Cognitive health formulations must be driven by mechanisms of action, and with cognition being a lifelong issue with many aspects to consider the possibilities are impressive and continually developing, according to experts at the NutraIngredients-USA Cognitive Health Forum.
So which demographic groups are interested in these products? Which ingredients have the best science? How do you substantiate the effects? And what claims can companies make?
These questions, and more, were addressed during the forum, which was broadcast on Thursday, May 22 and can be accessed on demand HERE .
To whet your appetite, here are some highlights from the debate, which featured experts from Abbott Nutrition, Euromonitor International, Nawgan, and Standard Process.
The forum was sponsored by AIDP, Kyowa Hakko, Sabinsa, and Virun.
Quote – Unquote
Rob Paul, PhD, CEO, Nawgan Products
On the development of Nawgan: “My research program is focused on those inflection points through development at which point the brain is changing and why is it changing – what are the mechanisms that drive those changes? The mechanisms really led to the development of Nawgan, and the ingredients and the doses and the process.
“The changes that take place with the brain actually happen much earlier than people realize, and many changes start to occur in the third decade. So the concept of cognitive health and brain health and cognitive performance is very relevant across the lifespan, but one of the key inflection points occurs during the third generation, both in terms of performance and anatomy/physiology.
“I, as a consumer and a scientist, was keen to develop a program that I would want to consume that could interface with that inflection point in development.”
On caffeine & the energy trend: “Caffeine is well known in the scientific literature as a compound for facilitating brain function, both for acute brain function and as a neuro-protective. Caffeine is a very adaptive compound when used appropriately.
“The key is to not have ingredients that stimulate other areas of the body that are not needed for performance. Energy drinks tend to contain ingredients that stimulate central systems and peripheral systems, and that gives you that total body rush. But in terms of brain function, you don’t need to stimulate those peripheral systems. And in fact, the research literature would say that stimulating those peripheral functions has a negative effect in terms of brain function.”
Virginia Giddings, PhD, Head, Strategic R&D at Abbott Nutrition
On Abbott’s focus on cognitive health: “One aspect of cognition that’s very important to Abbott Nutrition is that cognition spans the lifespan. From pregnancy and development, it’s about helping your baby achieve optimal cognition, it’s about learning, it’s about visual and hearing, it’s about motor skills, and then going into the school age years where it’s about focus and academic achievement. For young adults it’s about sharpness and memory, and through to aging where it’s about slowing the decline in memory.”
On the potential of the gut-brain axis, and probiotics/prebiotics: “It’s an area with a lot of really interesting coming out, and it’s an area we need to watch. I think this field is very new, but it is an exciting area. There’s quite a bit more understanding we need to have.”
Is it possible to develop the ultimate cognitive health formulation? “Ultimate for what group, for what age, for what aspect of cognition? Some ingredients have more science behind them than others. But I don’t think it’s clear at this point what the ultimate cognitive health product is…”
David Barnes, PhD, Director of Research, Standard Process
On the challenges of designing trials for cognitive health: “From the breadth of possible impacts that nutrients can have on neural cognitive function you can imagine trying to outline a study that’s going to focus on one or many of those functions can be challenging. Working with healthy subjects, it’s challenging getting an end point that is appropriate.” Dr Barnes added that compliance and doses are also challenging from a trial design perspective.
On claims that can be made: “We’re still trying to wrap our arms around what you can say based on the improvements in the neuro-psychological assessments. Cognitive health is safer, I think, than a lot of other end points that we may be interested in measuring with ingredients and in the supplement world. Unless you can actually point to an improvement in memory or executive function in a given way the value to the consumer may be more modest.”
“What people want to know is that they will feel an improvement.”
On relaxation and mood: “In terms of the science, it’s an emerging field. There are some opportunities there, but we’re in the early stages on the science and finding the right mix of things is going to be a challenge.”
Mark Strobel, Industry Analyst – Consumer Health, Euromonitor International
On the market: “There’s a group of consumers looking to improve brain function, like memory and focus. In the dietary supplement segment in particular for memory health aids, these grew 10% globally in 2013 to $1.5 billion in sales. These are definitely key concerns for consumers.”
On the demographics: “It’s a lifetime market. The two key demographics driving this are the old and the young. The global population aged 65 and over is expected to grow 20% through 2018 to reach about 719 million people. The demand for supplements in this age group will grow.
“Children – and predominantly their parents – are definitely a big demographic. Parents are looking for ways to maximize the opportunities and potential for their children. This is mostly done with fortified foods, but we are seeing a large increase in the use of supplements for children. Pediatric vitamins and dietary supplements is a $3.3 billion market globally.”
On the ingredients: “DHA is still the king of the ingredients. Since it’s already widely recognized and highly used it’s had less of a barrier to cross from the cardiovascular segment into the neuro-health.”