Faces of Pittsburgh

Home Operated Business Hopes for Change

By  JEREMY HARRIS 
jrhst26@mail.rmu.edu 

A health supplement is being sold from a local neighborhood family.   Kathy Bost is running a home-based business that provides omega-3 fish oil for her customers.  She is making this product available by literally running a sales business out of her own house.   

Kathy relates that a study examining the use of omega 3 for treating spine pain conducted by local neurosurgeon and nutrition expert Dr. Joseph C. Maroon’s piqued her interest to explore a business selling fish oil.  Maroon’s study examined the use of omega 3 for treating spine pain.  Two hundred and fifty patients who had spine pain were asked to take 1,200 mg of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.  After 3 months, 125 returned questionnaires showing that about 60% were able to stop taking other medications for pain and just were using the fish oil for spine pain relief.  Over 88% were satisfied and continued to take the fish oil.  These results also yielded no significant side effects.

The results based on this study’s research were published in a book called Fish Oil The Natural Anti-Inflammatory.  The book contains detailed results of the spine pain study along with an extensive list of other benefits and features of the supplement.  Vascular disease, asthma, menstrual pain, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, and protection from various forms of cancer are all represented in clinical trials of fish oil and those representations are explained in the book.

But the product isn’t perfect.  There is a quality issue between the various brands of available fish oil.

“Not all fish oils are created equal.  We need a product that isn’t going to go bad before it’s ingested,” said Kathy. 

The “going bad” Kathy refers to is the purity of the fish oil.  To be specific, purity means a potential toxin amount in each capsule.  To call attention to the obvious, fish oil is extracted from fish.  However, those fish may not live in a clean environment, which raises the possibility of a contaminated product.

The fish’s environment is not the only factor, though.  Spoiling can occur if the fish oil is not stored properly.

The reason contamination is a risk is because of how fish oil is classified.  Fish oil is not a drug in the same fashion as Tylenol, Aleve or Advil, which are pharmaceuticals.

Omega-3 fish oil is a nutraceutical.  The difference comes down to the structure of the drug and the structure of the supplement.     

Since pharmaceuticals are drugs created as a chemical substance, each kind is held to a single absolute orthodox standard.  Every pharmaceutical has to be produced the same way with the same end result. Nutraceuticals are food or food products, and because of the structure difference, they are regulated differently than pharmaceuticals.

Thus, the possibility exists of one fish oil being different from another, and that difference can result in one having a higher purity level than another.

“When selecting the fish oil I was going to sell I wanted the highest standard of purity available.  This was my goal because I wanted to provide the best for my customers,” said Kathy

“Customers continually sing our praises because of this purity.  Our customers get it that fish oil and other supplements are intended to help prevent disease and not make them sick.  Like most of us they want to be doing things that allow them to live longer.  But more importantly not disabled and disease-ridden,” said Kathy.  “I know the fish oil is helping various people live their lives more fully.  People suffering from chronic conditions tell me they feel better and can’t go without it.”

The business model Kathy uses is primarily over the phone and via the Internet, and the sales that fuel that model circulate by word-of-mouth.

“Initially sales were friends, family, and neighbors who researched the studies on fish oil and wanted similar benefits,” said Kathy.  “Our business evolved organically, people would see the research from Dr. Maroon’s study and ask where can I get this product?

It’s this organic model that has helped the Bosts’ business thrive.  The majority of their product information is spread via word of mouth, and the majority of their business income is from repeat customers.

Kathy is motivated to run this business because she believes there needs to be significant change in how healthcare is managed.  “Healthcare or “Sick care” is flawed in the sense that it only focuses on treating people who already have an existing condition.  We’re taking care of those who are sick, but there is little work towards disease prevention.  The fish oil helps us to be proactive in maintaining someone’s health,” said Kathy. 

While Kathy has the desire to change healthcare, her business doesn’t have an absolute vision yet.

“We’re hopeful for growth, but we’re not in a traditional business model,” said Kathy.  “My goal right now is to keep helping people with the benefits fish oil offers.”

Further information on omega-3 fish oil is available at www.inflammationsolutions.com and in the book “Fish Oil The Natural Anti-Inflammatory.”