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Catering to Experienced Actives: Formulating for Longevity

Today’s middle-aged and older adults are thriving, embracing their lives with an active intensity that previous older generations have not. Please, they aren’t “older,” they’re “experienced.” And this means a whole new land of R&D opportunity.

Balchem, a global leader in mineral nutrition, is pioneering this emerging consumer group and its need for specific nutrition for optimum well-being as they age. Eric Ciappio, Strategic Development Manager - Nutrition Science of Balchem, discusses how.

Q:  How would you describe the new middle-aged active consumer? What are his or her health goals​? 

A:  The 50+ consumer seeks products with positioning such as “mobility support,” “joint health,” “bone health” and “vitality/energy claims,” according to a 2021 Attitude & Usage study commissioned by Balchem and published by FRC Research Group.

Q:How do these individuals differ from the prior generation in health activity?​ A: The 50+ consumer is more active than ever before. In fact, ¼ of American consumers 55+ are health club/gym members, up 38% over the past 10 years, according to 2020 data from IBISWorld. Further, 61% of Baby Boomers say they exercise or want to exercise more. Active adults also consume sports beverages -- 62% of adults 45-54 years old and 53% of 55+ have purchased sports/ performances drinks or mixes in the past 6 months, according to 2020 market research from Lightspeed/Mintel.

Q:  Longevity is a concept that is more assertively pursued by middle-aged and older adults today. How can supplement and beverage brand marketers do a more effective job of tying together longevity and sports performance support?

A:  We believe the opportunity to capture the longevity consumer starts much sooner. It’s all about building the foundation today for a healthier tomorrow. Older Millennials and Gen Xers already practice preventative care. Brands can innovate in this space by launching products that are nutritionally designed to meet the needs of the target demographic. The supplement companies are already doing it -– why isn’t the performance industry?

To provide our customers with inspiration, we designed a concept called Healthspan Pro, a unique performance beverage for active adults 55+. Every delicious shake contains chelated minerals plus VitaCholine®, Vitamin D. Healthspan Pro offers:

  • Calcium ​to help maintain strong bones and support a healthy circulatory system
  • Iron​ to support healthy energy metabolism and help deliver oxygen to muscles
  • Magnesium​ to help support normal muscle function and help support a normal heart rhythm
  • Zinc​ to support protein and fat metabolism and support immune health
  • Choline, ​essential for proper brain and nervous system function and helps support muscular control
  • Vitamin D​ to help support bone health and immune health
  • Plant protein ​to help build, maintain and repair muscles

Q: Active adults 50 and over have unique nutritional needs. Please describe what they are and how they differ from younger adults​.

A: As our bodies change over time, so do our nutritional needs. For example, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium increases​ by 20% for women once they reach age 51, and for men it increases 20% when they reach age 71.

Consumers in the 50+ demographic understand that living a healthy lifestyle is important, and a healthy lifestyle includes being physically active. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states​ that physical activity helps you feel better, function better, sleep better, and reduces anxiety. However, nutritional needs can also change as one become physically active. An example​ of this is iron requirements are up to 70% greater for those who engage in regular physical activity. Protein requirements are impacted both by age and by activity level –- expert recommendations​ for daily protein intake are roughly double that of the current RDA for both seniors​ and for athletes​.

The combination of changing nutritional requirements with age and the impact of regular exercise can make it challenging for consumers to meet their nutritional needs. Dietary intake data shows that a large proportion of Americans age 50+ are not obtaining enough of key nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc from food and beverages alone. Specifically​, roughly 1 in 5 Americans age 50+ are not getting enough zinc in their diet, more than half of Americans age 50+ are not getting enough magnesium, and roughly 1/3 of American men age 50+ are not getting enough calcium. For women age 50+, the prevalence of inadequate calcium intake jumps to a staggering 76%!

As active consumers age, it is important to recognize these changes in nutritional needs and take steps to address these nutrient shortfalls to best support healthy, active lifestyles.

Q: Please discuss how Balchem’s ingredients are synergistically suitable for targeted sports-longevity products for active seniors.

A: Product developers looking to create food, beverage, and dietary supplement products for active 50+ consumers should consider three main factors when formulating. First, they should consider the changing nutritional needs of this population, as requirements can change with age and activity. Second, they should consider the specific nutritional gaps often seen in this population. Third, and perhaps most important, they should consider using mineral salt forms that provide bioavailability benefits for the user, such as mineral chelates.

Q: Please discuss the role and importance of bioavailability.

A: Bioavailability is a critical -- yet often underappreciated aspect -- of nutrition. Consumers need to be made aware that their bodies’ ability to utilize a nutrient is dependent on their ability to absorb it, and there are multiple factors that can influence nutrient absorption. For example, there are components found in specific foods sometimes referred to as “anti-nutrients​.” These compounds, which include phytates, oxalates, and others, can negatively impact the absorption of key minerals such as calcium​, magnesiumiron​, and zinc​.

So-called inorganic minerals, the type commonly found in dietary supplement and food products, can be particularly prone to interference from these anti-nutrients. In clinical studies, the presence of just 10g of phytates in a meal has been shown​ to decrease the absorption of a commonly used form of iron (ferrous sulfate) by approximately 60%.

Mineral chelates are a great option for consumers looking to ensure optimum bioavailability. Mineral chelates are mineral ions that are bound to an amino acid, most often glycine. Consumers can find them listed on a label as “ferrous bisglycinate​” or “zinc bisglycinate​”. Clinical data demonstrates that mineral chelates provide better solubility​ and absorption​ compared to inorganic mineral salts, particularly in the presence of phytates. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated​ that the absorption of ferrous bisglycinate is 2-3x better than that of ferrous sulfate if the phytate content of the food is high.  

Mineral chelates provide an excellent solution to help increase the absorption of minerals to help experienced active consumers close key nutritional gaps and to support their active lifestyles.