Ghana’s food supplements industry -A focus on Dr M. Y. Ceasar’s pioneering role

Some of the products of M. Y. CeaserSome of the products of M. Y. CeaserEvery human being desires a healthy lifestyle. In the face of skyrocketing health costs, a health principle that must be imbibed by every Ghanaian is staying healthy rather than getting well. Our well-being should be a top priority.

The famous American inventor, Thomas Edison, put it rightly when he said that the doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent diseases with nutrition. His assertion is ably supported by Thomas Fuller, who is quoted to have said:

“He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest (sic), but he that prevents it is the safest physician.”

Food supplements, not substitutes

The contribution of the food supplements industry in Ghana to the well-being of many Ghanaians has received little attention. According to a report by Euromonitor, a market intelligence firm based in the United Kingdom, the food supplements industry is worth $68 billion. Food supplements are intended to be used as supplements to, not substitutes for, a well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. When used properly, they help promote overall good health and prevent diseases.

Food supplements are classified in many countries as foods or natural health products.

Staying healthy, as opposed to getting well from a sickness, is not taken seriously by a lot of Ghanaians. The principles of staying healthy such as physical exercise, balanced diets, healthy eating habits and intake of food supplements are not adhered to by many people. According to Dr M.Y. Caesar, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of M.Y. Caesar Company Limited, a balanced diet helps in getting maximum health benefits for our bodies. ‘Food supplements have a lot of useful benefits.

When taken in addition to consuming food, they enable us to derive our daily dose of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals help protect the body from diseases; hence supplements can offer added “insurance” that helps one in meeting daily recommendations of vitamins and minerals needed by the body, especially in those who do not eat a healthy, balanced diet. Some Ghanaians are hesitant in taking food supplements but ‘supplements can contribute to improved muscular strength, boost the immune system, endurance and overall physical performance,’ says Dr Caesar.

Dr Caesar is one of the leading advocates of the intake of food supplements for a successful healthy living and has since backed this up with the establishment of M.Y. Ventures in Kumasi in 2005.

According to Dr Caesar, the company’s line of food supplement products cater for the needs of both men and women and also children. The products help in the detoxification of the body, provide nourishment, burn fat and reduce cholesterol. The company also offers natural herbs and food supplements to patrons who want to lose weight or boost their energy levels. He makes the point that the busy work schedules and multiple tasks performed by some workers make them get tired easily and this affects productivity. According to him, there are supplements to ensure that such people are well conditioned to carry out tasks successfully.

He points out that many Ghanaians spend most of their time working or carrying out tasks indoors and hence they do not get enough sunlight exposure which is the most abundant natural source of vitamin D. Many Ghanaians, according to him, are grossly deficient in vitamin D, an important pro-hormone. It is important to have a good and balanced intake of supplements rich in vitamin D.

Dr Caesar asserts that modern food supply is harshly imbalanced when examined against fatty acid composition. In order to balance things, it is important to eat more oily fish such as salmon or take food supplements. Doing so will help reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation and also support brain health and cognition.

When foods are not eaten raw or fermented, according to Dr Caesar, they usually lack the enzymes and bacterial composition for proper digestion. The over-reliance on antibiotic drugs and the excess consumption of “junk” foods can lead to bacterial imbalance in the gut and eventually lead to chronic diseases.  

“Our digestive health is largely dependent on magnesium,” says Dr Caesar. Having been in the business of ensuring healthy living for clients and patrons, his conclusion is that many Ghanaians are deficient in magnesium which is vital in keeping things moving. The lack of magnesium makes people experience headaches, energy loss, prone to diseases such as bone loss and organ failure. The intake of food supplements rich in magnesium can help in avoiding health conditions that result from the lack of magnesium in the human system”, he said.

Criticisms

One criticism against food supplements and the herbal industries, is the claim of the potency of products to treat all ailments. The marketing strategy of one solution for all problems, has been the bane of these industries. However, Dr Ceasar says, his set up acts contrary to this.

“We always tell our patients the truth. If you come here and we conclude that we cannot help you with your ailment, we make it clear to you.”

The confidence exuded by D. Caesar in the efficacy of the company’s products in ensuring a healthy lifestyle stems from the approval given by the Food and Drugs Agency (FDA) of Ghana. This approval, according to Dr Caesar, was not obtained on a silver platter. Each product on the company’s list,  has undergone all the necessary tests to ensure that patrons get what the product promises. Each product bears FDA certification. Products of the company are available only in its branches in Kumasi, Accra, Obuasi, Konongo, Sunyani, Techiman, Takoradi and Cape Coast. The company’s approach to its product distribution enables it to ensure that patrons and clients are not sold fake or adulterated products.

With a staff strength of 35 and roaming activities across the length and breadth of the country, M.Y. Caesar Company has established a strong presence in the food supplements industry. “These achievements have not come easy,” says Dr Caesar. “When we started championing a healthy living and getting people to patronise our products, we faced stiff competition from some well-established operators in the industry and some sceptics who doubted the efficacy of our products.”

According to Dr Caesar, they have been successful because of the good testimonials of patrons and clients.

There is a professional approach to how M.Y. Caesar Company Ltd. carries out its services. Just like in any modern medical facility with the objective of offering good service, the company has units for out-patients department (OPD), diagnosis, consulting, dispensary, laboratory and physiotherapy. Employees trained in laboratory technology and other scientific fields work together with workers trained in herbal medicine to offer clients solutions to ensure staying healthy.

To ensure that information on patrons and clients are well preserved and documented for efficiency in service delivery, all patrons and clients are issued with electronic cards that contain their biometric data. According to Dr Caesar, a visit to any of their branches by a patron will require the patron to present the card to an officer who will run checks in the database and then based on what is gathered, refer the patron to the next officer for the next line of services to be offered.

Health record of a patron is only known to the consulting officer and the patron. This approach ensures confidentiality of information regarding the health status of a patron or client.

The company has over the years directed its marketing and services to clients in the lower and middle classes. More effort, however, is focused now on people in the middle class. “Clients in the banking, insurance, telecommunications and other service sectors, come for consultation and treatment on a regular basis,” he said. “We are getting the message of staying healthy across to both the middle and upper classes well.” The campaign, according to Dr Caesar, is worth all the time and dedication, since it is all about healthy living.

Corporate social responsibility

The company has given meaning to what corporate social responsibility is about. M.Y. Caesar Company Ltd, through its numerous healthy living initiatives, promotes the formation of health clubs, whose focus is on physical exercises in some communities of the Kumasi metropolis. The company has also been offering its expertise and knowledge to some students of the Department of Herbal Medicine of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in the area of practicals, on an informal basis.

The company has supported education and agriculture, especially the “Asantehene Teachers’ Awards” and “National Farmers’ Day”. It has sponsored these events for a period of time. The company is currently assisting a school in Juaben in the Ashanti Region to establish an ICT centre. As a stakeholder in the health industry, M.Y. Caesar Company Ltd. has ensured that people who have ailments that cannot be treated by the company are directed to hospitals.  Recently, the company sponsored a surgical procedure to be performed on a tumour patient.

Measuring the performance of the company, Dr Caesar, who trained in Chinese traditional medicine at the South China University in Guangou, stated, ‘We have contributed our quota towards health delivery and we will continue to do so in the years ahead. The next line of action is to make our activity known to the rest of the country. We don’t want a situation where many Ghanaians will suffer preventable healt problems,’ he said.

By Kwame Asare Boadu/Ghana

Comments