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Health Club Management

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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Legislating nutrition

Nutritional supplements are potentially a great revenue stream for gyms, but new European legislation is going to make it harder to promote them. Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 6
This legislation has been adopted to protect the public from spurious and false claims, and ensure marketing of products is based on evidence accepted by the scientific community

Without taking a protein drink, my husband fades away to nothing when he’s exercising. Using one on a regular basis has helped him build lean muscle and made recovery much faster. I’ve also found that drinking a protein drink after exercise stops me feeling ravenous and picking at naughty food.

If I wasn’t aware of these benefits, it might be helpful if my gym were to tell me. However, if they did so while standing in front of a shelf full of nutritional products for sale, they would be contravening new European guidelines. They could tell me that “protein contributes to growth and the maintenance of muscle mass” – but specifying lean muscle and talking about recovery would stray into murky areas.

NHCR guidelines
The European guidelines, Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, came into force in December 2012 after a six-year period during which the claims being made by products were assessed. Prior to this, food legislation only defined the mandatory information required on labels, and prohibited misleading or false claims. The new guidelines now clearly state that only certain health and nutrition claims can be made about food, thereby harmonising the rules on claims across the 27 EU member states.
The burden of proof has changed. Previously, when a claim was challenged, a business had to prove it was true. Now the business has to get authorisation before being able to use the claim.

The aim is, of course, to protect consumers by stopping false claims from being made. However, the move deals something of a blow to the sports nutrition and food industry as a whole, by requiring incredibly robust scientific studies to back up the sort of claims that have traditionally been widely used by nutritional supplements, such as “contributes to the growth in muscle mass”. Only authorised claims can now be used in commercial communication.

Dr Adam Carey, chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), explains why the legislation has been introduced: “Health and nutrition claims made in relation to food products require authorisation before they can be used in the labelling and marketing of food products.

“Within the context of a rather complex procedure, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for verifying the scientific basis of claims. Under old legislation, the burden of proof was different and EFSA did not assess claims – it was a national competence. This legislation has been adopted to protect the public from spurious and false claims made by some food manufacturers. It seeks to ensure advertising and marketing of products is clear, accurate and based on evidence accepted by the scientific community.”

According to the ESSNA, over the last couple of years organisations in the food industry from across the EU have submitted more than 40,000 dossiers of supporting information for their health claims to be assessed. EFSA grouped similar claims together, with the result that around 4,000 different claims were put forward to be reviewed. EFSA has now assessed just over half of the dossiers, and to date only a little over 200 health claims have been approved by the European Commission. Any claims that were rejected in this round of assessment can no longer be used.

Any scientific claims that were based on inconclusive evidence – ie where the claimed benefits might or might not transpire – or claims that were shown not to be deliverable 100 per cent of the time have also been thrown out.

There are currently still a number of claims under evaluation, but decisions on these are expected soon.

Questionable process
But while the new legislation has consumer interests at heart, some of the verdicts are questionable, and the rejection of some claims doesn’t mean they are actually untrue. Guidance on preparing dossiers for health claims was thin on the ground, meaning insufficient evidence, or sometimes even the wrong kind of evidence, was submitted to EFSA. There were also instances where claims submitted under the wrong category were not even considered.

For example, according to this legislation, only mineral water can rehydrate the body. Even though orange juice can in practice also rehydrate the body, it missed accreditation because it contains sugar and other substances that don’t serve any rehydration purpose.

Carey also believes it’s fair to say that, when authorising claims, the authorities did not always take into account the specific needs of a particular group of the population, including sports people.

For example, despite being scientifically proven, the health claim for sodium tablets – the maintenance of normal muscle function – was rejected, because it went against general public health guidance to reduce levels of sodium intake. However, this failed to take into consideration the fact that elite sports people have different needs from those who are less physically active: sodium is more important for individuals exercising at high intensity, notably athletes. Expert bodies such as the International Olympic Committee have acknowledged that electrolyte losses, including sodium, must be replaced with either sports drinks or foods. Without this, hyponatremia – a condition of low sodium concentration in the bloodstream – can occur.

