Despite rising interest in health among modern males, market researchers believe the frontier is still wide open for innovation and personalized nutrition products tailored to those with Y chromosomes.
In fact, 26% of men have reported increasing their supplement use in recent years, according to research from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).
The men’s health and wellness market was historically dominated by solutions to physical problems including sexual and reproductive health, and overall virility. These are still prominent demands, which are more well-met today, but the net of men’s health needs and preferences is widening at a greater rate than ever.
Consumers are seeking more holistic solutions, new products are coming online at a faster rate, and researchers are tapping into the discovery of new applications for well-established nutritional products.
In Western culture, attitudes surrounding men’s health have been changing over the last 10 years or so. Academics suggest men once subjected themselves to a host of unhealthy habits at greater rates, operating under archaic stereotypes that their reputation or “manhood” was contingent on powering through unhealthy or risky behaviors and seeking help from no one. Beginning with the baby boomer generation’s behavioral shift, it appears men are adopting more proactive, everyday approaches to maintaining their health and preventing issues down the line at marginal but steady rates.
Established companies are beginning to hone in on men’s particular needs brought up by biology and behavioral differences, while new brands are emerging with a full-fledged focus on health demands unique to men.
According to a survey conducted by Lycored, an ingredients manufacturer specializing in carotenoid-based products, cardiovascular disease and diabetes—both prominent metabolic conditions—top the charts of the health conditions most feared by older men in the West.
This is likely for good reason, as cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and more than 100 million Americans are afflicted with either diabetes or prediabetes symptoms. Men are also more likely than women to experience adverse medical events related to cardiovascular function.
While metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and (pre)diabetes are the most fear-inducing health concerns, the silver lining of these conditions is that they are preventable in most patients. The intrigue in preventive measures, too, is beginning to trickle down from boomers to gen Xers and people as young as millennials. While lifestyle and overall diet are key to preventing many metabolic and cardiovascular conditions, interest is abundant in which supplements may further aid in this process.
Research has been abound in the omega-3s industry, attempting to further substantiate the evidence demonstrating the efficacy of EPA and DHA in reducing the morbidity and lethality of cardiovascular events. Consumers are also exploring omega-3 products from a variety of sources, including krill and plant-based options like algae.
Researchers from Harvard University predicted in March that Amarin’s prescription omega-3 product, Vascepa, would be capable of preventing 70,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone, based on the results of a 2018 trial called REDUCE-IT, which evaluated the efficacy of the proprietary icosapent ethyl drug in a population of 8,179 adults with elevated cardiovascular risk.
Plant sterols and other plant-based ingredients are important nutritional options in the men’s heart health market as well. A 2003 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggested that ingesting 2-3 grams of plant sterols daily for several weeks can help to reduce LDL cholesterol, which is associated with cardiovascular risk, by competing for the same enzymes as cholesterol. While the biological mechanism and its effects have been studied, researchers are still working to quantify the impact a healthy intake of plant sterols could have on heart disease statistics.
Additionally, researchers continue to be intrigued by the role that fibers, especially insoluble prebiotic fibers, have in protecting heart health. A recent preliminary study published in Circulation in February suggested an unidentified mechanism triggered by insoluble prebiotic fibers may help mitigate blood pressure spikes in mice.
Meanwhile, research and meta-analyses observing the role that flavonoids, carotenoids, and other antioxidants have on overall heart health are also garnering the intrigue of consumers and supplement manufacturers alike. Ingredients and products derived from a host of herbal and botanical ingredients such as citrus fruits, teas, vegetables, and other plants continue to gain notoriety.
In February, the journal Advances in Nutrition published a meta-analysis, the largest of its kind, synthesizing the results of over 39 studies across the globe evaluating the overall reduction in cardiovascular risk factors and mortality that green and black tea can offer. Participants of previous studies were evaluated for overall cardiovascular health outcomes with a minimum follow-up period of one year of regular tea drinking, while extracts and supplements were excluded from the study. Tea flavonoids, long believed to be modulators of enzymes involved in oxidative and inflammatory stress, NO status enhancement, and endothelial function, resulted in an average 4% lower risk of CVD mortality, a 2% lower risk of CVD events, and a 4% lower risk of stroke, and a 1.5% lower risk of all-cause mortality.
