“Our goal is not to live to 120 years old, but to be vital and active at 85,” said Dr. Menolascino, who is also a key opinion leader at ingredient supplier Lycored, Orange, NJ. “What resonates with my clients is what I call the square-curve ideal of life. Don’t do the bell-shaped curve and be your best at 50 years old and then have a slow decline to 85. Do the square curve where you get to your best at 50, then stay there by working every year to optimize your health so that you are skiing at 85 with your grandchildren.”
This functional medicine model takes an individualized, systematic approach to health that focuses on nutrition, lifestyle choices and targeted use of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. Together, this trio activates good genes and turns off bad ones, said Dr. Menolascino. “Conversely, you can turn off good protective genes and turn on bad, potentially disease-causing genes by making poor lifestyle and nutritional choices.”
Golan Raz, senior vice president of Lycored’s Global Health division, said the path to wellness starts from the inside, out. “The body is the expression and manifestation of the way we think, feel, eat and exercise.” Increasingly, consumers are recognizing there isn’t a single solution to healthy aging, he added. “It is always a combination and a synergistic effort. Naturally, brands that can speak for that understanding will have a greater chance to impact the industry and consumers.”
There are two main factors driving the market, according to Mike Bush, president of Ganeden, Cleveland, Ohio, and executive board president of the International Probiotics Association: people are living longer today than ever before, and they have more of a focus on healthy living. “Our senior population is growing faster than any other time in history,” he said. “Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the 65-and-older population is expected to reach 83.7 million by 2050—almost double the size from 2012.”
How companies have approached the concept of healthy aging has evolved over time, Mr. Bush added. “We see healthy aging as making proactive lifestyle and dietary choices that focus on both short-term and long-term health benefits. In the past, healthy aging was a term associated with older generations. However, as consumers become more focused on overall health, the idea of healthy aging has expanded to include younger generations as well.”
Important elements of healthy aging involve maintaining mobility, vitality and appearance, according to Rod Benjamin, director of R&D and technical services, Bergstrom Nutrition, Vancouver, WA. “Key in achieving this goal is the maintenance of our joints, muscles and skin.” An aging population of Baby Boomers represents a substantial opportunity for the supplement industry, with both males and females looking to continue their active and healthy lives, he continued. “However, what might not be as obvious is that we’re now seeing Gen Xers becoming increasingly aware of their mortality, representing yet another key market segment.”
Overall, the idea of aging in a healthy way has become paramount to an older population, said Lara Niemann, marketing director, Americas, Gelita, Sergeant Bluff, IA. “We have a lot of drugs to help people live longer, but that is a tiny part of the equation. We want to live longer, better. We want to maintain a quality of life.”
That starts with a younger demographic—the 20- and 30-somethings who are beginning to take a more proactive approach to their health, she said. “They’re not symptomatic today and they don’t want to be symptomatic tomorrow.” Those in middle age, who may be seeing and experiencing some signs of aging, are more motivated to use dietary supplements and wellness products. For consumers over 50, significant issues include joint health, sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) and mental health. “It’s about independence and maintaining a quality of life that allows me to be independent,” said Ms. Niemann. For marketers, a one-size-fits-all message doesn’t work, she cautioned, as motivations vary between age groups and demographics.
Challenges & Solutions
One of the challenges for products targeting this category is convincing consumers that nutritional support for healthy aging is not a quick fix, said Mr. Benjamin. “While perhaps not slow enough for some of us, aging is a slow and steady process. Embracing the aging process in a healthy manner is best accomplished in much the same way—slow and steady.”
In general, healthy aging equates to overall wellness, said Tim Hammond, vice president of sales and marketing at Bergstrom Nutrition, and a key desire among those over 50 is to remain active—and to feel and look good while doing so. “The ability to function at high physical and cognitive levels, remain socially engaged, retain a youthful appearance, and continue to be relevant and productive are all important pieces of the puzzle.”
He also noted that older consumers typically increase their annual spending on wellness. “The high cost of healthcare contributes to both the opportunity and the mature population’s renewed focus and spending on healthy aging and wellness solutions.” Ingredients with proven health benefits in this area could have a strong future, he added.
After all, relying on nutrients from food alone can be challenging for consumers, said Dr. Menolascino. “Targeted supplements for the individual in a personalized, precision, preventative approach just makes good sense. My goal is to provide a personalized road map for optimal aging and this truly is a combination of nutrition, lifestyle and targeted nutritional supplements unique to each individual. We can’t do it by just prescribing medicines.”
Quality has been an important consideration in the dietary supplement industry as well. “We need companies that police themselves and assess raw ingredients for quality and toxicity as well as check the final products for quality and activity,” said Dr. Menolascino.
Nutrients of Need
Collagen. About 30% of the body’s protein is collagen, noted Gelita’s Ms. Niemann, and a wealth of scientific information suggests that supplementation with bioactive collagen peptides can play a meaningful role in musculoskeletal health.
For example, recent research published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicated that resistance training (3 hours per week) among men who already suffered from muscle wasting—in combination with 15 grams of Gelita’s BODYBALANCE—led to statistically significant improvement in lean muscle mass and a reduction in fat when compared to resistance training alone.