Legislation that was meant to protect the consumer therefore risks stunting innovation, reducing information flow and leading to products being taken off the shelves or made harder to buy.

The good news
But there is some cause for optimism: Carey says the sports nutrition industry has fared better than most, with its claims doing well in comparison to those of other food sectors.

For example, all claims for probiotic products have been rejected. Meanwhile, most claims for vitamin and mineral products have been approved, as well as the benefits of protein, creatine and carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions.

What has been proven, and what gyms can happily say to their customers, is as follows:
- Products containing protein contribute to growth and the maintenance of muscle mass.
- Creatine increases physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high-intensity exercise.
- Carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions contribute to the maintenance of endurance performance during prolonged endurance exercise, and enhance the absorption of water during physical exercise.

Furthermore, there is some hope that the legislation might be relaxed in the future, as EFSA takes on board the particular requirements of sports nutrition. “Policy-makers and other stakeholders have recognised some of the challenges around sports food, and in the next few years the European Commission is due to prepare a report assessing sports nutrition regulation,” says Carey. “We hope this will clarify some of the regulatory challenges faced by the sports nutrition industry, and ESSNA is actively engaged on that front.”

In the meantime, in the UK at least, the legislation will not immediately be aggressively enforced, as a short settling-in period has been permitted, provided businesses show they are undertaking steps to comply. However, some EU countries have already started enforcement. Manufacturers may have to change their packaging, and going forward their relationships with clubs – offering clubs advice on how to sell and offer product samples – will become even more important.

Gym staff certainly shouldn’t be put off selling nutritional products to customers, but they will need to inform themselves of the facts (see information box below).

It will also be more important than ever for staff to understand the product and the goals of the client. Lynn Clay, technical education manager at Maxinutrition, advises: “Get to know members and provide genuine recommendations that will support their results and offer solutions, rather than trying to sell them a particular promotion.”

Gym goers should also be encouraged to do their own research and talk to people who use the supplements: good products speak for themselves, and those using them can still be used as unofficial advocates, as the new legislation doesn’t cover non-commercial communication.

For more information

To delve deeper into this subject, take a look at:
The EU Register: http://ec.europa.eu/nuhclaims
Department of Health Guidance documents https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nutrition-and-health-claims-guidance-to-compliance-with-regulation-ec-1924-2006-on-nutrition-and-health-claims-made-on-foods

Legislating Nutrition
Legislating Nutrition
Accepted claim: Products containing protein can contribute to growth of muscle mass
Accepted claim: Products containing protein can contribute to growth of muscle mass
Accepted claim: Carb-electrolyte solutions help maintain endurance performance
Accepted claim: Carb-electrolyte solutions help maintain endurance performance
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2013_6nutrition.gif
Nutritional supplements are potentially a great revenue stream for clubs, but new European legislation is going to make it harder to promote them
People
I want us to make sure we’re still the go-to sector with the greatest power to improve health and wellbeing in society. We absolutely must not abdicate that opportunity
People
HCM people

Aaron Smith

Founder, KX Pilates
‘KX’ stands for ‘the Kaizen Experience’, which means ‘change for the better’ in Japanese. It’s a philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement. We’re always seeking to improve, not only as a company but as individuals
People
HCM people

Jo Smallwood

general manager, Oldham Leisure Centre
We saw the opportunity to initiate new partnerships with the Oldham Foodbank to help local residents during the COVID-19 crisis. We can’t serve our community in the way we would usually do, so we’ve moved resources to help where people need us most
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features

Legislating nutrition

Nutritional supplements are potentially a great revenue stream for gyms, but new European legislation is going to make it harder to promote them. Kath Hudson reports

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 6
This legislation has been adopted to protect the public from spurious and false claims, and ensure marketing of products is based on evidence accepted by the scientific community

Without taking a protein drink, my husband fades away to nothing when he’s exercising. Using one on a regular basis has helped him build lean muscle and made recovery much faster. I’ve also found that drinking a protein drink after exercise stops me feeling ravenous and picking at naughty food.

