Vitamin Consumer's Need States

Part
01
of six
Part
01

Vitamin Consumer's Need States- Part 1, Prenatal

Prenatal vitamins are often recommended for women who are attempting to become pregnant or are already pregnant in order to support a healthy pregnancy. These vitamins are known to decrease birth defects such as brain and spinal cord deformations, as well as to provide nutrients that are more vital during a pregnancy than in normal lifestyles. Many women feel as though the nutrients that are provided through prenatal vitamins can be consumed in other ways, such as through a change in diet. Other women do not prefer to consume prenatal vitamins as they sometimes cause negative side effects such as nausea and constipation. As a result, women are focusing their efforts on obtaining the same vitamins found in prenatal vitamins through other means. Below you will find a breakdown of the purpose of prenatal vitamins, the things that make women want to take or not take these vitamins, as well as issues and alternatives to prenatal vitamins.

Problems Solved

Prenatal vitamins are marketed to women across the globe as something that can help to decrease disorders and diseases in their babies. Prenatal vitamins are known to lower the risk for brain and spinal cord birth defects, especially ones that cause a baby's brain and skull to not completely form during pregnancy. Additionally, these vitamins are marketed to women that are trying to get pregnant, as something that they should take to help prevent diseases before pregnancy occurs and support a positive pregnancy.

Motivations and Trigger Points

For the most part, women tend to take prenatal vitamins as a form of "insurance" that both mother and child are receiving all nutrients that they need. During a pregnancy, women need more nutrients than they normally would, and often times do not have the correct diet to consume what they require on a daily basis. As a result, more women are turning to prenatal vitamins to supplement their diets during pregnancy. Women are also taking prenatal vitamins as they have been reported to boost the nutrients in breast milk, as well as helping to prevent postpartum mood swings. Additionally, more studies are showing that women who do not take prenatal vitamins two times the chance of birthing a child with autism compared with women who do take prenatal vitamins.

Studies are also showing that women that do not take prenatal vitamins are more likely to have children with some of the following birth defects:


Women are also more prone to preeclampsia and restricted fetal growth, prompting them to focus more on taking prenatal vitamins. Many women over 50 who are not having children are also reporting to be taking prenatal vitamins, as they believe that they will help nail and hair growth.

How Consumers Talk/Feel about Prenatal Vitamins

Although many women are taking prenatal vitamins for the reasons listed above, there are a growing number of women who feel as though prenatal vitamins are unnecessary. For example, one woman wrote that, "Women have been giving birth much longer than prenatal vitamins have been available," and thus does not take them. Women who feel this way often resort to other methods of achieving optimal nutritional intake, such as changing their diets. Other women mention that prenatal vitamins may provide some additional supplementation, but lack in certain vitamins that they need more of, such as Vitamin D. Additionally, there have been complaints about how prenatal vitamins are large and difficult to swallow, and also have unpleasant tastes and side effects.

Barriers

Some major barriers that prevent women from taking prenatal vitamins or cause women to intentionally not take them include the major health side effects. Many women report that prenatal vitamins cause them nausea or morning sickness, and thus will stop taking them. The most reported side effects of prenatal vitamins are constipation and diarrhea, but vomiting and headaches are commonly reported as well.

In addition to these side effects, there are many women reporting overdoses from taking these, even on a regular basis, resulting in stomach pain, blood in urine, and muscle/joint pain. One of the major vitamins in prenatal vitamins, folate, also causes issues for women such as sleep disturbances, depression, and zinc deficiency, further causing them to not want to continue taking them.

Alternatives

For women that do not want to take prenatal vitamins, many are reverting to a change in diet to compensate for vitamin deficiencies. Specifically, foods that are higher in saturated fats and pasture raised are the ones women are focusing on consuming in order to get the nutrients that would otherwise be supplied by prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are more so necessary whenever women are unwilling to compensate and change their habits while pregnant to ingest all necessary nutrients. The two most important vitamins contained in prenatal vitamins are folic acid and Vitamin D, which can easily be found in natural foods. Prenatal vitamins should not be used as a replacement for a quality diet or source for nutrients, but rather as a supplement to obtaining the total amount necessary for a healthy pregnancy.

