Features

Antioxidants Outlook: Expanding Options for Aging Well

By Sean Moloughney, Editor | March 1, 2017

More specialized products offer consumers fresh opportunities to meet their wellness goals.

Facing modern stressors and environmental toxins, many health-conscious consumers understand the value of antioxidant foods and supplements. Protecting the body from damaging free radicals, these substances may play a role in the management or prevention of certain medical issues, and have become a sought-after staple for healthy aging and overall wellness.

Driven by continued research, the antioxidant market has started to shift toward more nuanced, targeted and personalized approaches, and away from general, broad-brush marketing claims.

In terms of overall sales, a recent report from Allied Market Research estimated the global antioxidants market generated $2.92 billion in 2015, and predicted it will reach $4.53 billion by 2022, registering a CAGR of 6.42% during the forecast period.

Motivations & Drivers
The most important driver for awareness of antioxidants, and subsequent usage, is consumer education, according to Scott Steinford, president and executive director of the CoQ10 Association and the Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA), Salt Lake City, UT.

“The importance and significance of antioxidants are becoming increasingly evident to dietary supplement buyers,” he said, noting an evolution of understanding and usage.

“Antioxidants as we know them today were first used in the nineteenth century in the rubber industry to optimize vulcanization. In the twentieth century, it was noted antioxidants could prolong the shelf life of prepared foods. Today, we recognize the effects of oxidative stress on disease and aging. Vitamins C and E are two antioxidant vitamins initially noted for the impact of their deficiency. Today, the biggest trend is anti-aging and quality of life improvement.”

Generally, consumers are more interested and informed about preventive medicine, according to Leslie Gallo, vice president of operations, Artemis International, Fort Wayne, IN, and they are actively seeking solutions for issues associated with aging. “Increased awareness and understanding, and the broad acceptance of the role that antioxidants play in a healthy aging process keep antioxidants going strong, in spite of issues surrounding in vivo and in vitro analysis. Consumers are on the antioxidant bandwagon.”

As people live longer, they are increasingly focused on healthy aging, which product developers can leverage, she said, by communicating the importance of and mechanism of action for antioxidants that combat a wide range of conditions.

“Since the mid 1990s when antioxidants somewhat crawled, and then burst onto the scene, to now in 2017, people and producers have come a very long way on an up and down learning curve,” Ms. Gallo said. “The good thing is that there is still a long and productive way to go, now driven more so by science than conjecture. That makes the pathway tougher but the destination more efficaciously fruitful for an aging America.”

Chris Fields, vice president of scientific affairs, Applied Food Sciences Inc. (AFS), Austin, TX, said the beverage market has been a significant driver for the antioxidants market. “In fact, per a recent SPINS report (completed in October of 2016), of the top five refreshment beverages that demonstrated the highest absolute dollar growth in 2016, two of them had antioxidant claims as a primary position (Bai +$77 million and GT’s Kombucha +$33 million).

From an ingredient standpoint, Mr. Fields said his company has seen particular growth in the research and development of “healthy energy” products, which are driving the use of antioxidants.

“A large portion of our business is now supporting product manufacturers that are simply looking to stand out, and antioxidants offer that added-value to help them do so,” he said. “Apart from brands like Bai or POM Wonderful, which use ‘Antioxidant Infusions’ or ‘Antioxidant Superpower’ as their primary label claim, we tend to see most manufacturers using antioxidants as more of a complement to other functional benefits.”

Antioxidants are becoming more specialized in the sense that the science and health benefits are becoming more specific, said Lynda Doyle, senior vice president of global marketing, OmniActive, Morristown, NJ. “Correlating how an antioxidant benefits a particular system—like cardiovascular, joint and eye health, to name a few—resonates more with consumers than just a broader use of the word as a claim.” Consequently, there’s been a shift in the category that takes a more science-based approach to develop claims and benefits that are more meaningful to consumers.

“Another driver in the category is selling antioxidants’ benefits around prevention rather than treatment,” said Ms. Doyle. “As an aging consumer base—such as baby boomers—looks to more natural approaches to stay healthy longer, antioxidants can play a leading role.”

Ramon Luna, marketing coordinator, Ecuadorian Rainforest, Belleville, NJ, also noted an uptick in antioxidants positioned for the anti-aging market, driven in part by consumers looking to keep their skin looking healthy. “As more studies come out and marketers refine the way they deliver the benefits of antioxidants to consumers, I believe sales of antioxidants will continue to rise and the delivery method of antioxidants will vary. Future studies should include various uses of antioxidants to fully grasp their potential and open up other markets for their use.”

