According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the world’s largest killers, and responsible for 17.1 million deaths annually.
“This proportion is equal to that due to infectious diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and maternal and perinatal conditions combined,” says the WHO’s Prevention of cardiovascular disease: guideline for assessment and management of cardiovascular risk report.
“It is important to recognize that a substantial proportion of these deaths (46%) were of people under 70 years of age, in the more productive period of life; in addition, 79% of the disease burden attributed to cardiovascular disease is in this age group,” adds the report.
With diet being identified as a clear contributor to cardiovascular disease, diet is seen as a modifiable risk factor. “A cardioprotective diet should consist of a variety of foods, and should aim to achieve four major goals: a healthy overall diet, a healthy body weight, a desirable lipid profile, and a desirable blood pressure,” adds WHO.
Foods with heart health benefits are booming across the globe. According to Leatherhead Food International, the global market for foods with heart health benefits in the US, Europe’s main five (UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy), Japan, and Australia was worth $10.84 billion in 2009.
The report from Leatherhead (The market for heart benefit foods), notes that the US constitutes two-thirds of this market. According to research from InvestFrost Chemicals - U.S. Heart Health Ingredients Market from Frost & Sullivan, “improved consumer awareness on benefits of heart health ingredients coupled with the aging baby boomers population conscious of living healthy life is expected to be beneficial for the market. In addition, the growing numbers of people with risk factors such as obesity and diabetes present a huge customer base for heart health ingredient manufacturers”.
“Phytosterols, beta-glucan, omega-3 fatty acids, and soy protein, are in a highly competitive marketplace wherein they are challenged for share not only with other ingredients but also with food products with innate heart health benefits,” adds the InvestFrost report.
Another Frost and Sullivan report, this time looking at Europe, also picks out the four main ingredients: phytosterols; omega-3s; beta-glucans and soy protein, in heart health, but noted there was potential for others to gain in prominence.
"Research funds for newer ingredients too bode well for the market," it wrote.
It highlighted phytosterols as being the most successful ingredients in the cardiovascular disease (CVD) and noted the success of products like Unilever’s Flora pro.activ and Benecol which have achieved healthy sales in many European markets.
With an ageing population seeing heart disease rates continuing to soar, there is “immense potential for growth”, the report, which looks back to 2004 and forward to 2014, states. Over-60s are expected to increase from 20 to 25 per cent of the European population by 2020.
Other scientifically backed options Frost highlighted included fibre, antioxidants, green tea, CoEnzymeQ10, folic acid, B12 and selenium, but the big four had achieved greater popularity because of their “gold standard” scientific grounding.
The Australian market for heart-healthy foods or supplements could be a tough one to crack, according to 2009 data from market researcher Datamonitor, but consumer signs indicate that it holds potential for manufacturers willing to make the extra awareness-raising efforts.
The market researcher put foods and beverages marketed for heart health in Australia at US$524m in 2008, with this expected to rise at an annual rate of 4 per cent to reach $637m in 2013.
However, Australian consumers have still not fully engaged with the concept of maintaining their heart health, which suggests that there is still some work to be done by manufacturers wishing to tap into the market for these products.