Conclusion

Prenatal vitamins have been found to decrease birth defects and contribute towards a healthy pregnancy. However, many women are focusing their efforts on a more natural way of obtaining the same nutrients, specifically through diet alternations. Much of this is due to the fact that women are experiencing negative side effects when taking prenatal vitamins, such as constipation, headaches, and nausea. Women that are more prone to taking prenatal vitamins are often ones who do not have the time/energy to compensate through a specific diet, or who struggle to obtain enough of the specific vitamins provided through prenatal vitamins.
Part
02
of six
Part
02

Vitamin Consumer's Need States- Part 2, Sleep

Combating magnesium deficiency, reducing anxiety, increasing vitamin D levels, coping with night shift work and taking a safe natural supplement are the need states of consumers of vitamins that aid sleep.

NEED STATES

The National Institute of Health reports that 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. This tells us that there may be a wide range of need states experienced by consumers of vitamins that aid sleep, because of the vast size of the market.

With each of the need states I have identified I have provided a description of this state, along with the evidence as to why it is a need state of consumers of sleep vitamins. Along with this, for each need state I have answered the following questions where possible: What is the problem they are trying to solve? What motivates them to engage in this need state? What are the trigger moments that compel them to engage with the need state? How does the consumer talk about the need state and its benefits? What are the emotions consumers tend to experience within this need state? What are the barriers to health in this need state? What else are they doing to address their health within this need state?

— Combating Magnesium Deficiency:

There are certain groups who are at a higher risk of having a magnesium deficiency such as people with digestive diseases, diabetes, people with alcohol dependence and older people. Magnesium deficiency is linked to poor quality sleep. Therefore, one need state of consumers of sleep vitamins is to correct a magnesium deficiency. They are consumers who are looking for products that specifically contain magnesium. Trigger moments that compel people into this need state would be people who have symptoms of magnesium deficiency who then seek to improve their health. It may also be people in the risk populations who are recommended by a doctor to address magnesium deficiency.

— Reducing Anxiety

People with anxiety disorders often also suffer from sleep disorders and sleep disorders often, in turn, contribute to anxiety symptoms. Therefore, a need state of some consumers of sleep vitamins is to take a product that can reduce anxiety. It is true that some sleep aids are taken for the purpose of being a natural remedy to anxiety. This source explains how sleep aid Valerian root is used as a sleep aid, but also it is used to treat anxiety in its own right. Triggers include anxious symptoms, loss of sleep due to anxiety and people with anxiety seeking alternative treatments.

There are barriers to using sleep vitamins to reduce anxiety. For example, research on Valerian root (the ingredient which is used in sleep vitamins that also claims to work for anxiety) is not always consistent. Therefore, trust in the products' effectiveness is not 100%. This may put people off trying it as an alternative remedy.

There are many alternative routes people take when they have the anxiety to address their health, in addition to the routes of therapy and medication there are a number of natural remedies available. Exercise, yoga, meditation, and food and drink such as chamomile tea are all used by people with anxiety.

— Increasing Vitamin D Levels

In the winter, when levels of sunlight are low, people can become deficient in vitamin D. It’s estimated that 50% or more of adults and children may be deficient in Vitamin D in the US. Side effects of this deficiency can be sleep problems.

Therefore, people have a need to increase their vitamin D levels.
In the US, vitamin D deficiency is increasing. In a recent survey, just 23% of Americans were found to have the recommended levels of vitamin D. This means that there is an increasing number of people who may be looking to increase their vitamin D levels. They will likely look for sleep aids specifically with vitamin D. Triggers to this need are the onset of winter and poor sleep caused by low vitamin D. Alternative routes people take to looking after their health in this instance include seeking the sun.

There are a number of people likely to be deficient in vitamin D such as office workers, people with darker skin, inflammatory bowel disease patients, vegans and vegetarians, people with a high body fat percentage, people taking certain medications and people who have constant joint and muscle aches.

— Coping With Night Shift Work

Night shift work causes sleep problems. "More than 22 million Americans work evening, rotating, or on-call shifts." This article suggests that sleep vitamins are one possible remedy for people coping with shift work. People who do shift work are searching for sleep vitamins with ingredients such as melatonin, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E. Other methods people use to look after their health in this situation include light therapy and napping. Trigger moments may include people who are considering how their job is impacting on their health.

— Taking a Safe Natural Supplement

A huge 71% of Americans currently admit to suffering from some sort of sleep issue, however, only 19% report that they take something to address it. This shows us that there is a major issue/issues preventing people from taking steps to address this. These issues are likely to be related to consumers' willingness to take sleep vitamins. This may be related to concerns over the safety of natural supplements.