Antioxidants help to counteract the damaging effects of free radicals, promoting a healthy oxidative balance, noted Andrew Jacobson, CEO of Algalif, a high-grade microalgae ingredient supplier from Iceland. “An antioxidant is a molecule stable enough to donate an electron to a free radical and neutralize it, thus reducing its capacity for damage. These antioxidants delay or inhibit cellular damage mainly through their free radical scavenging property. Dietary intake is a very important source of antioxidants.”

Several decades of research suggests that consuming greater amounts of antioxidant-rich foods might help people to stay healthy, he added. “Because of these results, there has been a lot of interest in antioxidant supplements. Dietary supplementation with antioxidants is receiving growing attention and is increasingly adopted in Western countries.”

Natural Premium
Demand for natural antioxidants has been driving overall growth in the category, and consumers are trying to understand more about phytonutrients from whole-food sources, said Andrew Wheeler, director of marketing, FutureCeuticals, Inc., Momence, IL. “Consumers demand clean and transparent labels, as well as clinically proven ingredients. Within this transparency and efficacy movement there is an undercurrent that is looking to better understand the source of antioxidants and how they truly affect the body. Clinically validated ingredients that possess antioxidant action provide an opportunity to reintroduce antioxidants and the important role they play in human health.”

Sébastien Bornet, vice president of global sales and marketing at Horphag Research, exclusive worldwide supplier of Pycnogenol, agreed that more consumers are looking for natural products that support overall health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. “Branded ingredients also continue to gain momentum in the antioxidant category as consumers are spending more time researching evidence-based, safe and efficacious products and ingredients for their health needs.”

As consumers educate themselves about the benefits of antioxidants, Mr. Bornet said he expects to see continued growth and popularity for natural products in the years to come.

Modern lifestyles often result in excess production of free radicals to such an extent that they outnumber the body’s natural defense system of antioxidants, said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa, East Windsor, NJ. This makes supplementation necessary to maintain balance. Owing to their numerous health benefits, antioxidants have gained significant popularity. Strong consumer awareness, supported by clinical research findings, has also propelled the market, he said.

“Use of antioxidants today, unlike earlier days, is customized in terms of ‘clean-label and natural’ antioxidant ingredients, as more and more customers are keen to know about their source of antioxidant supplements,” said Mr. Majeed. “In addition, customers, both young and old, are becoming aware of a wide range of health benefits of antioxidants, including anti-aging, skin health, cardiovascular, immunity and more, which are more specific and clinically-proven.”

Interestingly, he added, customers are also focusing on the health of their pets by supplementing antioxidant food and supplements to provide overall health and wellness support (e.g., to maintain coat health, make food more palatable, manage weight and even protect from possible infections).

Dean Mosca, president, Proprietary Nutritionals Inc., Kearny, NJ, said whole fruits and vegetables offer an abundance of antioxidant potential. “Although the majority of supermarket shoppers realize that fruits and vegetables in colors that span the rainbow are antioxidant-laden, and therefore are healthy, many skirt this section.”

According to a December 2016 survey conducted by ORC International for Welch Foods, while 63% of Americans know they should eat colorful produce, only 32% will include multi-colored fruits and vegetables in their diet for health purposes, he noted. Additionally, the survey found that 44% of Americans don’t know or aren’t sure that specific colors of fruits and vegetables offer unique health benefits.

“The American Heart Association has emphasized the need for regular consumption of colored produce, including cranberries, in its ‘Healthy For Good’ campaign,” said Mr. Mosca. “Its website contains numerous videos showing delicious ways to use nature’s vegetal resources.”

Know Your Audience
Appealing to a broad consumer audience, antioxidants factor into overall energy and well-being, said Horphag’s Mr. Bornet. “The growing conversation on healthy aging  is one of the drivers behind the expanded interest in antioxidant-based supplements to help care for joints, cognitive health, skin health, cardiovascular benefits and more.

Consumers 50 years and older are increasingly aware of the role antioxidants can play in their health regimen, according to OmniActive’s Ms. Doyle. “An older population is a prime target for antioxidant supplements correlated to their concerns as a measure to prolong their health, stay active and sharp rather than as a treatment for disease.”

