Nutrition center caters to Fresh Meadows

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Fresh Meadows residents determined to ward off the flu and lingering winter colds or who want to enhance their sports performances through nutritional supplements can find what they need at a General Nutrition Center right near home.

The GNC Center at the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center near Kmart at 61-22 190th St., just south of the Long Island Expressway, has been open since September.

GNC is a corporate chain with more than 3,000 outlets in the United States and 15 countries, says store owner Rajan Panda, who also owns another outlet at the Metro Mall in Middle Village.

There are 20 GNC stores throughout Queens.

Panda says the enterprise started with a single store in Pennsylvania more than 60 years ago. He says the stores are arranged in as organized a way as possible for customers' convenience. Most of the products the center sells are made at the company's own manufacturing facility in Greenville, S.C., according to a company brochure.

"I like to hire people who have knowledge," Panda says. "This is a knowledge-based business. All my sales people advise you on the right stuff."

One of those knowledgeable sales people is store manager Kirit Shah, who has a degree in medicine from India.

"Most people come in for vitamins and minerals. Next is body build-up, then come diet systems and weight loss," says Shah.

A customer comes in search of a diet supplement, but Shah cautions him not to take the capsules at night because they speed up the metabolism, making it harder to fall asleep.

After the customer makes his purchase and leaves, Shah begins his tour of the 1,200 square-foot store, pointing to a shelf with bottles that contain preventive nutrition tablets.

Preventive nutrition wards off cartilage degeneration, osteoporosis, and keeps the body's enzyme system and nervous system in good shape, according to Shah.

For individual cell protection, there are antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, he says.

"Basically a lot of men's supplements are designed to protect the prostate and reproductive system," Shah says after entering the men's section. The herb yohimbe, which comes from a tree bark, enhances sexual drive, he notes.

The women's section has products designed to counter the effects of menopause, when women can lose 20 percent to 25 percent of the calcium they need. "If it is not replaced properly, chances of osteoporosis are high," Shah says.

He arrives at the vitamin section. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is good for preventing colds as most everyone knows. Vitamin B works in helping the body absorb other vitamins and minerals and assists the metabolism, Shah says.

At the back wall of the store, there are shelves of sports nutrition supplements, the second most popular product sought, Shah says.

Here, an entire section is devoted to garlic. "Garlic has been proven to be very useful for the cardiovascular system and the immune system," he says.

An enzyme section contains supplements that aid in the absorption of nutrients. Acidophilus, consisting of "healthy bacteria," is good for the digestive tract, according to Shah.

Another section is devoted to herbs. Echinacea (pronounced e-ki-na-sia), supports the body's natural resistance against colds and viruses. Ginseng boosts energy. About 25 percent of the U.S. population uses ginseng, Shah says.

Nearby are bottles of ginkgo biloba, a mood enhancer. And if you're feeling really low, there is also St. John's Wort, "the most proven mood booster," says Shah. The active ingredient in SJW is hyperzinea.

A rack holds a few books for sale for customers wishing to further their nutritional knowledge, and Shah says there are more titles on order.

GNC issues a gold card to its customers for added discounts. "Gold Card customers save 20 percent on every first Tuesday of the month," Shah says.

The chain also puts out two magazines for gold card customers - one on sports nutrition, the other on living healthy.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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