Although vitamins that aid sleep are generally seen as safe, especially in comparison to their pharmaceutical counterparts, there are many articles that discuss the potentially dangerous and unexpected side effects of taking them. For this reason, consumers of sleep vitamins have a need for seeking supplements that they trust are safe. This source, for example, discusses the dangers of taking melatonin such as nausea, headache, and dizziness. Other side effects include vivid dreaming, and undermining the effectiveness of blood pressure drugs and diabetes medications.

Other issues surrounding melatonin include dosing problems. Because it is sold as a dietary supplement there is nothing stopping companies from selling doses that are far above the recommended amount.

The final worry is that these products are not closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there’s little assurance of the quality and purity of the products.

Trigger moments to this need state are difficult to pinpoint, however, they might include parents of children who have trouble sleeping who are concerned about the safety of the products they will give to them.

Finally, people who have the need state of seeking out safe medication are likely to consider alternative natural routes to assisting sleep, such as meditation, yoga, and exercise.

CONCLUSION

Above I have identified 5 need states of consumers of vitamins that aid sleep. With each need state, I have discussed the problem which is being solved, what motivates consumers to engage in this state, and what are trigger moments. Where information was available, I have also stated what else consumers are doing to address their health within this need state.

After a thorough search for each need state, I can confirm that there is no information available for how the consumer talks about the need state and its benefits, and what emotions consumers tend to experience within this need state. I believe that this is because this information is fairly niche and fairly specific, and therefore the data has yet to be collected.

To sum up, I have found that the need states of consumers of sleep vitamins are: Combating magnesium deficiency, reducing anxiety, increasing vitamin D levels, coping with night shift work, and taking a safe natural supplement.
Part
03
of six
Part
03

Vitamin Consumer's Need States- Part 3, Heart Health (fish oil primarily)

The decline in cardiovascular health as a result of increasingly sedentary lifestyle and poor diet patterns has led to the increased use of fish oil via omega-3's to help with cardiovascular health. Research shows that fish oil has proven significant improvement in patients after having a heart attack. Sales of Omega 3 products have helped consumers both physically with cardiovascular health and mentally with peace of mind in addressing health concerns. Additionally, doctors offices are displaying information on health benefits of fish oil on monitors in doctors offices and on fliers hanging in exam rooms. Other media outlets are following suit both on social media and digital formats. While there are several minor side effects of taking fish oil, the health benefits are important.

HEART HEALTH AND OMEGA-3'S

Significant bodies of research have shown patient improvement after a heart attack, and thus fueling a booming industry based on prolonging and increasing the quality of life. The need state of the consumer is an emotionally fueled topic and usually becomes relevant after a personal event in the consumer's life.

REDUCING RISK FACTORS FOR CARDIAC PROBLEMS

Consumers who are purchasing products aimed at increasing heart health, especially fish oils, are motivated by a desire to reduce the effects of sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary decisions and increased risk factors associated with age. The desire to lower risk factors and increase heart health is reflected in sales of Omega-3 products which topped the list in 2012.

INSIGHTS INTO CONSUMER MOTIVATION

Marketing toward consumers regarding heart health increases around the age of forty. Campaigns through media, government health sites, and retirement organizations draw the consumers' attention to the increased risk of heart attack with age and unhealthy lifestyle choices. The potential benefits of adding Omega-3 supplements to their diet are becoming more widespread through media with many hospitals and doctors offices now displaying health news on large screen televisions.

Why are Patients Drawn to Omega 3

Much research and many analyses have been done confirming the benefits of omega 3 to the cardiovascular system. Heart patients are specifically drawn to this for many reasons. The mental effects of having a heart attack are not the only reasons drawing patients to Omega 3. The serious need to get back to a healthy living state and the scare of having had a heart attack. A person feels like they have no control and want to regain that feeling. The pain and the loss of control is not something that the patient wants to go through again so the sheer desire to get well and not experience that again is also a major push for reading the research and analyses done on Omega 3 products. It gives the patient hope. Taking fish oil is an easy thing to do to help with heart health.

TRIGGERS TO CONSUMER NEED STATE

The desire to take supplements for heart health is a very emotionally driven need. Consumers become acutely aware of heart health when they themselves experience a heart attack or related heart condition. Additionally, the patient's experience can affect their family and friends as well, compelling them to also become more aware of heart health and the dangers of a heart attack.

