stress management are the main reasons for buying,” analyzes Claire Guignier, head of public affairs and communication at Synadiet.
Self-medication on the rise
At 16 euros on average per box, not reimbursed, the price could get in the way. But supermarkets and supermarkets are now multiplying cheaper references, democratizing the use of these products. This goes hand in hand with the rise of self-medication. Wider access to information via the press and the Internet, medical appointments that are more difficult to obtain due to the shortage of caregivers are boosting the search for well-being, especially among young people. Mathilde, 19, a student in the Lyon region, says: “I spent my first two years of high school in confinement or limited by curfews, and I couldn’t sleep. On the advice of the pharmacist, my mother gave me melatonin and plants, and it did me good. Since then, I manage my stress periodically with various over-the-counter remedies. If it can save me from taking anxiolytics, antidepressants and sleeping pills, it’s still better. The weakening of the psychic balance of many young people and the search for soft solutions explain in particular the uninhibited recourse to well-being pills.
Bingo for food supplement manufacturers who target generations Y (individuals born between 1980 and 1995) and especially Z (born between 1995 and 2010). To the main consumers of tomorrow, they offer playful products such as the famous gummies, with a fruity and sweet taste, offered by Camille to her mother. The marketing offer has been rejuvenated and the success of Mium Lab (formerly Les Miraculeux), a brand launched by David Gueunoun, is no accident. “Young people have taken the health crisis squarely in the face, at an age when one wonders about the meaning of life. They felt very vulnerable, but were also made aware earlier than their elders of the importance of taking care of themselves globally through a healthy lifestyle and through plants,” explains the 38-year-old entrepreneur. “Sleep”, “memory and concentration” cocktails for exams, or “menstrual comfort” are intended for them. As long as you do, you might as well take care of the shape by getting closer to that of the sweets from your very close childhood. It also seduces an older public, sensitive like Marie to the promise of this little bath of youth and for which the formulas vitamin D, anti-aging hyaluronic acid are intended…
And the men? The figures clearly show that they too are gradually taking a more important place on the market. Xavier, 55, a merchant in Lille, uses it while regularly taking omega-3 preparations to balance his cholesterol, as well as hawthorn and garlic capsules to prevent hypertension. “Based on my last checkup, my doctor told me that I would have to take blood pressure medication for life, which scared me. So I set myself the goal of losing some weight, exercising and trying herbs. While waiting for the next exams to verify the benefit of his approach, Xavier is amused to have broken with the family culture. At the slightest cold, his mother, very into “hard medicine”, as he puts it, immediately demanded antibiotics: “The only pills she took to dope herself a little, they were downright amphetamines as long as it was allowed ! She bragged about it and later complained that she couldn’t find any more. Some of Xavier’s friends are also testing supplements that boost virility. He does not know what to think of it at the moment.
Young people and men aware of their health, there is reason to rejoice, underlines Dr. Patrick Aubé*. “If this has to go through the free use of food supplements, why not? “says this general practitioner, also a phytotherapist. “Perhaps this means that we favor more ‘slow medicine’, without expecting everything from conventional fast-acting drugs. But it is still necessary not to fall into another form of overconsumption of health products, because marketing is pushing very hard in this direction,” he warns. Especially since many patients are wary of drugs by rejecting “Big Pharma”, without realizing that alternative medicine products come from laboratories that also respond to commercial logic. “There is still a long way to go for better prevention of health problems simply through a healthy lifestyle, a very balanced diet and good medical monitoring,” he adds. Would that make dietary supplements often useless? Not necessarily. It is up to each person to finely assess their needs.
* Co-author of My bible of herbal medicine secrets , Ed. Leduc, 432 p.; 26 €.
What is a dietary supplement?
- What the official definition says: food supplements are “foodstuffs the purpose of which is to supplement a normal diet and which constitute a concentrated source of nutrients or other substances having a nutritional or physiological effect. (…) These products intended for oral intake are packaged in doses in the form of tablets, lozenges, ampoules, capsules”, specifies the Ministry of Health on its site. European regulations govern their manufacture and marketing.
- What they are not: it’s not about drugs. “The substances constituting the food supplements do not exert a therapeutic action and are not intended to prevent or cure a disease”, further warns the ministry. On good terms…
- What they may contain: nutrients (vitamins and minerals), plants (except those intended for exclusively therapeutic use), substances for nutritional or physiological purposes, traditional ingredients (royal jelly, etc.), additives, flavorings and additive carriers including use is authorized in human food.