Guest article

Natural products industry must support supplement expansion

By Jim Emme, CEO of NOW and Board Member of the Natural Products Association

- Last updated on GMT

© supitchamcsdam / Getty Images
© supitchamcsdam / Getty Images

Related tags: Dietary supplement, Dietary supplements, HSA

The pandemic has made all Americans more health conscious. Along with social distancing and better hand hygiene, Americans are turning to nutritional supplements as a way to boost their immune systems and support their overall health.

As we adjust to this “new normal” the added attention Americans are giving their health is a good thing, and we are hopeful that policymakers in Washington will consider ways to increase access to nutritional supplements as a result. 

Decades of evidence has proven that a healthy lifestyle based on exercise, sleep, and good choices offers the greatest hope for reducing the risk of life-threatening diseases.  This “health-first” approach is also the best public policy path for America because it cuts health care costs, hospital stays, expensive treatments, and the corrosive personal and economic effects of an extended or chronic illness.

We all know that Americans are overfed and undernourished, particularly lower-income Americans.  According to available data, 95 percent of adults and 98 percent of teens have an inadequate vitamin D intake, and 61 percent of adults and 90 percent of teens do not get enough magnesium. [1] Additionally, more than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in food deserts – areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket. [2]

Improving nutrition across America is one of the most obvious low-cost, high-benefit public policies we should embrace. This is why the industry has long advocated for the modernization of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) definition of “medical expenses” – it currently denies Americans reimbursement for nutritional and dietary supplements through their Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).

Fortunately, Congress is on a path to changing this.  Recently, North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer introduced legislation that reimburse Americans for their dietary supplements through health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts. 

Jim Emme, NOW Foods
Jim Emme, CEO of NOW

More than three-quarters of Americans use nutritional supplements for a range of benefits, from addressing nutrient deficiencies to strengthening bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Research shows that high-risk populations can benefit from taking dietary supplements, representing the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars – and in some cases billions of dollars – in savings. 

The Natural Products Association has been a long-time champion for this much needed change to the way millions of Americans access nutritional supplements.  While other groups in the industry have supported these changes in the past, recently that support has fallen off as Congress has shifted its attention to other matters.  Today, we are renewing the call for the industry to throw its support behind this common-sense change that will boost Americans health.  Now is the time to tell Congress to make this change on behalf of all Americans who deserve more ways to support their health.

References

[1] https://kresserinstitute.com/well-fed-but-undernourished-an-american-epidemic/

[2] U.S. Department of Agriculture. Creating Access to Healthy, Affordable Food. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-choices-health/food-access/​.

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