Interest in food-sourced nutrition has also become a prime category for antioxidant fortification. “These consumers recognize that natural compounds found in foods can be potent antioxidants and contribute to their overall strategy of a healthy lifestyle,” Ms. Doyle added. “With the advent of more specialized food-based antioxidants coming to the market, this demographic can be a key consumer for antioxidants especially in more food-based applications like bars and drinks.”

According to Mr. Steinford, educated consumers are adopting antioxidant products for a broad range of applications. “Various antioxidants haven been proven in vivo to provide energy, eye health, anti-aging support, skin health, cognitive health, inflammation relief and disease management benefits. This full array of benefits provides for a more broad spectrum of consumers becoming aware of the many advantages antioxidants provide.”

Stress, pollution, cigarette smoke and poor diet contribute to free radical production and consumers affected by these issues could also benefit from targeted, convenient dietary supplements.

According to Algalif’s Mr. Jacobson, the body accumulates oxidative damage over time, and a growing aging population is more susceptible to certain health conditions associated with oxidative stress. “Although antioxidant supplementation can’t turn back the clock, it can help seniors to support their bodies’ antioxidant defense system. Currently considered a hot topic in the supplements industry, healthy aging is poised to become even hotter as aging populations with disposable income in both developed and emerging markets seek preventive strategies to live longer and healthier lives. Moreover, as the retirement age gets pushed further and further, older people will likely face increased demands for vitality in a highly competitive job market.”

Overall, antioxidants are useful for a variety of health benefits, noted Elyse Lovett, marketing manager, Kyowa Hakko USA, New York, NY. “I think one of the most significant market trends in dietary supplements and foods is immune and detox benefits from antioxidants.” Millennials in particular are prime targets, she added.

“Those that are stressed in big city jobs, have families, live in places where pollutants from the environment and food could be an issue, are looking for overall health benefits are. There is so much awareness in this group on the long-term benefits of protecting your immune system as well as the benefits from whole body detoxification.”

In listening to customers, AFS’ Mr. Fields said companies tend to be targeting two core consumers, which he has dubbed “the conscious-millennial” and the “health-focused-realist.”

“To the millennial, transparency is a must, as it is all about trust—or lack thereof,” he said. “Millennials don’t want to be told a product is healthy by the manufacturer. They want to read the back of a label, recognize the ingredients and draw their own conclusion that the product is healthy for them. They tend to care about the environment, and things like sustainability are key to their ingredients as well. It is important that we, as ingredient suppliers, tell our story of partnering with local farmers, replanting what we use, and that being mindful about responsible sourcing transcends to the end consumer.”

On the other hand, the health-focused-realist is looking more at the facts. They tend to care about “free from” claims, that their product is non-GMO, certified organic, etc. “Any scientific support is a plus,” said Mr. Fields. “The more we can do, as ingredient suppliers, to help the product manufacturer certify that their products contain only premium quality ingredients that are USDA organic, GRAS, and non-GMO, the more useful we are to this core consumer.”

PNI’s Mr. Mosca said that antioxidants are highly specialized, and can benefit just about everyone. “As we know, women tend to shop for their families and are the most likely to purchase specific antioxidant supplements for their family members. And from our distinct perspective, our core consumers are indeed women of all ages who are concerned about urinary tract health.”

Many consumers not only understand, but actually expect to see antioxidants in a range of products, from shampoos and body care to snack foods and supplements, said Joe Kuncewitch, national sales manager, AstaReal, Inc., Burlington, NJ. “Interestingly, the purchase of independent beverage brand Bai, by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group for $1.7 billion this past November, showcases how much American consumers enjoy obtaining antioxidants in what they drink.”

Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable overall, and have a broader understanding of what they’re buying, as well as what to expect from products, according to Golan Raz, vice president of health and nutrition at Lycored, Orange, NJ, (part of Adama Group).

“Anti-oxidization isn’t a standalone objective when aiming for wellness but rather a bodily process that is a part of multiple important processes within our bodies. For example, when we go to the gym for a workout, increase in the level of free radicals is a natural outcome or side effect of the exercise we do. Naturally, we would like to balance it using nutritional tools. As a result, we see new groups (like people who work out regularly) consuming products that carry anti-oxidative benefits, among other benefits.”

As the senior population continues to age, the need for antioxidant and healthy aging products has become more apparent to younger generations, according to Cecilia McCollum, executive vice president, Blue California, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.

