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Moving the Market with Joint Health Ingredients

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by James Gormley -

The U.S. has an aging population that is being confronted by all of the annoyances and challenges associated with senescence, including those associated with our joints.

With the global bone and joint health market expected to reach $9 billion by 2017, according to Global Industry Analysts, U.S. ingredient sales of the grand-daddies of joint health supplementation--glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate--were approximately $235 million (according to Synutra Ingredients’ website) for 2012.

While their widespread appeal in the mid-1990s led to initial sales that were like wildfire, there were certain challenges that beset these now-mainstay ingredients, especially chondroitin.

Initially, chondroitin was criticized by some since, (a) its molecules were said to be up to 300 times larger than those which make up glucosamine and so could not be absorbed, and (b) the first research on chondroitin was mainly made up of animals that had received it intravenously.

Lately, chondroitin adulteration has become a concern, yet fortunately some industry leaders, such as Weiguo Zhang, president of Synutra Ingredients and makers of Chondro Gold™, have called for much more stringent screening for impurities and adulterants, so it is hoped that an increased industry focus using combination test methods will expose suppliers engaging in economic adulteration.

As Tom Vierhile mentioned in the March 20, 2014 edition of INSIDER, consumers seem to be picking up on some of this, as SPINS logged a 6.1-percent sales decline in glucosamine-chondroitin combination supplements through natural supermarkets and conventional outlets for the 52-week period that ended January 18, 2014.

Regardless, glucosamine and chondroitin are maturing as ingredients, and that is opening up some opportunities for other ingredients to gain a foothold in the joint health market.

MSM is one such ingredient. While not a new ingredient, MSM (such as Bergstrom Nutrition’s OptiMSM®) has been earning its position as one of the core ingredients included in popular combination joint-health formulas.

Another ingredient that has been around, yet which has been gaining traction, is collagen. With most of the early denatured-vs.-undenatured battles now behind us, InterHealth’s UC-II® and BioCell Collagen® have risen to the fore.

Omega-3s is a more recent entrant into the joint-health race, bringing with it widespread trust and recognized benefits in other health areas. Newer, cutting-edge ingredients have also gained popularity in the market, including ASU (Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables), Meriva-SR® curcumin from Thorne Research, ApresFLEX® from Laila Nutra, and 5-LOXIN™ from PLT Health Solutions.

While the aforementioned is not an exhaustive inventory of joint health’s shining lights, what the emergence of these newer ingredients demonstrates is what the consumer demands, the consumer will eventually get. End users have been looking for joint-support ingredients that don’t take months to kick in, efficacy-wise.

They want to see benefits in days, and that’s what some of the latest and most interesting finished products in this area are focused on today: real results, and fast.

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