TECHNOLOGY AND CONSUMER COMMUNICATION

Most information the consumer is now exposed to is through social media, digital media in hospitals and doctors offices, as well as magazines targeted to senior citizens. The prevalence of social media and the ease of research through the internet allows consumers to quickly gain access to recommendations for specific health issues.

EMOTIONS OF CONSUMER NEED STATE

The emotional range for the consumer who has had or is at risk for cardiovascular problems varies considerably. Patients who have experienced a heart attack have reported sadness, depression, anxiety, and stress. Survivors of heart attacks can also feel a sense of gratitude and thus become more hopeful and proactive in their lives.

BARRIERS TO HEALTH

Some of the most serious side effects of taking high doses of Omega-3's can be a reduction in the body's ability to form blood clots and reduce the immune system's ability to fight infection. Less concerning, but still bothersome are symptoms of belching, nausea, heartburn and loose stools. Lack of social and familial support can also adversely affect the outcome of the patient's recovery and risk factors.

ADDITIONAL HEALTH PRACTICES

Additional steps consumers are taking to address their health needs are changing their diets to more healthy options. Starting or increasing an exercise program and most importantly seeking support within their social structures.

CONCLUSION

In summary, it appears that consumers are becoming more health conscious and have learned through social media, digital posting by medical groups and other media outlets of the benefits of fish oil and Omega 3 products. Research has shown that heart attack patients have seen huge health benefits from using the products. Heart attack patients have seen sadness, depression, anxiety, and stress which others do not want to experience hence the interest in fish oil prior to a heart attack. Fish oil does have some side effects of which are minor and include belching, nausea, heartburn and loose stools. A more serious side effect is the ability to form blood clots.
Part
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of six
Part
04

Vitamin Consumer's Need States- Part 4, Bone Health

Bone health is a significant health issue especially for aging European and American populations. Vitamin supplements are a common preventative measure. Consumers want to remain healthy, young, and active as they potentially face bone issues of joint health and fractures. There are alternative measures to vitamin supplements to address bone health.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THEY ARE TRYING TO SOLVE?
Many consumers take Calcium and vitamin D supplements to help prevent bone loss and fractures. “Adults need at least 1,000 mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D daily.” Taking calcium supplements has been shown to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. An aging population is concerned about joint health. As we age, the body is less able to absorb and use nutrients. Many are trying to supplement for the fact that medications can block some absorption of nutrients.
WHAT MOTIVATES THEM TO ENGAGE IN THIS NEED STATE?
A major motivation of taking vitamin supplements for bone health is to prevent bone loss and fractures. Supplements can help increase nutrients lacking from a recommended diet in order to improve overall health. More so than just to prevent aging, an aging population wants to remain feeling young. By addressing bone health, it is possible to remain active, improve quality of life, and increase longevity.
WHAT ARE THE TRIGGER MOMENTS THAT COMPEL THEM TO ENGAGE WITH THE NEED STATE?
Individuals over the age of 50 are more susceptible to osteoporosis. Knowledge triggers engagement, and media attention compels consumers to investigate their bone health, once they realize the dangers.
HOW IS THE CONSUMER TALKING ABOUT THE NEED STATE (BONE HEALTH) AND ITS BENEFITS?
Many consumers are aware of bone health issues and the vital need to address it.
WHAT ARE THE EMOTIONS CONSUMERS TEND TO EXPERIENCE WITHIN THIS NEED STATE?
Consumers find it hard to balance eating too much and participating in too much activity which could cause obesity or heart disease, yet too much of a reduction in their caloric intake may lead to insufficient nutrients in their diet.
WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO HEALTH IN THIS NEED STATE?
WHAT ELSE ARE THEY DOING TO ADDRESS THEIR HEALTH WITHIN THIS NEED STATE?
One report identified 6 ways to address bone health. The first two relate to vitamins, but all 6 are alternatives to vitamin supplements. They are: eat more dairy to consume enough calcium; get sufficient sunlight for the benefits of vitamin D; strength train by lifting weights to put minimal strain on the bones; understand your genetics and family history; don’t consume excess sodium, alcohol caffeine soft drinks, or cigarettes; and understand side effects of medications. Possibly the best measure to take to ensure bone health is for children to strengthen their bones as they grow. That includes a diet with sufficient calcium and vitamin D, and at least an hour of physical activity a day.

