People turn to vitamins to stave off costly health care

PERKINS TWP. Janice Lang plucked bottles of Vitamin C from the shelf at Health Plus.
May 24, 2010



Janice Lang plucked bottles of Vitamin C from the shelf at Health Plus.

“I don’t have health insurance,” said Lang, 52, a freelance writer. “I never really cared about dieting or what I was eating. But without insurance, I can’t afford to get sick or go see the doctor. I just have to try to eat as healthy as possible, which is how I wound up here.”

Lang is one of millions of Americans turning to vitamins and healthier diets to avoid expensive doctor visits.

ForthethreemonthsendingDec.28,sales of vitamins rose nearly 8 percent compared with the same period in 2007, according to Information Resources Inc., a market research company in Chicago.

Caren Allen, the manager of Health Plus, said business has steadily increased in her eight years at the Perkins Township store.

“I see so many people who have lived with pain and drugs and gone to doctors for so long, and nothing’s worked,” she said. “They’re looking for an alternative and they turn to natural remedies. ... I see new faces in here everyday.”

YvetteMoore, 47,was one of the more familiar faces.

She has shopped at Health Plus Natural Food Store for 10 years. On this day, she came to purchase a natural supplement for hot flashes.

“They’ve got a book (near the cashier), which lists all the possible remedies for each ailment,” she said. “And if you’re not sure what you should get, the employees are really knowledgeable. Sometimes they’ll tell you not to buy medicine at all, and just change your diet a little. Whatever I’ve bought, it’s worked.”

Tom Jenkins, the owner of Health Plus, said many people don’t always need supplements or vitamins — if they just eat better, they can get the nutrients they need.

Craig Timms, 31, said he doesn’t buy alternative medicines, but has decided to change his diet to local and organic foods over the past six months.

While at Health Plus, he bought several whole grains, dried fruit, cheese and a few other products.

“I’m making a Middle Eastern couscous with dates and wine,” he said. “I used to eat fast food or processed food, but I realized it’s unhealthy. My dad died young. He was thin, but his arteries were still clogged. (Eating healthy) is a bit more expensive, but in the long run it’ll save you on medical bills.”

Timms said in the short time since he changed his dieting habits, he has noticed a major difference.

“Since I switched, I feel healthier than ever,” he said. “Plus, this food just tastes better.”

Chris Sickles, an employee at GNC Sandusky, said they have also seen an increase in vitamin sales, but he didn’t have specific numbers.

Edna Phillips, the manager at Meijer on U.S. 250, said the store’s organic section seems to grow every year.

“People seem to want to eat more things with less preservatives,” she said. “It’s a really popular section. People are always coming in and saying how they really appreciate the healthier products we offer.”

Lang said eating healthier has opened her eyes to the “wonderful, more esoteric cuisines” some people never get to experience.

She pointed to an exotic red Frutein shake — with pomegranates, açai and goji berries — which she recently started drinking for breakfast.

“It’s amazing what I was putting into my body,” she said. “It’s no surprise more people are turning to better foods. It makes you feel healthier and more energetic.”

Before the recession, she said she used to spend $40 or $45 per month on prescription drugs. But eating healthier has all but cured her allergies and headaches, she said.

“With that money I’m saving, I can go see a movie or save a little more in these tough times,” she said. “I’m so happy I came over to the bright side. It’s literally changed my life.”