“If we are going to live past 80 or 90 we might as well be in good health, active, happy and still making plans for the future,” she said. “This is what antioxidants allow us to do. They help us prevent oxidative stress, cell damage caused by free radicals, and allow us to dream a long life. Longevity is very possible and to help attain longevity we must consume antioxidants, either fruits and vegetables or through dietary supplementation.”

Antioxidants also help reduce inflammation, which can have a tremendous impact on aging consumers, she said. “Aches and pains due to chronic inflammation, can suppress, diminish or prevent physical activity and this has serious and negative consequences on our quality of life and even our life expectancy.”

Baby boomers with disposable income are still the main buyers of antioxidants, according to FutureCeuticals’ Mr. Wheeler. “However, we also see a trend in everyday consumers looking to antioxidants for a slight edge in their daily workout. Strenuous physical activity generates high levels of ROS, which affect muscle performance and metabolism of lipids.”

Chronic diseases have been on the rise in the U.S. and consumers are intent on fighting off signs of aging with more natural approaches, said Aparna Kalidindi, PharmD, BCPS, technical sales and marketing manager, Natreon, Inc., New Brunswick, NJ. “This has led to the increase in use of antioxidant-rich foods and supplements for cardiovascular disease, bone and joint disease, eye health, immune health, and even visible signs of aging. Most of these consumers are the baby boomers who are trying to prevent or mitigate these chronic diseases.”

Antioxidants are also becoming popular among “weekend warriors.” These younger consumers are looking to help prevent chronic disease with a healthier lifestyle and consumption of foods and supplements rich in antioxidants, Dr. Kalidindi noted.

Product Trends
Whole food-based ingredients as well as botanical extracts have seen strong growth of late, according to Lycored’s Mr. Raz. “Each of these two segments contains multiple ingredients that carry anti-oxidative properties as well as other important health benefits (in some cases anti-inflammatory benefits as well as others). What we can learn from this is that antioxidants as a standalone category isn’t maintaining its historical place in the market and is being replaced by other categories that are synergistic with current trends and also carry the health benefits of antioxidant agents.”

He offered lycopene as an example, saying it is one of the strongest and most potent natural antioxidants. “When we search for lycopene we can find it under botanicals or whole foods categories—depending on the production method and technologies used to produce the material—and not under the antioxidants list. So, while antioxidants remain at the center of the overall dietary supplements market, the position they take is changing.”

Mr. Steinford noted that many antioxidants have entered the marketplace over the past 20 years and astaxanthin has gained rapid popularity. “Natural astaxanthin, derived from algae, has been clinically proven to provide a broad range of benefits ranging from energy production to cognitive health as well as joint health and skin health. Astaxanthin has been shown to cross the blood-brain, and blood-retinal barriers, meaning it can positively impact disorders related to eye, brain and central nervous system, among others.

In collaboration with Michael Murray, ND, NAXA recently released an e-book “The Whole Body Benefits of Astaxanthin” to help educate the industry and the public on natural astaxanthin.

AstaReal’s Mr. Kuncewitch said antioxidants like astaxanthin are “multi-talented,” as research has shown AstaReal astaxanthin, derived from the algae Haematococcus pluvialis, is effective in several key areas including sports nutrition, cognition, vision and skin complexion. “As such, they can be synergistic ingredients in condition-specific formulas.”

Records of microalgae as a dietary substance can be tracked back centuries, whereas the specific cultivation of microalgae for dietary purposes dates to the early 19th century, according to Haraldur Gardarsson, PhD, quality control manager, Algalif. More recently, advances in closed-system photobioreactor (PBR) technology has allowed the cultivation of Haematococcus pluvialis. “With the introduction of closed PBRs, the contamination risk was effectively negated. An additional advantage of the move away from open-pond raceways is that natural sunlight is no longer a prerequisite for optimal growth of Haematococcus pluvialis, as the cultivation systems can now be placed entirely indoors with artificial light. The successful cultivation of Haematococcus pluvialis in closed, indoor photobioreactors illustrates that with adequate control of all parameters, any microalgae can be cultivated in a controlled manner. Therefore, the future for new antioxidants derived from microalgae is bright.”

Mr. Steinford also noted the importance of CoQ10, which is needed for basic cell function. CoQ10 levels decrease with age and may be low in people with cancer, certain genetic disorders, diabetes, heart conditions, HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophies, and Parkinson’s disease. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels.