Sexual Health & Testosterone
Even with growing interest in a wider range of men’s health applications, supplements new and old that promote healthy testosterone levels certainly won’t be edged out of high demand. Modulating the masculinity-defining hormone is appealing to many men seeking to build muscle, remain vital, and maintain healthy sexual function, especially in an era where biological, social, and environmental factors of modernity are attributed to a steady decline in testosterone levels with age.
Testosterone naturally tapers off as men reach the later stages of the aging process. However, multiple studies indicate that today’s men overall are lacking the “T levels” seen in the generations before them. Over the past several decades, JAMA reported the average testosterone levels of U.S. men have been declining steadily, by about 1% each year since 1980, along with steady declines in average grip strength. While some research correlates certain health issues with higher levels of testosterone, such as cardiovascular disease, there is also evidence that low testosterone levels can increase the likelihood of a greater number of health issues, such as brittle bones (in a process similar to what causes osteoperosis), risk of cancer, and an increased prevalence of psychological disorders.
A sample of recent research includes evidence that botanical products sourced from tribulus terrestris, ashwagandha, maca, fenugreek, ginger, as well as D-Aspartic Acid and several other amino acids, can not only boost testosterone levels but provide improvements in many athletic and sexual performance metrics.
Prescription drugs such as Viagra were the flagship in erectile dysfunction (ED)demands for many decades, however, men have been rethinking a clinical approach in favor of natural solutions that target some of the compounding factors related to sexual dysfunction, such as blood pressure, stress, inflammation, and more. In total, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that up to 30 million U.S. men experience ED; and type 2 diabetes is a leading risk factor compounding ED probability.
The marketplace for supplements purporting to improve men’s overall sexual function has been historically littered with questionable products that, for example, contained unlisted adulterants such as ED drugs. However, as more scientifically-backed products come online, the overall sexual health nutraceutical segment grows increasingly legitimate and substantiated in the eyes of consumers and scientific researchers.
Researchers continue to evaluate natural compounds that could provide men with more mojo in the bedroom, and many of the testosterone-modulating products previously mentioned have also been studied for these benefits. Specialty supplements, such as those sourced from horny goat weed, Yohimbine, and red ginseng, have a primary function centered around performance and potential ED improvements.
Erectile dysfunction is often caused by lifestyle factors that men can control, like alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, stress, and poor diet, noted Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients. “One of the causes is the decline in de novo synthesis of testosterone. However, taking testosterone in patches, for example, is only addressing the surface of that issue, and may be a short-term boost. The natural, safe and longer-term solution is a Malaysian herb long used for sexual virility and overall physical energy and endurance. Tonkgat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) has been studied in depth and shown to help men feel younger sexually and physically.”
One study focused on the outcomes of the company’s proprietary and patented Tongkat Ali extract, LJ100, on various parameters in 20 male volunteers between 38 and 58 years of age with varied health conditions (International Journal of Andrology, 2005). The volunteers were randomly given either a placebo or LJ100 in doses of 200, 400 or 600 mg for two months.
The study showed improvement in reported sexual desire and performance among the majority of men, along with higher levels of testosterone and DHEA, and better HDL cholesterol, Eng said.
Horphag Research supplies Pycnogenol, a proprietary French maritime pine bark extract found in over 1,000 foods and supplements. Recently, researchers conducted a study which showed that in addition to its wide range of antioxidant and inflammation-support properties, Pycnogenol may just do the trick for those with ED. In a three-month study, 52 participants with ED were broken down into type 2 diabetes and non-diabetes groups, and those who supplemented with 120 mg of Pycnogenol saw substantial improvements in an International Index of Erectile Function questionnaire (45% improvement in the diabetes participant group, and 22% improvement in the ED-only group). Additionally, those with type 2 diabetes saw a 20% reduction of LDL cholesterol, and those with ED only saw a 14% improvement of LDL cholesterol levels. Serum glucose levels also improved in the diabetes group by 22%, according to the study, published in the Bratislava Medical Journal.
