Are community pharmacists equipped to provide people with good advice on nutrition? You bet they are…


Embedded in their local communities, pharmacies are perfectly placed to offer people advice and information on good diet and weight management. That in itself can play a major part in the disease prevention agenda NHS bosses have been keen to embrace.

Pharmacists know the drill by now. Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise are central to long-term good health and avoidance of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and all manner of cancers.

But for some people it may not be easy to talk about their weight, especially obese people. As NHS Choices tells us, obesity is “a common problem in the UK that’s estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11.”

A 2018 report by NHS Digital on obesity, physical activity and diet in England found there were 617,000 admissions to hospital where obesity was a factor in 2016-17 with 26% of adults classed as obese as recently as two years ago.

Community pharmacists, armed with the privacy of their consultation rooms, can provide invaluable information. They can advise patients to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet with less calories and join a local weight loss group (where they will be able to meet new people and improve their self-esteem).

So what dietary advice can pharmacists give their patients?

• Eat starchy foods such as potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and fish.
• Eat at least five portions a day of fresh fruit and vegetables.
• Reduce sugar, saturated fat and salt intake.
• Do not miss breakfast.
• Drink lots of water – at least one and a half litres a day.

Then there are vitamins, minerals and supplements many of which pharmacists can stock. Natural health has grown in popularity and one brand that has captured the public’s imagination is Together Health which has launched five new supplements to add to its range of naturally-based products.

The company claims its products contain “only complete nutrients from 100% natural sources” which are free from chemicals, artificial additives, binders and preservatives.

The UK market for vitamins has grown and is continuing to grow thanks to greater consumer awareness and the government has played a key role in that. Consumers’ liking for vitamin D, for example, was sparked by the Department of Health and Social Care’s recommendation in 2016 and 2017 that all babies from birth to the age of one take a daily vitamin D supplement.

“Consumer education is influencing the development of vitamins in the UK, with recommendations from government health institutions proving to be increasingly important for British consumers in decisions relating to vitamin consumption,” Euromonitor said.

The market researcher said new formats and free-from campaigns were supporting the growth in the vitamins market which it said was “well established in the UK and saturated with a considerable number of brands.”

Pharmacies should also take note of the power of sports nutrition which is growing in popularity among fitness lovers in the UK.

According to Mintel, 27% of 10 Brits use sports nutrition products. That rises to 39% of Brits who exercise more than once a week, with young men who mostly use sports nutrition – three in five men aged 16 to 34 said they use these products, Mintel reports.

As for young women, Mintel says “it seems (their) use of sports nutrition is growing from strength to strength, with two in five (40%) women aged 16 to 34 using sports nutrition products.”

Mintel also noted “a surge” in the number of women using protein powders – 7% of women aged 16 to 24 used protein powders in 2015, a percentage that more than doubled to 18% last year.

Vitamins – the market

The market was led by Holland & Barrett and Boots who were first and second respectively last year.
With a wide range of products for attractive prices, the companies jointly enjoyed 37% of total vitamins value sales in the UK in 2017.

Source: Euromonitor