CONCLUSION
The needs states for bone health are avoiding joint issues and fractures, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and promote longevity. Aging consumers are more readily aware of bone health issues. While vitamin supplements are a common way to promote bone health, there are alternatives.

Part
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of six
Part
05

Vitamin Consumer's Need States- Part 5, Digestive Health (Probiotics)

Caring for the immune system, combating chronic stress-induced digestive damage, improving gut function due to poor diet, combating the negative effects of travel on the gut, taking care of the diminishing state of the gut during aging, caring for children's/infant's digestive health, supporting women's health, supporting mental health, protecting against colon cancer, and weight loss and control are the various need states of consumers of digestive health vitamins (probiotics).

NEED STATES

This article tells us how marketers of immune-health products (like digestive health probiotics) are looking more and more to identify consumer need states as an entry point to the market. Marketers are looking to identify need states in order to explain to consumers how their product relates to that need. This is something that's already being done with marketing targeting athletes. Leading brand DuPont has conducted research in this field. They have found how different probiotic strains can serve the needs of specific populations such as adults, athletes, infants, children, people with chronic stress and seniors/aging adults. The user base is in fact expanding and probiotic products have gone more mainstream. This has grown the number of need states of consumers of probiotics. In fact nine out of ten Americans deal with some type of digestive issue each year, and this is why there are such a variety of need states of probiotic consumers.

With each of the need states I have identified I have provided a description of this state, with the evidence as to why it is a need state of probiotic consumers. Along with this, for each need state I have answered the following questions where possible: What is the problem they are trying to solve? What motivates them to engage in this need state? What are the trigger moments that compel them to engage with the need state? How is the consumer talking about the need state (digestive health) and its benefits? What are the emotions consumers tend to experience within this need state? What are the barriers to health in this need state? What else are they doing to address their health within this need state?

— Caring for the Immune System:

This source provides evidence that a need state of those taking probiotics may be taking them with the aim of caring for their immune system. It has long been accepted that the health of the gut is essential to the health of your body through its interaction with the immune system.

The gut is home to 70% of the cells that make up the body's immune system. For this reason, the need states of people taking probiotics are linked to the need states of those taking immune-health supplements. This may be, for example, the need to combat immune system damage due to stress.

This article also highlights the need of probiotic consumers to maintain the health of their immune system. In addition to this, specifically, consumers are looking for probiotics that help to build flora in the gut in order to boost the immune system. These consumers may be trying to solve problems such as damage caused by surgery or from taking antibiotics. Therefore, surgery and illness may act as a trigger moment for this need state.

Finally, I found that these consumers may also be addressing this need state by eating and drinking products that contain probiotics.

— Combating Chronic Stress-Induced Digestive Damage:

Chronic stress is known to contribute to digestive discomfort. People who seek to take care of their gut are often doing it for the primary reason of countering the negative impact of stress. Therefore, probiotics are sought by those that feel under stress in order to alleviate these symptoms, and combat the damage that stress has on this system.

Trigger moments for this need state vary and are fairly straight forward, it can be any situation that raises stress levels. This article suggests that students whose bodies may react badly to stress are those who seek probiotic products, therefore exam induced stress may be a trigger. Other triggers may be high pressure at work, financial burdens or stress caused by illness.

— Improving gut Function due to Poor Diet:

This article tells us that a poor diet contributes to digestive problems. In general, the standard of the American diet is seen as being of poor quality. The consumption of processed food has steadily risen which has induced problems with the digestive system. Therefore, a need state of many probiotic consumers is to improve the function of the gut which has diminished due to poor diet.

A trigger moment for this need state is likely to be "adults who begin to feel the cumulative effects of abusing their digestive systems".

— Combating the Negative Effects of Travel on the gut:

Travel is seen to have negative effects on the function of the gut. The activation of this need state is fairly simple, those who are traveling often or for long distances may seek probiotics to settle the digestive discomfort caused by travel.

— Taking Care of the Diminishing State of the gut During Aging:

It is a fact that the functioning of the digestive system becomes less efficient as we age. A trigger moment for this need state would be seniors who recognize that they are not digesting food as well as they once did. Consumers who have this need state would be seeking probiotics to enhance the functioning of their aging gut which may have been subject to damage over the years from poor diet etc.

