October 30 2017 | by Amie Valpone
Shifting Nutrition Marketing to Focus on Consumer Education
We all know that too much dietary cholesterol can be unhealthy. We know not to eat too much butter, too much steak or too many eggs every week, but many of us don’t know why or how cholesterol affects our bodies. Moreover, many of us know there are two forms of cholesterol, and one is considered “good,” while the other is “bad.” But, new research suggests that beyond that, things can get a bit hazy because consumers are not being educated on the basics of what they need to know before they walk into a store to purchase a product. They’re looking at the marketing instead of familiarizing themselves with general nutritional information in the first place.
After surviving the last 10 years with chronic health issues, I realized that education is the most important thing we can do if we want to be healthy. There’s so much noise out there that if we don’t listen to ourselves and learn more about what we’re putting in our bodies, we’re surrendering our power and we’re lost. Sadly, most of us don’t realize this because we’re in go-go-go mode. We grab a product, look at the marketing, and purchase it. But our bodies are all incredibly different and how we react to supplements and products varies. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.
Lycored surveyed 329 dietary supplement users in the UK. When they were asked, “Were you aware that there are two main forms of cholesterol, and one is considered ‘good’ while the other is considered ‘bad’?” 82% answered yes. However, when they were asked which cholesterol was the ‘good’ one, 58% named low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which in fact is the form of cholesterol generally referred to as ‘bad.’
While high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is called the ‘good’ cholesterol, LDL is considered ‘bad’ because having high levels can lead to arterial plaque build-up, which is associated with heart disease. Manufacturers often focus simply on claims (ex: “lowers LDL cholesterol”) without considering if consumers know what they mean. Nutrition marketing would be much more effective if it incorporated an education angle to help consumers understand what they’re being offered. I found Lycored’s survey very interesting, and there were two things I took from it.
As a consumer, it made me realize that we often think we know more than we really do. We should always be open to learning more and challenging our assumptions. As a nutrition expert, it reminded me of the importance of educating the consumer. If people who take supplements don’t know which form of cholesterol is considered bad, then they likely don’t know a lot of other things about cholesterol that would benefit their health, like the particular risks of oxidized LDL, the importance of inhibiting LDL oxidation, and the role that a healthy diet and the right supplements play in regulating the stress response following a meal. People want to live and eat healthier, but they need the support and proper education to enable them to do so.