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Vitamin Supplement Cornucopia Arrives in Okinawa

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-12-01

A new source of vitamin supplements became available this month in Okinawa. GNC (General Nutrition Center) has opened in the Camp Foster Market Mall, the first presence in Asia of the 68 year old Pennsylvania based franchise. Two or three other GNCs are planned for Okinawa and there will eventually be around 15 in Asia.

The vitamins come in the form of pills, capsules, powders, teas, creams and oils. They are divided into various categories, according to the functions of the compounds.

There is a small section for sports people and weightlifters, with a variety of products for improving performance without recourse to health damaging substances like steroids.

There are dietary supplements to help with losing or gaining weight. The bulk of the store space however, is given over to the hundreds of varieties of vitamins that occur naturally in fresh foods.

Because so many foods are processed these days and people like buying bulk supplies designed to be refrigerated for weeks, rather than eaten fresh every day, they are often no longer a good source of vitamins. Vitamins are essential to life and contribute to good health by regulating the metabolism and assisting the biochemical processes that release energy from digested food. Because the body needs them in relatively small amounts, compared with nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins, they can be classified as micronutrients.

Of the major vitamins some are water soluble and some are oil soluble. Water soluble vitamins must be taken into the body daily, as they cannot be stored and are excreted within one to four days. They include vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. Oil soluble vitamins can be stored for longer periods of time in the body’s fatty tissue and the liver. They include vitamins A,D,E and K.

Many customers who come into GNC know what supplements they need. But in case they don’t there is a thick tome in the shop called the Natural Healing Book which lists thousands of herbs, their properties and the symptoms they are supposed to relieve.

For those with circulation problems, Ginko Biloba is available. It increases cerebral blood flow and some users who have detected a beneficial effect on the brain, call it the memory pill.

St John’s Wort can be made into a tea and is said to be good for depression. Kava kava is a relaxant favored by those who wish to avoid synthetic chemical compounds. Valerian is a sedative which users take for anxiety.

There are also some substances better known in the orient than GNC’s home base. An extract of Shitake mushrooms, for example, has the reputation of being good for relieving viral infections and of cutting the blood flow to cancerous tumors.

GNC also stocks products aimed at improving the sex lives of its customers without having to visit a doctor or obtain a prescription. There is Herbal V which is advertised as “the all natural male potency and pleasure pill”, its female equivalent Lady V and the delightfully named Horny Goat Weed.

There is Aloe Vera to help with the digestion, glucosamine which is good for sore joints, methionine which regulates sleep if it gets disrupted by, for example, long aircraft flights. There are fish oils such as cod liver oil in capsule form and preventive treatments for some serious medical conditions. Ultra Saw Palmetto for instance, is recommended for warding off prostrate gland problems..

The shop stocks mostly its own branded products, though there are some from other companies as well. They tend however to be a bit more expensive than the house brand.

GNC has a cosmetics line as well as its core vitamin products. Various creams, moisturizers and lotions contain vitamins A, C and D which are good for the skin. Tea Tree Oil is a popular antiseptic from Australia. The store also sells multi-vitamins for those who want to pack all their supplements into one capsule. Megaman Gold for example contains 41 different ingredients designed to be taken in two capsules a day. GNC prides itself on its customer service, but says it does not approve of high pressure salesmanship and that anyone is free to browse in the store as they wish.

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