Special edition: Healthy Aging

Weight management, cognition, and joints: The key conditions driving healthy aging

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Weight management, cognition, and joints: The key conditions driving healthy aging

Related tags Health Blood sugar management

Healthy aging is all about living a healthier life for longer, a catch all for physical and mental health. But which are the health conditions really driving the category and how do key players see the sector?

As part of our special edition on healthy aging, we spoke to a number of suppliers active in the sector to get their views on what’s hot and why, and what’s next.

The industry considers and addresses the healthy aging market as a collection of health conditions associated with the aging process, said Barbara Davis, PhD, Director, Medical and Scientific Affairs, PLT Health Solutions, and that includes eyes, cognitive, joint, skin, heart, and immune health.

“In many ways, the development of new concepts, ingredients and formulations in the natural products industry tracks developments in the medical field as seniors,” ​she said. “For example, the significance of immune health for healthy aging is highlighted by the development of vaccines, targeted toward the aging population, such as influenza, shingles and pneumonia.”

One area that the company has seen a dramatic increase in interest is in cognitive health. “We see this both in the aging population as they look to learn and function as they did at a younger age, but also in a younger demographic who look to achieve peak performance throughout their lives,”​ said Dr Davis.


Healthy aging... on the up, up, up

Despite the growth and interest, putting a figure on the size of the sector is difficult. “Because healthy aging encompasses so many variables, the market - for now - is highly segmented into specific health conditions,”​ said Lara Niemann, Marketing Director – Americas, Gelita USA.

Sebastien Bornet, Director of Global Marketing at Horphag Research (worldwide exclusive supplier of Pycnogenol), said that, according to a report from Transparency Market Research​, the market exceeded $120 billion last year.

“Last year, the global healthy aging market – including products for skin, hair, heart health and cognitive health – was valued at more than $ 122 billion and is expected to reach $200 billion by 2019,” ​he said, and he’s in doubt that the market will reach the forecasted levels by the end of the decade.

“This market has traditionally been driven by women above 35; however, we have seen an increase in engagement from both men and women in their mid-20’s who are looking to develop a skin care regimen. It’s evolved from ‘anti-aging’ to ‘healthier ways to age’.”

Trending younger

Osteo Bi-Flex Edge

Key brands are also seeing the shift. NBTY recently launched a branded joint health supplement called Osteo Bi-Flex, and the company is seeing increased interest among Boomers and it's trending younger – even with Millennials in their 30s, said Inri Mouchette, Director of Marketing, Osteo Bi-Flex.

“For Boomers, the interest is driven more by a strong desire to stay active and keep a sense of fitness through their advanced years,”​ Mouchette told us. “We’re seeing more of these consumers keep a daily walk or advanced routines like running, practicing yoga, even playing basketball, throughout their 60s and 70s. That level of activity requires joints to be fit and feel good so they can stay on their routines – and they are seeking supplements with proven ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin to help accomplish that goal.

“With younger consumers, we’re seeing the early roots of interest in taking action now on joint health. They’re seeking better joint performance in their fitness routines and they want to be sure their workouts and sports activities are not adding occasional stress to their joints. This demographic  is seeking a unique joint health offering just for them and we have invested in that interest with new products, Osteo Bi-Flex Edge​, that are designed for health champions who want to strengthen their joints like they strengthen muscle and overall cardio health.”

Quality of life

Ludger Eilers, Director, Human Nutrition, BASF Nutrition & Health, said that consumers increasingly feel empowered to manage their health by eating well and bridging nutrition gaps with dietary supplements.

Mobility - a key factor in healthy aging

“Maintaining their quality of life, in terms of mobility, health, and appearance, is foremost in consumers' minds, especially as they get older.”

A recent Pfizer poll​ found that 87% of Americans have at least one fear when they think about getting older.  Decline in physical ability was most feared followed by memory loss, getting a chronic disease, running out of money...all higher than the fear of dying!”