While most consumers are aware of traditional antioxidants like vitamins C and E, OmniActive’s Ms. Doyle said more exotic compounds like flavonoids, xanthophylls, diarylheptanoids and polyphenols are also gaining notoriety.

“This coincides with the shift in preference to food-based nutrition rather than synthetic vitamins. Herbal extracts, too, resonate with consumers because of their natural aspect and a long history of use. For example, curcumin continues to be a superstar in the herbal category because of a large body of science supporting its potential benefits tied to its role as a powerful antioxidant that mitigates oxidative stress, which plays a role in the pathology of disease.”

When developing new extracts from foods and herbs, Ms. Doyle said companies should focus on three key areas: bioavailability, safety and scientific research. For the consumer, this translates into a product that performs specific functions in the body without any adverse effects.

The poor bioavailability of curcumin has meant larger dosage requirements, she noted. “Increasing bioavailability can effectively increase efficacy at a lower dosage. The market for enhanced curcumin formulas is replacing standard powder extracts. OmniActive has been at the forefront of enhancing bioavailability of curcumin with the development of CurcuWIN Enhanced Curcumin.”  

Ms. Doyle also said carotenoids, pigments responsible for the yellow to red colors in foods and plants, have been emerging, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. “More than 600 carotenoids are found in nature, but only a fraction have been found to play a role in health. Lutein and zeaxanthin—collectively called xanthophylls—are potent antioxidants found in various tissues of the body and well known for their role in eye health by reducing photo-oxidative damage.”

Lutein and the two zeaxanthin isomers, RR-zeaxanthin (3R,3’R-zeaxanthin) and RS-zeaxanthin (3R,3’S-RS-zeaxanthin) are the only three carotenoids found in the eye, specifically in the macula. OmniActive recently completed a battery of clinical studies supporting the macular carotenoids’ role in eye health. “Specifically, we have shown that Lutemax 2020, which contains all three macular carotenoids, rapidly increases macular pigment density, improves contrast sensitivity and visual function under bright light conditions, and supports healthy vision while using digital devices, to name a few.”

More people are recognizing the value of “close-to-nature” products, as evident by their increased reliance on nature-based antioxidant foods and supplements, said Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed.

The company’s Curcumin C3 Complex is a versatile phytonutrient, obtained from the dried rhizomes of Curcuma longa (turmeric) and standardized for minimum 95% curcuminoids. “It has been scientifically validated to possess potent antioxidant potential, shown to be effective in managing numerous health conditions arising as a result of detrimental effects of oxidative stress. In a recent clinical trial, it was concluded that Curcumin C3 Complex supplementation could be a safe and effective way of managing oxidative stress-mediated progression of type II diabetes and its long-term complications (Inflammopharmacology, 2016).”

The company also offers a bioavailable form of selenium, Selenium SeLECT Pure.  “This micronutrient is a high-powered antioxidant that can effectively neutralize free radicals, which may lead to severe cell damage, thus proven to be vital for various processes encompassing energy utilization, immune mechanisms and antioxidant actions,” said Mr. Majeed.

Saberry is another natural, potent antioxidant from Sabinsa, obtained from the fruits of Emblica officinalis (Amla) and standardized to a minimum 10% β-glucogallin. Several studies have indicated that β-glucogallin, and not ascorbic acid, is the most optimal biomarker that reflects the biological potential of Amla, according to the company. Its broad-spectrum antioxidant activity finds application in inhibition of melanin formation, skin damage and photo-aging.

Many botanical ingredients used for energy also contain polyphenol compounds, according to Mr. Fields. AFS attempts to “maximize these healthy compounds and present them in a way that is easy to work with,” (i.e., water-soluble, neutral flavor profile, Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), etc.).

“As an example, look at guayusa tea extract. Guayusa is an emerging Amazonian tea leaf that contains a particularly unique blend of polyphenol compounds as well as caffeine. The antioxidant compounds are like that of green coffee and dark chocolate and they tend to synergistically balance the caffeine. AFS is the patent holder on a guayusa tea extraction method, allowing product makers to benefit more from higher levels of antioxidants and caffeine than otherwise found in its raw state.”

According to Mr. Wheeler, the coffee fruit polyphenols found in FutureCeuticals’ Coffeeberry line of coffee fruit ingredients offers antioxidants from a whole food matrix. Additionally, the company’s flagship antioxidant product is Spectra, a clinically researched ingredient that goes beyond antioxidant potential and demonstrates antioxidant action in the human body, Mr. Wheeler said. “A blend of natural ingredients, Spectra has been shown to inhibit free radical production, optimize oxygen utilization, and increase nitric oxide levels within the body.”