— Caring for Children's/Infant's Digestive Health:

Caring for children's/infant's digestive health is a major need state of consumers of probiotics. Parents are generally motivated to look after their children's health, and seek to make choices to give them the best start in life. Choosing to boost their digestive health, or immune system through boosting their digestive health, is a main motivator to purchasing probiotics.

Triggers may be when a child falls ill and their parents want to recover any damage to their gut. A common trigger would be children who may frequently be given antibiotics for ear infections, and therefore parents want to re-establish the flora of the gut after they've diminished due to antibiotic use.

— Supporting Women's Health:

One need state of consumers of digestive health products is to support women's health. Women are known to respond differently to gastrointestinal (GI) issues than men. In fact gastrointestinal distress is more than twice as common in women than men. For this reason, digestive health has been a focus of women's health. Supporting women's health is therefore a need state of probiotics consumers. Trigger moments for this need state is more difficult to define. It may be as women come into adulthood and begin to consider their health and seek out ways to personalize their healthcare.

— Supporting Mental Health:

Numerous recently published articles highlight the link between digestive health and mental/brain health. For example, this source tells us that 95% of the body's serotonin (the neurochemical responsible for regulating our mood) is created in the gut. "Many pioneering scientists and doctors have dubbed our stomach the ‘second brain’". It has been found that the brain has a direct effect on the stomach. A troubled digestive system can therefore lead to a troubled brain as the two are intimately connected. Anxiety, stress and depression could all be the product of intestinal distress, rather than simply the cause, as has previously been assumed. Therefore, people with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and even chronic stress may seek out probiotics in order to alleviate symptoms. Trigger moments for this need state would be a flair up of a mental health problem, or any sort of psychological distress.

— Protecting Against Colon Cancer:

People are becoming more aware of the causes and effect prevention of colon cancer, which includes taking care of the digestive tract. Research has shown that 75% of cases of colon cancer could have been prevented by lifestyle changes. Looking after your digestive tract is one way to prevent colon cancer. This means that protecting against colon cancer is a need state of consumers of digestive health vitamins. Trigger moments therefore would be related to increased awareness of the dangers of colon cancer, such as having a close family member or friend suffer with the illness, or simply aging and considering health with greater importance than in youth.

Consumers in this need state may be engaging in a range of other activities to address their health. This may be exercising, quitting smoking, losing weight, limiting consumption of red and processed meat, moderating alcohol, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements and getting screened for colon cancer.

— Weight Loss and Control:

Finally, this article tells us that probiotics brands are seeking out a wider consumer base by creating products that appeal to new consumer groups. For this reason the links between certain probiotics and weight loss have been highlighted, and products have been created to address weight loss and control. Therefore, weight loss and weight control has become a need state for some consumers of probiotics. Trigger moments for this need state may be weight gain, wanting to lose weight post-pregnancy, or a trigger moment may be when long term dieters seek out a new approach.

SUMMARY

Above I have identified 10 need states of consumers of digestive health (probiotics) vitamins. In each case I have discussed the problem which is being solves, what motivates consumers to engage in this state and what are trigger moments. Where information was available I have also stated what else consumers are doing to address their health within this need state.

After a thorough search for each need state I can confirm that there is no information available for how the consumer is talking about the need state (digestive health) and its benefits, and what are the emotions consumers tend to experience within this need state. I believe that this is because this information is fairly niche and fairly specific, and therefore the data has yet to be collected.

CONCLUSION

To sum up, I have found that there are numerous need states of consumers of digestive health (probiotics) vitamins. These need states include: Caring for the immune system, combating chronic stress-induced digestive damage, improving gut function due to poor diet, combating the negative effects of travel on the gut, taking care of the diminishing state of the gut during aging, caring for children's/infant's digestive health, supporting women's health, supporting mental health, protecting against colon cancer, and weight loss and control.
Part
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of six
Part
06

Vitamin Consumer's Need States- Part 6, Energy

The three most commonly cited problems requiring supplementation with energy vitamins include daytime sleepiness, underlying medical conditions (most frequently including insomnia, fatigue, and adrenal malfunctions), and the desire to increase physical performance. Triggers to use energy vitamins include experiencing "morning sluggishness," the "mid-afternoon lull," fatigue and exhaustion," and blood sugar fluctuations. The most commonly used energy supplements include caffeine, adaptogenic herbs, B vitamins, Coenzyme Q10, iodine, magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acids, while alternatives include multivitamins, a well-balanced and nutritious diet, energy vitamin supplementation through diet alone, electrolyte replacement, and increased water intake. A deep dive of our findings is included below.

