The Friday keynote address from David Perlmutter, M.D., focused on the impact of gut health on disorders of the brain. “The set point for inflammation happens not to be in the brain, but in the gut,” he said. Dietary changes like GMO and pesticide ingestion may alter the microbiome in our gut and cause disease. Probiotics as an intervention, Perlmutter explained, have incredible potential.

Saturday’s keynote speaker was author of Food Matters Mark Bittman. He gave his perspective on dieting fads and trends, and why we need to shift to better ways of eating. Bittman critiqued the frequent overanalysis of what a healthy diet is, and the search for quick fixes and miracle strategies that don’t exist. “Real food is a wonderful part of life, and it is necessary,” he said. He also shared his view that the attention paid to issues like GMOs is a distraction from more serious concerns like antibiotic use in livestock and the effects of industrial agriculture as a whole.

One of the Non-GMO Series of seminars was “GMO Myth Busting—An Advocate’s Toolkit for Separating Fact from Fiction.” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety gave listeners a tour of the deceptive “feel-good” rebranding efforts of Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry, contrasting it with the reality of their activities, including efforts to reverse anti-GMO and anti-pesticide legislation. “Basically,” Kimbrell said, “there’s been way too much democracy for them, and so they’re suing to stop it wherever it breaks out.” One myth he busted is that there is consensus on the safety of GMOs. A recent open letter signed by 300 scientists, Kimbrell noted, states just the opposite.

Another in the Non-GMO Series, titled “Organic and Non-GMO—Finding Common Ground,” explored these two parallel movements, and the overall effort to shift to a new system of agriculture underlying them both. Panelist Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, spoke to how they can feed off of each other. “An interesting place to find common ground is to try to turn some of that non-GMO energy toward solving issues and creating change in agriculture,” she said.

“Youthful Aging: The Huge Boom(er)ing Market of Supplements,” hosted by Twinlab, centered on the high demand that the large Baby Boomer demographic is creating for anti-aging supplements. The panel discussion, featuring Twinlab’s Gene Bruno and several others with varying perspective on the market, discussed the crossroads of science and demographics that anti-aging products represent.

At a panel event hosted by Nature’s Path, “Organic: The Next Generation,” a range of speakers addressed the promising future of organic, as a function of the strong young leaders coming into their own in the industry. Speakers included Arran and Arjan Stephens of Nature’s Path; Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It; Mark Hyman, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinical Center for Functional Medicine; Erin Schrode, co-founder of Teens Turning Green and Colin Archipley, president and CEO of Archi’s Acres. Archipley summarized the bright outlook, saying that “organic has the market factors on its side” for long-term success.

In a session sponsored by Host Defense, mycologist Paul Stamets gave attendees background on the potential role of mushrooms and mushroom mycelium in helping with various environmental issues.

Another exhibitor presented seminar, “Profit with Probiotic Foods & Beverages,” was hosted by Ganeden Biotech. Four speakers talked about the increasing number of alternative probiotics delivery methods and types of products that are fortified with probiotics. Speakers included Michael Bush, senior vice president of Ganeden Biotech, Inc.; Cindi Bigelow, president and CEO of Bigelow Tea; Mark Retzloff, chairman and CEO of Alfalfa’s Market; and Anna Soref, editor of Organic Connections magazine. The group agreed that convenience and novelty are major market drivers for probiotic products moving forward.

In a session on the “Emerging Science of CoQ10” (sponsored by Doctor’s Best), cardiologist Gerald Pohost, M.D., FAHA, FACC, stated that there’s about a 2.5% market penetration of CoQ10. “That’s too low,” he stated. He explained how CoQ10’s role is at the mitochondrial level by helping to make ATP, the “master of all metabolism.” Pohost reviewed the diverse benefits of CoQ10, included reducing the symptoms of heart failure, improved cardio function and support for those on statins.

Carlson Laboratories sponsored a talk by Dr. Alex Richardson, senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, and Food and Behaviour Research, UK, on “Changing Diets, Changing Minds: The Importance of Nutrition for Behavior, Learning and Mood.” She stated, “there are many features of the modern western diet that are disease causing. Many have too much sugar and fat, but not enough vitamins/minerals and fiber.” People are also sorely lacking in their omega-3s intake, and explained the important benefits of taking omega-3s at all life stages for general health, brain health and more. She also put forward the opinion that flax oil is great as a replacement for certain oils in meals, but won't do the same job as DHA in supplement form.

Natural Factors’ Michael J. Murray, N.D and director of product science and innovation, spoke at the “The Power of Whole Foods Nutrition” session on the whole foods we should be eating and the components that make them so important. He then went on to speak about Natural Factors new vitamin and supplement line: Whole Earth and Sea.

Mushroom Wisdom held its annual educational presentation and authentic Japanese breakfast. Mark Kaylor, Ph.D., vice president of education and research, issued a call to action for a “return to the holistic perspective, health and vitality.” He also said “we’ve lost control of the word ‘natural,’ and that it’s time to reclaim it.” He suggested that stores create a dedicated section for vitality that is large and diverse, since stores should be helping people with preventative care, not just only times of specific health need.

The Women in Naturals Networking Event, sponsored by Reserveage, took place on the Sunset Deck of the Hilton Anaheim hotel on Saturday, March 7. An even for both women and men, it is dedicated to women in the natural products industry that want to network with other professionals. Author of Cooking Up a Business Rachel Hofstetter spoke at the event.

An educational breakfast was hosted by Vitanica at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, March 7th, where Tori Hudson, N.D. provided a women’s health research update. The lecture focused on a slew of recent research into herbal solutions for common women’s health issues. Hudson also included an overview of the company’s relevant herbal products. Highlighted options for issues with sleep, hormones and digestion included black cohosh and grape seed extract.

Wakunaga of America Co. hosted its annual buffet Japanese dinner party at Disney’s Paradise Pier hotel. The event is a thank you to all those involved in Wakunaga’s efforts, and director of sales Jay Levy took to the stage to thank everyone for their support. A live band carried the rest of the night as people enjoyed the buffet and conversation.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2015