Dr. Kalidindi said many other fruits have recently emerged as antioxidant sources. Natreon offers Capros, an aqueous extract derived from the edible fruits of Phyllanthus emblica (amla). “Multiple randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies which have been published in peer reviewed journals have shown that Capros significantly improves endothelial function. Capros also significantly improves the lipid profile by increasing HDL and lowering LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. In addition, Capros also significantly lowers HbA1c levels and hsCRP levels. Capros is a pro-oxidation free antioxidant, unlike some even well known antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and proanthocyanidins.” 

Natreon also supplies AyuFlex, an aqueous extract derived from the edible fruits of Terminalia chebula. Several randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that AyuFlex significantly improved WOMAC scores, knee swelling index, and visual analog (VAS) scores in moderately osteoarthritic subjects, noted Dr. Kalidindi.

The antioxidant market, as a whole, continues to expand with more science on natural sources. For example, Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract has been shown to benefit circulation, joints, eyes, respiratory health and more, offering consumers “all-around” benefits, according to the company’s Mr. Bornet.

Antioxidants are dual in nature, according to Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Bradenton, FL. “They are at once condition-specific and generalized in supporting overall health via subduing free radicals. Bergamonte (Bergamot Phenolic Fraction) is valuable for cardiometabolic support products, as well as general daily antioxidant supplements.”

Bergamonte contains bioactive compounds of extract from the juice and albedo of Citrus bergamia Risso, standardized to >38% polyphenolic flavonoids consisting of naringin, neohesperidin, neoeriocitrin, 1% melitidin, and 2% brutieridin, she noted. “Bergamonte is produced using patented extraction technology through collaborative works of various universities and research institutions in Italy. These flavonoids are clinically proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, healthy blood glucose activity, increase HDL-cholesterol levels, and promote healthy weight management.”

According to Kyowa’s Ms. Lovett, glutathione, known as the “master antioxidant,” is found in every cell of the body. “Glutathione, a tripepide composed of glutamate, cysteine and glycine has known antioxidant activity and it is also able to regenerate other antioxidants like vitamins C and E.” While glutathione occurs naturally in foods like dairy, vegetables and fresh meats, research suggests higher intake may be necessary, she said.

Kyowa Hakko’s Setria Glutathione is a clinically studied and patented form of glutathione. Setria is manufactured through a patented fermentation process to yield high purity and high quality; it is also vegetarian and allergen-free. “Setria glutathione not only promotes a healthy immune function, it also empowers the internal detoxification process,” said Ms. Lovett.

Blue California recently introduced two antioxidants, ErgoActive (L-Ergothioneine) and BC-DHQ (dihydroquercetin); both are soluble in water, can help prevent oxidative stress and premature aging. BC-DHQ has benefits associated with skin rejuvenation when used in topical applications as well.

L-Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in small quantities in mushrooms, oats, garlic, animal organs (liver, kidneys) and some varieties of beans. DHQ is a flavonoid that Blue California produces through fermentation. Flavonoids are naturally found in plants and in small quantities in foods like red onions. This potent antioxidant also offers anti-inflammatory health benefits and anti-bacterial protection, according to the company, making it ideal for dietary supplements and functional beverages as well as cosmetics and personal care products.

Berries remain at the top of the food chain when it comes to being recognized as natural antioxidant powerhouses, according to Melanie Bush, director of science and quality control communications, Artemis International. “They remain steadfast as well known sources of free-radical fighting power. Regardless of the type of chemical assay used to measure antioxidant capacity, the fact remains that the red-purple color pigments of berries, called anthocyanins, contribute to the overall high antioxidant values. The trend is such that the darker the berry, the higher the antioxidant capacity, with berries like black elderberry and aroniaberry holding strong at the top of the list. Whether being added as part of an overall wellness diet, or taken to aid in combating specific ailments, berry antioxidants always make the cut for the ever popular ‘Top 10 Lists’ of functional foods.”

Specific products like Artemis International’s BerrySelect are formulated with some of the top performing antioxidant berries into a unique blend that offers the benefit of a variety of anthocyanin profiles to target multiple angles of health, she added.

