While market observers remain divided over whether consumers will buy into the concept, there is no doubt that some players in the industry believe there is the potential to create a completely new category in the market, said Jeff Hilton, co-founder of marketing consultancy IMG.
“Some of our clients are really focusing on this right now and while products are generally merchandised within heart or joint health areas, I have already seen a couple of retailers that have created new sections devoted to inflammation in general.”
Several firms were starting to test the waters, not necessarily with tailored new products, but through marketing, added Kerry Watson, manager at the SPINS product library.
Targeting systemic inflammation
Most anti-inflammatory supplements currently target joint or muscle pain rather than systemic or low-grade inflammation in general, she accepted. “However, we are starting to see this concept [of tackling chronic inflammation] integrated into the marketing of more and more anti-inflammatory focused products.
“In particular, professional supplement lines that are sold in naturopathic and alternative health clinics do tend to have products that target systemic inflammation.”
And more products will emerge, she predicts: “There is still a lot of room for growth. Some of the challenge will be in educating the consumer on systemic inflammation, its causes and the potential health issues it can contribute to.”
Gabrielle Klein, principal at consultancy Jack Klein & Associates, which specializes in nutraceuticals and functional foods, said there had been a lot of activity around fish oils and inflammation, but that a second wave of botanical-based products broadening the discussion beyond joint health was now coming in, creating new opportunities for companies to engage with consumers about systemic inflammation.
Curcumin, ginger, boswellia, or all three?
Sheldon Baker, senior vice president of nutraceutical brand marketing firm Baker Dillon Group, said ‘anti-inflammatory’ as a phrase was familiar to consumers owing to its widespread use in joint health products, although they were not yet familiar with thinking about it as an over-riding concept in preventative health.
“Anti-inflammatory appears to be a growing trend. Just look at all the omega-3 and other fish oil products on the market. I’m a big proponent of astaxanthin and have been for many years. Krill products appear to be proliferating in the marketplace. Other ingredients known to have anti-inflammatory benefits such as CoQ10, chromium, L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid are also found in a wide range of retail products.”
Curcumin had significant potential, although bioavailability was an issue, said Baker. “I think the next wave of Curcumin ingredients will have greater potency.”
Health writer Jack Challem, the author of The Inflammation Syndrome, adds: “I'm certainly seeing much more in the way of anti-inflammatory ingredients being sold - curcumin, ginger, bromelain - as stand-alone products or combined as formulas.”
In terms of antioxidants, polyphenolic flavonoids seem to have to greatest anti-inflammatory benefits, he said. “Quercetin inhibits the activity of mast cells, which are involved in allergic rhinitis. Pycnogenol, because of its complexity, appears to work through multiple biochemical pathways. Vitamin E reduces C-reactive protein and helps reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.”
Combinations of ingredients
The real key will be for companies to scientifically formulate sound combinations of ingredients, he says. “Pycnogenol has impressive anti-inflammatory benefits, but how does a company really differentiate its Pycnogenol from that of a hundred other companies selling pine bark extracts? So when it comes to single-ingredient products, it's difficult to stand out, though there are exceptions, for example with some manufacturers of curcumin claiming higher absorption.
“The omega-3s boost production of prostaglandin E3 and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) boosts production of prostaglandin E1, and both help suppress pro-inflammatory prostaglandin E2. Hence, I keep coming back to formulas as the way to creative useful products for consumers.”
Dousing the fire of metabolic inflammation?
So what’s on the market? A range of products is available, with certain substances – notably curcumin, boswellia, long chain omega-3 fatty acids, ginger, rosemary and oregano - the most frequently cited as active ingredients.
See below for a selection:
- Neprinol Advanced fibrin defence - a vegetarian enzyme blend that manufacturer Arthur Andrew Medical claims “supports normal inflammatory levels by essentially purifying the blood of decayed cells, fibrin, fatty proteins and other unwanted materials that normally accumulate in the blood”.
- Infla-eez, a ‘potent natural anti-inflammatory’ from North American Herb & Spice containing turmeric, fruit enzymes, rosemary, oregano, camu camu, ginger root and royal jelly, claims to “support the natural anti-inflammation processes through multiple mechanisms”.
- Inflama-Care from Planetary Herbals contains concentrated extracts of turmeric, boswellia and ginger that “support healthy inflammatory response. By naturally inhibiting pro-inflammatory compounds like COX-2 enzymes or the expression of NF-kappa B genes, Inflama-Care is a scientifically-based herbal response to the fire of Metabolic Inflammation.”
- Inflama-Trim from Source Naturals is a mix of vitamins, minerals, and herbs claimed to “support the normal balance of the deep metabolic systems that are helpful in maintaining healthy weight: inflammation response, blood sugar balance, thermogenic fat metabolism, and cortisol hormone balance”.
- CuraMed from EuroPharma uses patent-pending technology using small particle size, turmeric essential oil, and phospholipids to deliver a curcumin claimed to be significantly more bioavailable than curcumin with lecithin or piperine. “The result is a high-potency formula providing superior support for the body’s natural anti- inflammatory response, a healthy immune and cardiovascular system, and resistance.”
- Inflammation Balancefrom Carlson Labs contains vitamin D3, vitamin E, EPA, DHA and GLA for “enhanced nutrition to support the dietary needs of people with unbalanced inflammation”.
- NewChapter’s Zyflamend, claimed to promote “a healthy inflammation response”,contains a blend of Holy Basil, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, green tea, Hu Zhang (resveratrol source), oregano, Chinese goldthread and Barberry and Baikal Skullcap.
- CardioPom pomegranate powder supplements include the claim “soothes inflammation”.