Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Macadamia Nuts & Lowering Bad Cholesterol

I love macadamia nuts. I know they are super high in fat but they are a favorite treat. When you are allergic to gluten, a lot of fun foods are out. When you try to watch your sugar intake, more fun foods are out. While scanning one of my favorite research references, I came across an entry on macadamia nuts.

Here's what I learned. According to a Journal of Nutrition study, a handful of macadamia nuts (40-90 grams or 17-35 nuts) daily for 4 weeks helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL down for 5.3%)and boost good cholesterol (HDL up 7.9%). Pretty good news, eh?

Alas, macadamia nuts, while offering some health benefits, as long as you don't overdo and rack up too many calories, produced "less convincing results" than other nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, and peanuts.

I'm not dissuaded from enjoying my little ivory-colored treasures dusted with salt. And, I enjoyed learning that while macadamia nuts are native to Australia and known for being cultivated in Hawaii, smaller farms have cropped up in California and Florida.

Hmm. Now I'm curious where my favorite macadamia nuts are from (some are sweeter tasting than others).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Magnesium Deficiencies, High Blood Pressure & More

Stress and hypertension are related, right? Most physicians would agree. Sodium is usually seen as the bad guy. Dr. David Brownstein, a leading integrative physician, thinks sodium gets a bad rap, and that low-sodium diets are not helpful for hypertension. You see, magnesium deficiencies cause intracellular sodium and potassium levels to rise, which interferes with blood pressure regulation, so the magnesium deficiency appears to be the problem rather than the sodium intake.

Dr. Brownstein talks quite frankly about addressing high blood pressure with magnesium and other nutrients in his blog:

"Natural therapies such as magnesium, unrefined sea salt, B-vitamins, vitamin C and cleaning up the diet of refined foods should be the initial treatment regimen in a patient with elevated blood pressure.  Finally, drink enough water.  In my experience, dehydration is the number one cause of elevated blood pressure."

What most people don't know is that stress can triple (yes, triple) your need for not only vitamin C but also magnesium. Adequate magnesium levels relax muscles, including the heart muscle but you need more than you may think, even when you're not under particular stress. According to Dr. Rodier, "adequate" magnesium levels should be 1:1 ratio with calcium (in contrast with the conventional ratio of 3:1 favoring calcium).

Here are a few other important things to remember about magnesium deficiencies:
  1. Alcohol impairs the ability of the kidney to conserve magnesium. 
  2. Diabetes increases the risk for magnesium deficiency, and magnesium deficiency negatively affects insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes.
  3. Migraines are associated with low levels of magnesium, which may contribute to cerebral arterial constriction.
  4. Heart arrhythmias are associated with low magnesium levels. 
  5. Intestinal problems reduce the body's ability to absorb magnesium.
  6. Restless leg syndrome may be related to magnesium imbalances.
  7. Adequate vitamin D is required for magnesium absorption (and most people are deficient in vitamin D).
  8. Boron appears to increase serum levels of magnesium. 
  9. Calcium can inhibit magnesium absorption from foods, so some recommend taking calcium supplements at bedtime and magnesium supplements with meals to optimize magnesium uptake.
Now for the other news about magnesium: when your body gets enough to , magnesium can act as a laxative. That's a great thing for folks who get constipated (you can achieve the same effect with vitamin C).

Magnesium is considered non-toxic at levels most people take in the form of supplements; and, just like hitting bowel tolerance with vitamin C, to return to normal, you just back down to the level of magnesium you were taking before getting loose stools.

Magnesium is a marvelous little mineral, one of my favorites. Are you getting enough magnesium? Drop a line if you have a magnesium story to share.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Business Lessons from a Kat?

Here's an article I wrote that I've been encouraged to share. Feel free to pass along to your friends, even if they are "dog people." :-)
Business Lessons from a Kat?!
by Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op

It’s a legitimate question. Why should you buy anything from a “kat?”

Why would anyone bother to subscribe to a health newsletter that greets you with a “Meow,” takes an irreverent tone, and closes with “Purringly Yours, Guido Housemouser.” It’s totally weird, right?

Snicker if you wish, but thousands of subscribers have done just that, and a large number have become ridiculously fond of the kat, no matter how silly they say the charade is in the weekly newsletters.

I’ll never forget the survey we ran in 2002, the year we started Our Health Co-op. I’ve had a lifelong interest in alternative medicine, so diving into the world of botanicals and nutritional science was a big draw. However, I’ll confess. I was embarrassed by the kat, which was created by an imaginative yet eccentric entrepreneur, who also happened to be my father

I lamented privately, “How can we be taken seriously with a cartoon character writing our customers?” I wanted to get rid of the kat. Don’t get me wrong, I love (love, love) cats and all things feline. I just thought the mascot stuff was cuckoo. Dad was the narcissistic sort so I was suspicious of his certainty that our customers really cared about the kat.

With a quick survey drafted and instant access to our customer community, I was confident that the kat would be history by the end of the week. No such luck. I was stunned when, overnight, we received thousands of enthusiastic responses. More than 97% of them said, “Keep the kat!”

It was clearly an emotional topic, as we’ve never again had such a big response to a survey again.  I remember two comments grabbing my attention:

“Keep the kat!  The world is too serious. Why not have a little fun?”

“I delete all those boring newsletters I receive. The kat makes me laugh, so I keep reading. Please keep the kat.”

Have a little fun. Continue to make ‘em laugh. That was my new mission. It was uncharted territory, as my dad had owned the “funny” in our family.

I was always the serious one. I wasn’t funny. So, I had to channel my dad’s humor at times, as I was interested in keeping my dad out of the business itself (we disagreed, sometimes quite strenuously, but that’s another story, one that I've been telling in chapters in this blog!). 