With age, the body’s natural ability to produce collagen on its own decreases, noted Naoki Inoue, scientist at Nitta Gelatin, Morrisville, NC. “This leads to the appearance of fine lines, age spots and skin that has lost elasticity and moisture. We’ve found, based on our clinical research, that ingesting collagen peptides to maintain collagen levels in the skin has led to improved elasticity, moisture and a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines in the skin.”
As more and more research grows around the benefits of collagen peptides—not only for beauty from within and skin health, but for joint health and overall wellness—opportunities for healthy aging products and ingredients will continue to open up, said Mr. Inoue.
Across the board, the two major contributors to aging are oxidation and glycation, he added. “These processes apply to skin health, as well as for the entire body. And since collagen peptides are known to signal cells, they can actually aid in increasing metabolism. The results of a recent study we conducted, which was published by the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, are significant as ingestion of the two peptides we’re using at Nitta, proline-hydroxyproline (PO) and hydroxyproline-glycine (OG), showed a major difference in skin moisture retention and elasticity, thus demonstrating the appearance of the reduction of wrinkles.”
Collagen peptides, particularly those that contain hydroxyproline, are able to increase absorption by working against the actions of proteolytic enzymes, and reaching each cell, while stimulating others, he continued.
The direct correlation between skin health and collagen is well established, but there is a growing body of research, that collagen peptides can be delivered to other parts of the body, such as bones and joints. “Collagen in our bones deteriorates over time, leading to breaks,” said Mr. Inoue. “Collagen peptides, PO in particular, can act as an accelerator for osteoclasts, leading to the creation of new bone. As for joints, collagen intake promotes synthesis of hyaluronic acids, and inhibits the progression of cartilage degeneration, enabling smoother movement of the joints.”
Probiotics. Consumer awareness about probiotics is at an all-time high, according to Ganeden’s Mr. Bush. “Seniors, the drivers of the healthy aging trend, are more likely to buy digestive-related products than other age groups.”
Probiotics have also gained popularity in everyday foods and beverages, he continued, noting that 46% of healthy senior consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a food or beverage product containing probiotics. “A big driver in this trend is our patented strain, GanedenBC30, which can currently be found in more than 500 products worldwide that exceeded more than $1 billion in retail sales in 2015.”
Unlike some probiotics, GanedenBC30 can survive through most manufacturing processes, said Mr. Bush, which has opened up applications outside of the refrigerated dairy category. “Its natural protective spore makes it highly stable and allows it to survive manufacturing, shelf life (up to three years) and gastric transit, creating endless opportunities to add it to almost any product.”
Mr. Bush stressed that health benefits of probiotics are strain specific, so formulators need to evaluate the clinical data supporting each strain to determine what benefits to claim, and ensure inclusion rates through the end of shelf life. “Manufacturers interested in adding a probiotic should choose a strain with peer-reviewed and published studies highlighting the strain’s safety and efficacy,” he added. “Ganeden recently published its 24th peer-reviewed and published study on its probiotic ingredients. These studies show that GanedenBC30 provides a variety of benefits, including support of digestive and immune health and enhancing protein utilization—all important in the healthy aging category.”
MSM. Bergstrom Nutrition’s branded methylsulfonylmethane, OptiMSM, has demonstrated utility in several areas related to healthy aging, according to the company’s Mr. Hammond. Studies show oral supplementation of MSM supports joint health and mobility, reduces muscle soreness after exercise, and supports healthy skin.
A natural anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties benefiting joints, muscles and skin, “OptiMSM improves joint health and protects cartilage from damage, which improves mobility and addresses pain,” said Mr. Hammond. “Maintaining an active lifestyle has multiple benefits as we age, but pain and soreness are often deterrents. Research shows OptiMSM also reduces pain and muscle damage after strenuous activity or exercise, which in turn leads to reduced pain and discomfort overall. Lastly, OptiMSM supports the structural integrity of the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”
Chronic, systemic inflammation is linked to many health issues, he continued. “MSM has been shown in multiple studies to reduce oxidative stress, thus protecting the body from advanced aging and other detrimental effects of oxidative stress. We like to think of OptiMSM as a personal body guard against premature aging.”
Carotenoids. Noting consumer preference for whole-food-based ingredients that are as close as possible to their natural source, Lycored’s Mr. Raz noted that his company’s research focuses on carotenoids extracted from tomatoes, such as lycopene. “We have recently completed the development stage for a new type of ‘Golden Tomato,’ which is an excellent natural source for two of the most powerful carotenoids (phytoene and phytofluene), both responsible for having a positive effect on skin’s aging and health.”
Phytoene, phytofluene and lycopene are known to be very synergistic in their inner body activity, he continued. When it comes to skin aging, they have several functions. They block different UV wave lengths, they reduce the redness of the skin (erythema) and by doing that they help to protect skin from the sun and other environmental stressors. “We are exposed to these factors on a daily basis through our life and accumulate the damage as we go, without even realizing,” said Mr. Raz.