If I wasn’t aware of these benefits, it might be helpful if my gym were to tell me. However, if they did so while standing in front of a shelf full of nutritional products for sale, they would be contravening new European guidelines. They could tell me that “protein contributes to growth and the maintenance of muscle mass” – but specifying lean muscle and talking about recovery would stray into murky areas.

NHCR guidelines
The European guidelines, Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, came into force in December 2012 after a six-year period during which the claims being made by products were assessed. Prior to this, food legislation only defined the mandatory information required on labels, and prohibited misleading or false claims. The new guidelines now clearly state that only certain health and nutrition claims can be made about food, thereby harmonising the rules on claims across the 27 EU member states.
The burden of proof has changed. Previously, when a claim was challenged, a business had to prove it was true. Now the business has to get authorisation before being able to use the claim.

The aim is, of course, to protect consumers by stopping false claims from being made. However, the move deals something of a blow to the sports nutrition and food industry as a whole, by requiring incredibly robust scientific studies to back up the sort of claims that have traditionally been widely used by nutritional supplements, such as “contributes to the growth in muscle mass”. Only authorised claims can now be used in commercial communication.

Dr Adam Carey, chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), explains why the legislation has been introduced: “Health and nutrition claims made in relation to food products require authorisation before they can be used in the labelling and marketing of food products.

“Within the context of a rather complex procedure, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for verifying the scientific basis of claims. Under old legislation, the burden of proof was different and EFSA did not assess claims – it was a national competence. This legislation has been adopted to protect the public from spurious and false claims made by some food manufacturers. It seeks to ensure advertising and marketing of products is clear, accurate and based on evidence accepted by the scientific community.”

According to the ESSNA, over the last couple of years organisations in the food industry from across the EU have submitted more than 40,000 dossiers of supporting information for their health claims to be assessed. EFSA grouped similar claims together, with the result that around 4,000 different claims were put forward to be reviewed. EFSA has now assessed just over half of the dossiers, and to date only a little over 200 health claims have been approved by the European Commission. Any claims that were rejected in this round of assessment can no longer be used.

Any scientific claims that were based on inconclusive evidence – ie where the claimed benefits might or might not transpire – or claims that were shown not to be deliverable 100 per cent of the time have also been thrown out.

There are currently still a number of claims under evaluation, but decisions on these are expected soon.

Questionable process
But while the new legislation has consumer interests at heart, some of the verdicts are questionable, and the rejection of some claims doesn’t mean they are actually untrue. Guidance on preparing dossiers for health claims was thin on the ground, meaning insufficient evidence, or sometimes even the wrong kind of evidence, was submitted to EFSA. There were also instances where claims submitted under the wrong category were not even considered.

For example, according to this legislation, only mineral water can rehydrate the body. Even though orange juice can in practice also rehydrate the body, it missed accreditation because it contains sugar and other substances that don’t serve any rehydration purpose.

Carey also believes it’s fair to say that, when authorising claims, the authorities did not always take into account the specific needs of a particular group of the population, including sports people.

For example, despite being scientifically proven, the health claim for sodium tablets – the maintenance of normal muscle function – was rejected, because it went against general public health guidance to reduce levels of sodium intake. However, this failed to take into consideration the fact that elite sports people have different needs from those who are less physically active: sodium is more important for individuals exercising at high intensity, notably athletes. Expert bodies such as the International Olympic Committee have acknowledged that electrolyte losses, including sodium, must be replaced with either sports drinks or foods. Without this, hyponatremia – a condition of low sodium concentration in the bloodstream – can occur.

Legislation that was meant to protect the consumer therefore risks stunting innovation, reducing information flow and leading to products being taken off the shelves or made harder to buy.

The good news
But there is some cause for optimism: Carey says the sports nutrition industry has fared better than most, with its claims doing well in comparison to those of other food sectors.

For example, all claims for probiotic products have been rejected. Meanwhile, most claims for vitamin and mineral products have been approved, as well as the benefits of protein, creatine and carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions.