The Human Need for Energy

In order to identify why consumers are compelled to address their energy needs with vitamins, we developed an initial hypothesis that consumers use energy vitamins to address deficiencies in one or more of their energy needs. We then sought to understand the types of energy requirements for the human body. Our findings revealed that energy plays a critical role in five basic human functions: maintaining the basal metabolic rate (BMR), overall body composition, digestion and absorption of nutrients in food, external energy expenditures, and mental energy expenditures.

The basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of energy necessary to maintain the functioning of the human body at rest, and it typically depletes 60 to 65 percent of available energy stores, although this figure varies based on age, gender, overall health, activity level, and diet. Body composition plays another important role in energy requirements; for example, muscle requires more energy to maintain than fat, so muscular consumers have higher energy needs than others. Digestion and absorption of nutrients in food depletes five to ten percent of daily energy stores, and this function is dependent on the types of foods being consumed. For example, protein requires 20 to 35 percent more calories for digestion than carbohydrates or fat. External energy expenditures can include the amount of energy required to exercise, play, and maintain the immune system. Finally, mental energy expenditures may include a variety of activities, such as working, completing mentally challenging activities (i.e. reading, studying, using languages), and even worrying and experiencing stress. Our findings suggest that mental energy is a significant contributor to this need-state, as brain cells require twice the amount of energy to function as other cells in the human body.

Problems Created by Energy Needs

Having identified the five core energy requirements for the human body, we then researched in which of these areas consumers believe they are deficient. A review of publications on this topic indicated that there are three general categories of energy depletion repeatedly identified as problematic by consumers. These include daytime sleepiness, underlying physical conditions (such as insomnia, fatigue, and adrenal malfunctions), and the need to increase physical performance. Consumers appear to link these problems most closely with the basic need to maintain or increase external energy and mental energy. However, it is noted that consumers may not explicitly acknowledge that their energy needs are more complex than these two categories suggest. For example, a muscular male may recognize that he wants more energy to complete arduous exercise, without explicitly acknowledging that his body composition and basal metabolic rate are also playing critical roles in his energy needs.

Motivations, Trigger Moments, and characterization

Consumers of energy vitamins frequently verbalize the previously cited three triggers that motivate them to consume these products, and our findings indicate there are a number of energy vitamins and products used to combat them. These triggers and consumer understanding of them are discussed in more detail below (in no particular order).

1. Daytime sleepiness is frequently mentioned by consumers as problematic. This state is described by consumers as "morning sluggishness" or the "mid-afternoon lull." An overall lack of mental alertness is often referenced by consumers of energy vitamins in explaining their energy needs. While many people consume coffee or energy drinks to diminish daytime sleepiness, the effect of caffeine in these products is reduced after a few hours. To bridge the gap, consumers may consume additional caffeine or caffeine-based energy products, such as energy drinks like Monster, Red Bull, Amp, Rock Star, and Five-Hour Energy.

Additionally, as an alternative to caffeine to address mental alertness, there has been an increase in the use of energy vitamins for daytime alertness. For example, the intake of vegetable products with high fiber content results in decreased rates of energy required for absorption, which frees up energy in the body to maintain mental alertness. Adaptogenic herbal vitamins, such as ashwagandha, Rhodiola, basil, licorice, and ginseng, are also encouraged to reduce daytime sleepiness. These herbs are believed to reduce stress, which has previously been mentioned as a culprit in draining mental energy stores. Many popular energy vitamins include B vitamins, such as "Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B6, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12." It has been documented that many consumers who complain of daytime tiredness and fatigue are deficient in one or more B vitamins. The human body cannot produce B12 on its own, requiring supplementation if sufficient stores are not generated from dietary sources.

2. Underlying Physical Conditions

Poor sleep quality, insomnia, and poor hormonal function (including malabsorption disorders) are some of the most commonly cited physical conditions that create energy deficits and motivate consumers to use energy vitamins. These conditions are typically summarized by consumers by two terms: "fatigue and exhaustion."