Men are more likely today than ever before to experience prostate issues, as the rates of both enlarged prostates and prostatic cancers rise. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) causes a host of unpleasant symptoms related to urination, and leading research suggests that BPH affects about one in two men. For many, the prostate is just as much viewed as a ticking time bomb as it is a functional reproductive organ, given the prevalence of urinary tract issues and incidences of cancer.
While many BPH cases can be resolved by other measures, such as overall dietary improvements and weight loss, the well-known natural ingredients saw palmetto and lycopene continue to surge in popularity for targeting or preventing BPH symptoms. These supplements continue to pull in the lion’s share of prostate R&D in the natural products world.
However, a long-term cohort study published last year indicated that mushroom consumption might be a preventive factor in prostate cancer risk. Researchers evaluated 36,000 Japanese men in an International Journal of Cancer publication which showed an association between mushroom consumption and a decreased prevalence of prostate cancer, and that the magnitude of this benefit was seen in men 50 years and older who ate mostly meat and dairy products with little fruit or vegetables incorporated into their daily diet. Across many species, mushrooms have high vitamin and mineral content, as well as other compounds known to possess antioxidant qualities.
The Quest for Euphoria
Men are further exploring nutritional avenues they can take to improve their overall mood, response to stress, cognition, and energy levels, with a host of adaptogens and nootropics on the market evidenced to improve emotional well-being and overall acuity.
While the male consumer base looks for products with nootropic properties that may boost energy levels, a growing segment is also in need of relaxation benefits, as stress continues to affect unprecedented numbers of adults, according to the American Psychological Association.
As market researchers have observed, consumers are increasingly interested in food products believed to hold adaptogenic properties, and the “food as medicine” approach is entrenching itself in the mainstream. For many men, stress is a huge factor in how they approach healthy aging, and more research is underway to determine the degrees to which stress can influence appearance, immune function, inflammation, and a host of other chronic health conditions.
Consumers seeking natural products, in turn, often rule out other foods and beverages in their diet which may have detrimental effects on their cognition, including alcohol. Companies such as Kin Euphorics and Mingle Mocktails have presented a relatively novel idea to create cocktails using blends of adaptogens, nootropics, and other botanicals to tap into demand for a wellness-focused functional beverage that serves as an alcohol alternative.
Additionally, with surveys reporting that millennials are less frequent or heavy consumers of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol than generations prior (each of which are more likely to be used and/or abused by men), and anecdotal evidence that sobriety and its benefits are becoming a trend among young people, there is a clear gap for mood-elevating food products to fill in ways that are more aligned with holistic health goals.
Meanwhile, many male consumers a bit longer in the teeth are hoping to maintain focus and resilience as their bodies become less efficient at absorbing nutrients.
Currently, worldwide, men (and women) are experiencing an unprecedented level of stress, noted Eng. “Formulating a men’s health product that not only addresses sexual health but reduces symptoms of stress (that include erectile dysfunction and loss of libido) will be very well embraced.”
In one study (JISSN, 2013), 32 men and 31 women with moderate stress levels took either 200 mg of LJ100 per day or a placebo for four weeks. The LJ100 group showed significant improvements in tension (-11%), anger (-12%) and confusion (-15%) compared to placebo. Stress hormone profile (salivary cortisol and testosterone) was significantly improved by LJ100, with reduced cortisol (-16%) and increased testosterone (+37%). “The authors concluded that LJ100 appears to have significant potential for restoring hormone balance (cortisol/testosterone) and improving psychological mood state in humans exposed to various modern stressors, including aging, dieting and exercise stress,” said Eng.
Adaptogens have been significant and rising stars in the dietary supplement world for these reasons. Medicinal plants such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, ginseng, teas (mostly with high L-Theanine content), are common names in the mix, as more people seek out holistic solutions to environmental and social stressors.
Lactium, a proprietary milk-derived peptide developed in France is used in a range of formulations, and is well-studied for its effects on lowering cortisol levels and interacting with GABA receptors in such a way to promote feelings of calm, stress reduction, and sleep improvements.
When it comes to the management of mood, stress, and sleep, cannabidiol (CBD) has been the obvious newcomer, attracting unprecedented consumer interest.
In 2019, for the first time ever, sales of CBD products usurped those of turmeric/curcumin products (in the natural category), which are also associated predominantly with research on mood health and stress reduction benefits, according to an HerbalGram report.