What has been proven, and what gyms can happily say to their customers, is as follows:
- Products containing protein contribute to growth and the maintenance of muscle mass.
- Creatine increases physical performance in successive bursts of short-term, high-intensity exercise.
- Carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions contribute to the maintenance of endurance performance during prolonged endurance exercise, and enhance the absorption of water during physical exercise.

Furthermore, there is some hope that the legislation might be relaxed in the future, as EFSA takes on board the particular requirements of sports nutrition. “Policy-makers and other stakeholders have recognised some of the challenges around sports food, and in the next few years the European Commission is due to prepare a report assessing sports nutrition regulation,” says Carey. “We hope this will clarify some of the regulatory challenges faced by the sports nutrition industry, and ESSNA is actively engaged on that front.”

In the meantime, in the UK at least, the legislation will not immediately be aggressively enforced, as a short settling-in period has been permitted, provided businesses show they are undertaking steps to comply. However, some EU countries have already started enforcement. Manufacturers may have to change their packaging, and going forward their relationships with clubs – offering clubs advice on how to sell and offer product samples – will become even more important.

Gym staff certainly shouldn’t be put off selling nutritional products to customers, but they will need to inform themselves of the facts (see information box below).

It will also be more important than ever for staff to understand the product and the goals of the client. Lynn Clay, technical education manager at Maxinutrition, advises: “Get to know members and provide genuine recommendations that will support their results and offer solutions, rather than trying to sell them a particular promotion.”

Gym goers should also be encouraged to do their own research and talk to people who use the supplements: good products speak for themselves, and those using them can still be used as unofficial advocates, as the new legislation doesn’t cover non-commercial communication.

For more information

To delve deeper into this subject, take a look at:
The EU Register: http://ec.europa.eu/nuhclaims
Department of Health Guidance documents https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nutrition-and-health-claims-guidance-to-compliance-with-regulation-ec-1924-2006-on-nutrition-and-health-claims-made-on-foods

Legislating Nutrition
Legislating Nutrition
Accepted claim: Products containing protein can contribute to growth of muscle mass
Accepted claim: Products containing protein can contribute to growth of muscle mass
Accepted claim: Carb-electrolyte solutions help maintain endurance performance
Accepted claim: Carb-electrolyte solutions help maintain endurance performance
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2013_6nutrition.gif
Nutritional supplements are potentially a great revenue stream for clubs, but new European legislation is going to make it harder to promote them
Latest News
Technogym has announced the launch of live streaming and on-demand classes. The new content will ...
Latest News
A number of gym operators are concerned that local lockdowns could come into effect in ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that gyms may be able to reopen in a ...
Latest News
UK consumer confidence has improved significantly since the beginning of the lockdown, with a fifth ...
Latest News
The PGA Tour has recently bought 1,000 Whoop bands for its golfers, after PGA Tour ...
Latest News
ukactive has announced that Active Uprising and the National Summit are going digital as part ...
Latest News
Industry body ukactive has today (1 July) hosted a delegation of government and public health ...
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Health and fitness company Ingesport – which operates the GO fit chain of gyms in ...
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Physical activity levels in England have continued to fall from those recorded at the initial ...
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: EGYM presents Corona Gym Solution, for the successful re-opening of fitness studios
Finally, the time has come: fitness and health facilities around the globe are gradually resuming operations.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore and MoveGB ink groundbreaking partnership to transform corporate wellness offering
Incorpore and MoveGB have entered into a landmark partnership, combining the UK’s largest provider of corporate gym memberships with the nation’s biggest network of classes.
Video Gallery
Temple Gym - Nautilus Equipment
Core Health & Fitness
Temple Gym - Nautilus Equipment Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
Premier Software was founded in 1994 and has proven experience developing business management solutions specifically ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Healthcheck Services Ltd
Here at Healthcheck Services, we want to empower you, your clients & your staff to ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Fitness equipment
Stages Cycling: Fitness equipment
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Property & Tenders
Greywell, Hampshire
Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
27-30 Oct 2020
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Diary dates
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Online,
Diary dates
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Diary dates
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Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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