Gelita’s Niemann agreed that mobility is a key factor in healthy aging. “The ability to stay mobile (and without limiting pain) is key,”​ she said. “It’s the​ key to independence - total musculoskeletal health is vital. Joints. Tendons. Ligaments. Bones. Muscle mass.”

Mental health is also rivaling physical health in the market, according to Corey Jansen, global product manager, Human Nutrition and Health at Kemin. “Survey after survey of consumers shows that they're more concerned about their cognitive health, joint health or overall well-being compared to skin health,”​ he said. “In fact, a recent AARP/ASA Metlife survey actually showed that 80% of people older than 50 listed ‘staying mentally sharp’ as their #1 concern.”


Companies must also consider compliance for their products, said BASF’s Eilers. “We know that 68% of adults take dietary supplements, yet over one-third of those consumers do not always comply with their supplement regimen because they forget, they're not convenient or they're not easy to take,”​ he said. “For example, 30% of the population has difficulty swallowing pills yet most supplements are still in traditional formats like pills and tablets.”

The company recently launched a Consumer Health Approach to deliver nutrients in more appealing formats such as gummies, smaller soft gels, powders that melt on your tongue, or liquid emulsions.


For PLT’s Dr David, an important factor in driving the category’s growth is the emergence of solid science that shows that we can do things to promote healthy aging. “One would expect that as the science gets better in showing the beneficial effects of natural ingredients on the aging process, the increase will be even more dramatic.”

The company’s Synapsa Natural Memory Support, a patented, standardized form of Bacopa monnieri, ​is supported by six double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies in which healthy adults, she said, which showed significantly improved performance in areas such as visual processing, learning rate, working memory, information retention and mental performance in cognitively demanding environments. “While most cognitive health supplements focus on the issue of cognitive decline – mainly in an aging population - the studies behind Synapsa focus on ‘peak cognitive performance’ outcomes that offer benefits for a much broader audience,”​ she said.

For other health conditions, the company offers scientifically supported ingredient, added Dr Davis, including two boswellic acid extracts, 5-LOXIN and AprèsFlex for joint health.

Horphag’s Bornet agreed that many consumers are seeking premium ingredients backed by scientific evidence to identify the quality of its benefits, and quotes a number of studies to support the potential benefits of Pycnogenol for a range of conditions, including skin elasticity, cognitive health benefits among a broad audience, eye health, joint health, and heart health.

Kemin’s Jansen said: “With baby boomers in the US turning 60 at the rate of 10,000 per day and similar trends in other countries around the world, we definitely feel that science-backed ingredients and product solutions that target older consumers will continue to see strong growth.”

Weight management

Beyond the topics of the ‘traditional’ healthy aging segments and compliance, there are two major omissions from the conversation about healthy aging, according to PLT’s Dr Davis. “What seems to be missing from the conversation are blood sugar management and weight management,” ​she said.

“It is probably accurate to say that weight management is the single most important &effective​ thing that people can do – at any point in their lives – to age more healthfully,” ​said Dr Davis. “An unhealthy weight is the underlying or contributing cause to any number of chronic health conditions present in later years such as CVD and can exacerbate others like joint health.”

blood sugar test

“Blood sugar health is often the elephant in the room that no one talks about when we discuss aging,” ​she added. “One need only cite the CDC’s statistic that by the year 2020, fully 50% of people in the United States will be diabetic or pre-diabetic to understand that there may not be any more important ‘aging’ issue today. At the same time, beyond weight management, the natural products industry rarely addresses the issue of blood sugar management. Considering the public health implications and potential economic opportunity for the industry, this latter situation is curious.

“The lack of blood sugar management ingredients in the natural products industry may be related to the difficulty of developing commercial solutions. Making blood sugar management claims may be more expensive than the natural ingredients industry or the food and beverage industries want to undertake or more costly than the consumer can support. There may also be an issue of consumer confusion about how to address this critical area of health,”​ said Dr Davis.

“It may be the case that the natural products and food & beverage industries need to show some leadership here, as well as a more active, yet practical voice from the recommender community.”

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