Unfortunately, poor sleep quality and insomnia are poorly understood and may be attributed to a variety of physical and mental conditions. In many cases, energy vitamins are used in response to these conditions, in lieu of proactive solutions in improving poor sleep quality and insomnia. However, one proactive mechanism that may improve sleep quality is supplementation with melatonin, which may indirectly contribute to increased energy levels. To address poor hormonal function, energy vitamins that include Omega-3 fatty acids are encouraged, including chia seeds as well as diet-based sources of fats, such as fatty fish, spinach, and broccoli. B vitamins also play a critical role in maintaining the health of a number of organs in the human body. Additionally, some malabsorption disorders, such as celiac disease, result in poor absorption of B vitamins. In turn, this deficiency often results in an overall feeling of fatigue and daytime sleepiness, which further contribute to the use of energy vitamins. Coenzyme Q10 is increasingly recommended as an energy vitamin that can improve immune system function and stabilize blood sugar levels. Iodine has been recognized for its role in regulating hormones, which further contributes to energy maintenance. Finally, ginkgo biloba improves blood flow and stabilizes metabolic activity, which improves a number of underlying conditions that affect energy levels.

3. Increasing Physical Performance

It has previously been discussed that body composition and physical activity levels play a key role in human energy requirements. Unfortunately, the energy requirements of consumers may vary considerably, based on their age, gender, height, weight, physical activity, and a variety of other factors. While a discussion of all triggers and motivations for utilizing energy vitamins to improve physical performance would be beyond the scope of this project, it has been noted that diet plays a key role in regulating physical activity. For example, high simple carbohydrate intake provides a quick burst of energy as blood sugar levels skyrocket, which is followed by a drop in blood sugar and lower levels of energy available for physical performance. Omega-3 fatty acids moderate fluctuating blood sugar levels, and B vitamins convert food into energy. Physical performance that is hampered by muscle cramps and muscle spasms may be improved by increased magnesium intake.

alternatives to energy vitamins

Our findings revealed that in the United States, the most common vitamins and supplements utilized include multivitamins, which are used by 75 percent of consumers who buy these products. The high rate of consumption of multivitamins, which addresses a number of needs not specific to energy, may suggest that multivitamins are an alternative to energy vitamins. Additionally, research on this topic revealed that alternatives to energy vitamins encouraged by healthcare providers and other professionals include a well-balanced and nutritious diet, energy vitamin supplementation through diet alone, electrolyte replacement, and increased water intake.

BARRIERS TO HEALTH

In reviewing the motivations and triggers for consumers of energy vitamins, as well as the manner in which they discuss their energy needs, three trends of significance were noted (in no particular order):

1. There are concerns in the medical community that many consumers of energy vitamins accept "chronic fatigue" as normal.
While all individuals experience fatigue and poor sleep quality at times, it has been noted that ongoing, serious fatigue may be caused by underlying medical conditions. Some consumers may try to treat these conditions with energy vitamin supplementation when they actually need a medical evaluation.

2. Caffeine and energy vitamins are increasingly packaged together in the form of energy drinks, which are consumed by 30 to 50 percent of adolescents in the United States. Unfortunately, while these drinks may provide the desired burst of energy, they are also full of sugar and caffeine. In excessive quantities, energy drinks have been linked to caffeine dependence, restlessness, headaches, nausea, tremors, chest pains, seizures, heart attack, and even sudden cardiac death.

3. While supplementation with energy vitamins may improve some energy deficits, proper dosage of vitamins is not consistently ensured. For example, while energy drinks typically contain a variety of B vitamins, they may contain over 8,000 percent of the daily recommended amount of B12. Dosage problems of this nature pose two problems. First, the body can only absorb a certain amount of each vitamin, meaning the rest of the product is simple excreted with no appreciable positive impact on the body. Second, there are concerns about the safety of using energy vitamins in such high dosages.

IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

A significant subsegment of the energy vitamin market includes endurance athletes, participants in extreme sports, and elite athletes. While a discussion of energy vitamin consumption and trends for this group is beyond the scope of this request, if you find that you would like additional information on this topic, we encourage you to submit a subsequent request so we can pursue this research.

CONCLUSION

In summary, the three most commonly cited problems requiring supplementation with energy vitamins include daytime sleepiness, underlying medical conditions, and the desire to increase physical performance. Emotional and physical triggers for using energy vitamins include experiencing "morning sluggishness," the "mid-afternoon lull," fatigue and exhaustion," and blood sugar fluctuations. Alternatives to energy vitamin use include multivitamins, a well-balanced and nutritious diet, energy vitamin supplementation through diet alone, electrolyte replacement, and increased water intake.
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Sources

From Part 03