Personalized vitamin startups have been springing up recently. What does it involve and what could the implications be for the end user?
Nothing ever stays the same and the approach to healthcare is no different. People are tending to take a more proactive role in managing — and taking control of — their own health.
Furthermore, there’s a greater openness to innovative approaches amongst the general public than ever before, and that feeds in to the rise in popularity of personalized vitamin regimens.
How Does it Work?
The concept tends to take two forms. Both implicate a subscription model — where the customer signs up to the service. One such approach involves a kit being mailed out to the subscriber requiring them to mail back in a blood test.
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Another approach comprises of the customer committing to complete an online assessment, which encompasses questions related to diet, lifestyle, health concerns and medications.
Vendors then analyze either the feedback or blood sample and using that data, they determine the specific personalized vitamin supply to be provided to the customer.
The process is repeated periodically — usually every three months. That means that if there has been some change, then the corresponding vitamin combination provided will be customized accordingly.
Implications of this Approach
Vendors claim that such an approach is based on science rather than assumptions. However, positive health outcomes are difficult to tangibly measure in this instance. There are many studies which demonstrate that supplemental vitamins don’t do a whole lot to improve the individual’s health — and can even damage it.
The notion put forward is that such a personalized vitamin regimen will optimize the user’s health and act in a preventative role in staving off disease and potential health issues.
However, there is little in the way of scientific research to support this. Many such vendors provide testimonials from customers, but this doesn’t in any way replace scientific findings.
Eliseo Guallar, a professor at the renowned research university, Johns Hopkins, co-authored a paper in which he takes a clear swipe at the vitamin and supplements market.
Titled ‘Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements’, Guallar claims that despite a lack of evidence validating the use of supplements, consumers are deriving a false sense of protection in using them.
Old Wine in a New Bottle?
This approach of personalized vitamin supplements is not new. One such service – Persona – has been around for 20 years (albeit previously known as Custom Nutrition Services).
Therefore, it seems that the technological approach is not new. However, the marketing effort of vendors and potentially the receptivity of consumers to such a product offering may differ from back then.
The global dietary supplements market is expected to reach a valuation of $194.63 billion by 2025. It’s clearly lucrative and an attractive proposition for the more recent startups which have entered the market.
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In the absence of clear scientific data supporting the notion of personalized vitamin subscription services being of benefit as a preventative health measure, it seems likely that savvy marketing and a perceived benefit in the minds of consumers are responsible for its recent popularity.