Cranberries have a long history of use for urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, the source of the cranberry is very important, said PNI’s Mr. Mosca. “If your customers are drinking cranberry juice for urinary tract and bladder health, they may be doing themselves a disservice because cranberry juice has a high sugar content. Supplements that contain concentrated forms of cranberry like Cran-Max are preferable not only for the sugar-conscious, but for convenience.”

Cran-Max has been shown to have a high concentrate (55-60 mg) of proanthocyanidins (PAC), the active component in cranberries that inhibits bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall. “This means by taking one, 500 mg dose of Cran-Max, the supplement will start working immediately to combat invading pathogens,” said Mr. Mosca. “A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy compared the effects of a commonly prescribed antibiotic (trimethoprim) to Cran-Max in women with recurring UTIs and found that Cran-Max was comparable to the antibiotic for UTI prevention.”

Unlike antibiotics, which kill bacteria, cranberry works by changing the bacterial structure and preventing adhesion to tissues so it works effectively for prevention without the risk of developing antibiotic resistance.

Cran-Max is distinguished by its Bio-Shield technology which serves to “protect” the active healing elements found in cranberry, allowing for passage through the digestive tract to specific target receptor sites throughout the body. Meanwhile, Cran-Max tackles more than just the one pathogen that causes urinary tract and bladder infections. There is increasing evidence that cranberry in general has activity against other bacteria including H. pylori (cause of ulcers) and Step. mutans (cause of tooth decay). 

Future Focus
So-called “bio-foods” are one of the most interesting new technologies gaining momentum in the nutraceuticals market, according to Lycored’s Mr. Raz. “Bio-foods use advanced agricultural technologies to produce high-potency, plant-based antioxidants. This breakthrough in agriculture science allows for increased potency, and in essence, greater efficacy with a lower dosage. I see this technology evolving and becoming mainstream in the next few years. The importance of these technologies is that once matured they can serve as a platform for multiple plant-based antioxidants.”

The power of antioxidants is driven from their actual biological and biochemical function. They are essential for wellness and as a result will continue to be a major part of human nutrition. “The open question is, what are the sources, forms and delivery systems that will play a role in years to come?”

As nutritional consumer awareness evolves through education, antioxidants will become an increasingly significant contributor to a proactive health regimen, according to Mr. Steinford. “Based on the number of increasing antioxidant product offerings, as a category, antioxidants contribute significantly to the dietary supplement industry and will continue to do so in the future. Consumers will continue to buy antioxidants where they can ‘feel’ the benefit.”

Kyowa’s Ms. Lovett agreed that understanding about the benefits of antioxidants and the protection they offer in fighting free radicals will lead to a surge in the market along with new targeted formulations. “Clinical research will be an integral part of condition-specific nutrition,” she said.

The “antioxidant” claim remains very general for the majority of consumers who can’t define specific benefits, said FutureCeutical’s Mr. Wheeler. “As the antioxidant market continues to evolve, we see it focusing on high-quality scientific research on humans. Consumers will also continue to demand more natural antioxidant sources, backed by a transparent supply chain from grower to packager. We have been organic farmers for 160 years, so we think that we have something significant to offer for as long as people want clean label products made from real food—and want it backed up with real human science.”

Antioxidants should not be viewed as magic bullets, noted OmniActive’s Ms. Doyle. “Oxidative stress is a fundamental stage in almost any condition, but the type of free radicals produced can be different for each. Therefore, providing an antioxidant blend with defined attributes can better address condition-specific nutrition.”

Positioning antioxidants for more targeted applications resonates with younger demographics who are more interested in a personalized approach to nutrition, she added. “In truth, antioxidants should be viewed as playing a role across all age groups since they play an integral role at every stage.”

Scientific research continues to evolve, along with the role of nutrition in health, according to Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. “Going forward, consumers might get ‘personalized’ or ‘condition-specific’ nutritional recommendations from their dietitians or healthcare providers. This ‘tailor-made’ supplementation is gaining momentum as it is providing consumers an opportunity to fulfill their individual needs, specifically. For example, people with intolerances like gluten or lactose can opt for supplements that are free from such components.
Individuals in specific demographics, like elderly persons, menopausal women, or lactating mothers can be supplemented based on their individual requirements.”

As Americans become more engaged and informed about the attributes and benefits of products making antioxidant claims, the bar will be set higher for performance and proof of efficacy, according to Ms. Gallo from Artemis.