Having sold the business to us, Dad was limited to being an outside observer (and newsletter subscriber). It made him endlessly happy that we “kept the kat.”

In February 2008, we chose to do a survey during our anniversary sale (also around Valentine’s Day), and a sweet 90% of our members endorsed our use of humor. Many sent special love notes to the kat, including:

“I totally LOVE the kat!”

“Roses are red 
The Kat is Kool 
If you don't use the Co-op 
You're just a darn fool”

“Kat, you are my hero. 
Love, Ted the cat.”

“The kat is perhaps the most important member of the staff. Without the kat it would be just another regular business, but the kat enlivens it, and I look forward to all of kat's complaints and satire. More please!!!”

“You're all terrific and as long as the kat remains the Chairman of the Board, I'm more than happy!”

“I love you kat…have for years.

A few PR professionals along the way have admiringly said that we have created a clever “micro-brand.” That's a lot better than creating a fuzzy brand I suppose. 

In our anniversary survey this last winter, we didn’t solicit feedback on the kat but still received fan-club comments, including:

I like to think of the kat as a very benevolent feline, sort of like a kitty god up in the sky.  :-)”

“Don't mess with the Kat >^..^< “

“The Kat is just super kool”

Who knew that the kat would outlive its creator (my dad died during the summer of 2007) or that the kat and I would be friends almost a decade later after such an inauspicious beginning (I wanted to “kill the kat” after all)?

While I am most proud of what we are doing with quality programs and how we are taking care of our members at the Co-op, I am most touched by the things I have learned from the kat, including:

  1. Be real. Like it or not, cats are endlessly content just being themselves. We're a little different (silly at times, irreverent at others) but it's a lot more fun to be us than trying to be like others.
  2. Don’t take life so seriously. Be serious about the hunt, then pursue pleasure in whatever form presents itself. Laughter, good humor, pets, and close relationships all promote health too. 
  3. Curiosity can get you just about anywhere. Bat at or pounce on things that behave strangely and you'll learn something new, ready or not!
  4. Do the unexpected.  Sit in the lap of the person most skeptical of your presence and start purring.
  5. When all else fails, take a nap. Things will all be different when you wake up.
  6. Memorable characters make money. Just ask our own Guido (and the guys at Geico). So glad we didn't kill the kat! 
So, little by little, my heart has opened to “the kat.”  May our favorite kat (^..^) touch your life at some point too! 

Our Health Co-op provides scientifically-promising nutritional supplements with an emphasis on healthy aging. Our Health Co-op emphasizes old-fashioned values through a chatty kind of e-mail newsletter written by the Co-op's mascot, a "kat" named Guido. In addition to covering products and health news with a sense of fun, the "kat" loves to spotlight members with interesting health stories and favorite pets and cute critters of all kinds.
If you would like to share what you've learned from the kat, please write a note below!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Labels: Why We're Changing 'Em

We are in the process of doing some updates -- for our web site and with our branding (many of you were kind enough to support our logo design final decision in our recent survey).  After much discussion, we decided to integrate all of our products under the "Cell Nutritionals" brand.

Here's the scoop. We will keep "Our Health Co-op" as our company brand (folksy, personal, and at times goofy) and the Our Health Co-op brand will play a prominent role on our new web site. When you call, you will still hear Teri cheerfully answer, "Co-op, may I help you?" Nothing will change about our company.

The change will be on our packaging, as "Cell Nutritionals" will become our new product brand. Here's what we see as the upside:
  1. Cell Nutritionals is easier to say, spell, and Google and will help friends and family find us and remember us.
  2. The Cell Nutritionals tagline, "Nourishing cells for life" communicates our mission of delivering nutritional products that support both wellness and longevity.
  3. The Cell Nutritionals logo mark is an iconic version of the "Sun" and symbolizes energy and the source of life as we know it.
  4. Cell Nutritionals more directly conveys our exceedingly high quality standards, of which we and our members are exceedingly proud.
  5. We have trademarked Cell Nutritionals and thus our product line will have more commercial protection.
When thinking about the design of new product labels, we opted to blend the best of historic Our Health Co-op labels and Cell Nutritionals labels. Here's how the two very different looks came together as one:
  1. Our signature red tops are keepers (we can't get them for large jars yet...but will keep searching).
  2. The Co-op's clean style stays (light background with product names in easy-to-read capital letters).
  3. Cell Nutritionals logo has been added at the top (with a dark purple vs. black background).
  4. A thin red bar has been added (under the Cell Nutritional logo at the top).
I am sitting in front of a jar of Constant Health with one of the new labels and, while it looks very different without the stylized photo of the sun's rays behind the text, I think it is much easier to read and understand. The first product to hit the market with our new labels will be Resveratrol (only $7.95), a product our members and Dr. Hugo Rodier have long asked us to carry.

If you're wondering about the kat's face (big sigh here), it will no longer appear on our labels. I remember drawing that face, inspired by a white silk scarf of mine with little black cat faces. I remember my ex, Steve Marteney, seeing my sketch on a piece of paper and saying, "Use that!" and Teri enthusiastically supporting this idea. I will always remember the drawing and its life on our original labels.

For those of you die-hard kat fans, don't despair. The kat will still be writing our newsletter, which will get its own facelift before too long and give the kat due respect. Stay tuned. To keep our costs characteristically low, we will continue to sell inventory with the old labels until we hit our re-order points. This means the Co-op bottles with the kat's face will become collectors' items. :-)

Finally, thanks to all of our members who voted on our updated "Our Health Co-op" logo. We have just loved reading the responses and appreciate the enthusiastic response. Chris Harding, our new Chief Community Officer, has been blown away by the response, actually, as it has been dramatically larger than he would have guessed.

All I can say is, "Go team! We're all in this together." Love feeling connected to you all.