According to the consulting and research organization, heart health is one of the key trends expected to have an impact on the natural products landscape in 2006.
The American Heart Association estimated in 2003 that around 71.3m Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease. The total US population (including children) is 298.8m.
Through its survey NMI has found that the dangers are making an impact on the consciousness of consumers: 45 per cent of adults are concerned with preventing heart disease and more than half of these are defined by the institute as 'heart managers' - that is, people who are actively managing heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
"We're seeing more people using fortified and functional products and foods with less sugar, salt, fat and cholesterol," said managing partner Steve French.
The survey also shed light on the marketing terms that most capture the attention of 'heart managers'. Eighty-six percent said they have used products marketed as heart-healthy in the past year. Eighty-seven percent said they used low-fat products, 83 percent fat-free, and 82 percent low-sodium.
They were also seen to be more likely to check labels for content of ingredients understood to be detrimental to heart health, such as cholesterol and trans-fat.
"With such a large portion of the population managing heart health, high awareness and increasing concerns, consumer interest in the concept of eating for heart health and new nutritional supplements will accelerate heart healthy products in the marketplace," said the institute.
The NMI did not give a break down the specific ingredients used in products marketed as heart healthy, but the general climate is favorable for those specifically shown to have heart health benefits - including omega-3, plant sterols, oat and barley-derived beta-glucan and antioxidants.