Virgo Publishing, LLC

The Essence of Beauty Begins with a Good Moisturizer

(originally published 5/5/2008)

It’s no secret that women are on a continuous quest for skin that looks fresh and young. In the past few years, there has been an upswing of anti-aging products that tout the effectiveness of moisture. “Skin is definitely in. The quest for younger looking skin is growing and there is no shortage for skincare products on the market today,” explained Ellen Delisle, technical sales manager for Bio-Botanica. However, a cleanser and basic lotion is no longer acceptable for skincare. “A simple moisturizer has become a sophisticated vehicle of complex nourishment and regulatory molecules to the skin,” she added. (more…)

Organic vs. Natural

(excerpt, originally published 8/5/2008)

Throughout the ages, man has been faced with difficult choices: Chocolate or vanilla? Yankees or Mets? Soup or salad? However, these all pale against today’s biggest dilemma: Organic or natural?

The battle begins

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees the National Organic Program (NOP), published the final rule on national organic standards on Dec. 27, 2000. USDA’s Organic Standards asserts that organic and natural are not the same thing. “Natural” suggests that products have been minimally processed and are free of synthetic ingredients. Products labeled as “organic” have been certified as meeting USDA organic standards.

The website for the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Greenfield, MA, provides its perspective on organics: “Organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food.” (more…)

The Health Benefits of Chocolate

(originally published 08/04/2008)

In ancient times, the Aztecs revered the cocoa plant as a gift from the gods; today, many women also revere the cocoa plant as a gift from the gods. Native to lowland, tropical South America, cocoa has a rich history, with its earliest documented use around 1100 B.C.

For the most part, chocolate is eaten simply for pleasure’s sake, but it also offers health benefits. “ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is a measurement for antioxidant activity in food. Of all the healthy fruits and vegetables the USDA has tested, the highest ORAC values were found in prunes, not exactly everyone’s favorite snack,” said Darlene Zembrod, trainer and educator for Ecco Bella. Luckily, for those who are anti-prune, Zembrod added chocolate’s ORAC value is more than two times higher than prunes, and dark chocolate has the same amount of flavonoids as red wine and four times the polyphenols of green tea.

Claire Polson, vice president of marketing and business development, Explorer’s Bounty, explained specific types of flavonoid antioxidants found in chocolate include epicatechin, catechin and procyanidins.

Lisa Francoise, owner and spa chocolatier, Sweet Beauty, noted, “We need to consume a diet high in naturally derived antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals our body is exposed to.” She added free radicals have been linked to premature aging and many diseases.

“Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can contribute to heart health, if eaten in moderation,” said Jessie Williams, CEO of EatPastry and partner of Organic Style, citing the large amounts of flavonoids found in chocolate. “Dark chocolate can also lower LDL [low-density lipoprotein] cholesterol, increase blood flow through the arteries, decrease blood clots and may help to lower high blood pressure.”

Zembrod agreed, noting cocoa can reduce blood’s platelet activity, thinning the blood as aspirin does, which helps improve immune function and reduce the inflammation of blood vessels.

One of the ingredients in chocolate, cocoa butter, is thought to be partially responsible for heath health. “Cocoa butter is a heart-healthy fat that does not raise cholesterol levels. In addition, it contains oleic acid, an unsaturated fat that actually raises the good HDL [cholesterol] levels of fat in blood,” said Zembrod. Williams added chocolate can also improve one’s mood, as it raises endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain.

Supplements for Sleep and Stress

(originally published 10/21/2008)

Perhaps one of the best-known supplements in the category is melatonin, which is often taken to promote a healthy sleep cycle. “Your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours [the circadian rhythm] is controlled by your melatonin levels,” Amanda Steele, co-founder and CEO, Dreamerz, noted. “Typically, melatonin levels rise in the evening as a cue for sleep, remain high for most of the night and decline as dawn nears. Natural melatonin levels do decline gradually as you age; some older adults produce very small amounts or none at all.”

Accumulating evidence suggests melatonin supplementation may regulate the circadian clock and be a beneficial in the treatment of certain insomnias, according to a 2004 study review from University, Ill.6 Unfortunately, the review also found the therapeutic potential of melatonin has been difficult to realize in clinical trials, possibly owing to non-specific actions of the agent and its unfavorable pharmacokinetic properties when administered orally.


Consumer Trends Impact Nutrition Bar Market

(excerpt, originally published 01/09/2009)

As meal replacements or snacks, for young or for old, for man or woman, everyone is able to find a nutritional bar to suit their tastes and needs. Bars are targeted toward consumers’ unique needs, such as women’s health, energy bars, protein bars, cholesterol management, sports nutrition and kids’ bars.

Nutritional bars have undergone quite a transformation over the years. From tasteless, gummy messes to something that’s actually appetizing, they’ve been formulated to appeal to the masses. According to, the nutritional health bars total category sales in 2004 (52 weeks ending in December 2004) was more than $656 million.

One of the motivations behind a consumer’s decision to eat a nutritional bar is convenience, according to Jack J. Singh, N.D., CEO, Organic Food Bar Inc. “People’s schedules are more frenetic than ever and it is often challenging to eat a healthful, delicious, prepared meal on-the-go,” he noted.