On the other side of the buzz is a rising tide of products known for more stimulating effects called nootropics, known to boost memory, focus, and executive cognitive function. Supplements such as GABA, resveratrol, creatine, and proprietary ingredients are garnering interest among researchers who are assessing efficacy in improving executive function and cognitive performance, especially in otherwise healthy people.
Plenty More than Protein
The sports nutrition segment was once dominated by male bodybuilders, but as the long-term positive health correlations of living an active lifestyle continue to emerge, the entire market has gone mainstream as consumers seek more casual athletic performance benefits.
Vaughn Dubow, marketing manager, Americas, Lonza, reported the company has seen a broadening of what was once a more niche category. Many of the archetypical bodybuilders that once composed the majority of this segment, however, are keeping tabs on the same new trends and innovations that the rest of the broadening segment shows interest in.
“It’s not just new specialty ingredients emerging, but also the discovery of new specialty ingredient combinations and formulations that can further enhance sports performance and/or recovery, while also meeting the preferences of aspirational consumers,” Dubow said. “Lonza’s vegan MuscleGuard formula, for example, is a proprietary blend of four existing ingredients which was clinically tested on both men and women to demonstrate the benefits for muscle mass, strength, and activity. Meanwhile, ingredients from naturally-derived sources, such as Lonza’s antioxidant-rich Oceanix marine phytoplankton, are expanding the range of science-backed plant-based solutions for male and female sports nutrition consumers.”
The plant-based revolution has certainly shaken up the sports nutrition market. Different blends of beans, grains, seeds, and other phyto-proteins can offer all nine essential amino acids, fats, probiotics, vitamins, and more, and the innovations offer unique flavor profiles and further benefits that appeal to a broad audience.
The men’s personal care market, featuring a mix of grooming and skin care products, is expected to grow by tens of billions of dollars by 2022, according to Allied Market Research. Less bold predictions are being made on the ingestible alternative found in cosmeceuticals, or nutricosmetics. But it’s safe to project that a significant portion of nutrition-savvy consumers could be seeking out holistic solutions to turn back the clock a few years, or maintain a youthful glow they already have.
The appeal that many cosmeceuticals for skin, hair, and nails have over more conventional topicals is a wider range of benefits that intersect demands for solutions to other issues. Many antioxidant products potent in vitamins A, C, and E, for example, inhibit the production of free radicals, helping to improve inflammation and mitigate the natural aging process not just within the body, but in skin, too.
CoQ10, a compound known for its benefits to cognitive function, heart health, and visual signs of aging, is soaring, with hundreds of new CoQ10 product launches having taken place over the past few years. The consumer base appears to be solidly made up of an aging population, which is intuitive, as the body naturally becomes depleted of CoQ10 as time takes its toll. Like many other anti-aging products, those with CoQ10 are seeing the greatest success in regions of Asia and Europe, while only 12 CoQ10 products were launched in the U.S. compared to 60 in Japan in the year 2010. By 2026, CoQ10 is expected to become a billion dollar industry, according to a report from Global Market Insights.
For direct beauty from within applications, collagen has been popular in the supplement and functional food market, offering hair, skin, and nail benefits, along with joint health.
A key benefit for healthy aging, Dubow said, is maintaining joint health, flexibility, and mobility over time to allow consumers to stay active as they age.
New Frontiers, False Summits
As ingredient innovation and product research accelerates, male consumers are venturing off the beaten path of known micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, into well-researched botanical products with long histories of use, reflected by a 9.4% sales growth for botanical health products, according to HerbalGram.
Men are looking to maintain longevity in more multifaceted ways. Research on many well-known products and ingredients applicable to men’s health continues to take unexpected turns as more endpoints are investigated.
“Lonza’s consumer research does show that, across both sexes, the number of consumers seeking support to manage specific health and well-being goals through dietary supplements went up by 18% in 2018 alone,” Dubow said. “However, convenience still remains key for men and women alike: 48% of supplement users in the U.S. prioritize products which are easy to use or consume. Combination products enabled by innovative delivery technologies are also on the rise.”
Suffice it to say, there are many new frontiers for researchers and consumers alike to explore within the men’s health nutrition market. Still, many false summits await those seeking panaceas or cure-alls.