Helping consumers stay healthy with age

Supplements to support healthy aging encompass a variety of health needs affected by age, including cognitive, bone and joint health, and to support active lifestyles.

Rachel French, Steve Myersand 1 more

July 11, 2019

13 Min Read
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Consumers don’t just want to live longer, they want to thrive longer. The concept of “healthy aging” supports consumers as they age to help them stay active and live fully in life’s later years.

“Healthy aging is about more than just looking good on the outside, it’s about addressing your different health needs as you age,” said Sébastien Bornet, vice president, global sales and marketing at Horphag Research, global supplier of Pycnogenol and Robuvit. “We’ve seen extended interest in natural ingredients for longevity and healthy aging throughout recent years.

“Consumers are becoming more proactive about taking care of themselves earlier in life to prevent health conditions later on,” he continued. “Longevity supplement popularity is on the rise, with some like nootropics expanding value over 15% by 2024 [according to a 2019 report from Zion Market Research]. Consumers are doing more research than ever on products and ingredients before purchasing, and they’re interested in natural ingredients backed by science to improve their health concerns.”

Supplements to support healthy aging encompass a variety of health needs affected by age, including cognitive, bone and joint health, and to support active lifestyles.

Cognitive Health

Cognition is top of mind for consumers. Tom Druke, director of VitaCholine brand development, Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma, pointed to data from Natural Marketing Institute’s (NMI) 2015 Healthy Aging Study showing loss of cognitive function is the top age-related apprehension reported by respondents.

Their concerns are not without merit.

“Some level of cognitive decline, often characterized by decreased processing speed and memory impairment, occurs naturally with age as a result of both structural and functional changes in the brain, such as the loss of synapses or neuronal network dysfunction,”1 explained Kristin Marshall, marketing coordinator, Verdure Sciences.

For aging consumers, maintaining cognitive acuity, including memory and performance, is key.

Further supporting consumer interest in cognitive health is a growing market; according to data from Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), the market for brain health supplements achieved an estimated US$912 million in 2018 with growth of 4.6%compared to the previous year. The market is projected to reach $1.04 billion by 2021. Brain health supplements accounted for an estimated 2%of all supplement sales in 2018, per NBJ.

“We are seeing a steady increase in self-education and personal accountability with people looking for brain health solutions that are backed by clinical support,” said Jane Barracato, senior manager, global medical affairs, Reckitt Benckiser (RB). “I think the usage of vitamins, supplements and tailored nutrition will continue to rise in importance, specifically ones backed by science.” Its recently launched Neuriva brain health supplement relies on of two clinically proven ingredients: coffee cherry extract (as Neurofactor, from Futureceuticals) and plant-derived phosphatidylserine (PS).

Coffee cherry extract increases brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) levels in 90 minutes.2 “BDNF has an important role in maintaining the health of existing brain cells, inducing the growth of new neurons and synapses, and supporting overall cognitive function, including memory and learning,” Barracato explained.

PS is a phospholipid composed of fatty acids, nitrogen and phosphorus. PS has been shown to improve memory, mood and cognition in elderly people with memory problems.3 For older adults with moderate cognitive impairment, PS produced consistently modest increases in recall of word lists.4

A study published in 2018 showed French maritime pine bark extract (as Pycnogenol) is effective in improving symptoms of mild cognitive Impairment (MCI) in individuals between ages 55 and 70.5

A 2015 study reported Pycnogenol improved attention span, decision making, memory and overall cognitive function for Baby Boomers (those ages 55 and older).6

Pomegranate extract (as Pomella, from Verdure Sciences) has been shown in multiple pre-clinical studies to impact cognitive function and markers of healthy brain aging such as improvements in spatial, long-term and working memory functions.7 Verdure’s Pomella is a formula of standardized punicalagins developed to deliver high amounts of bio-efficacious ellagitannins, the majority of which are punicalagins, the primary antioxidants of the pomegranate fruit.

Supplementation with curcumin (as Longvida, from Verdure Sciences) can improve measures of both cognitive function and mood in healthy adults ages 60 to 85, with improvements seen within one hour and significant benefits within 30 days.8 Longvida optimized curcumin was designed to bypass initial hydrolysis and deliver bio-efficacious levels of free curcumin to the brain and throughout the entire body.

For the aging population, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are prevalent. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.; roughly 5.8 million Americans live with the condition.

Though a cure for Alzheimer’s disease does not exist today, research links various nutritional ingredients to the development and severity of the condition.

New animal research published in January 2019 showed maternal choline intake could protect against dementia and cognitive decline in later generations.9 Researchers at Arizona State University’s Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center fed a control group of mice that were prone to display symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease a choline diet while pregnant and lactating. The mice born of these pregnancies were then fed a normal diet and bred to examine the possible impact on a second generation of mice. Researchers found the first generation born of “high choline” mice showed improvements in spatial memory relative to the control group, and the effect persisted into the second generation, as well.

“This novel research is the first test to demonstrate that the cognitive benefits of maternal choline supplementation may be transgenerational, independent of the choline intake of the offspring,” Druke explained.

Curcumin’s (Curcuma longa) ability to manage inflammation and oxidative stress has led researchers to study its effects on cognitive decline. “The central nervous system also contains polyunsaturated fatty acids [PUFAs], which can be vulnerable to oxidative stress and inflammation,” explained Mariko Hill, product development executive at Gencor. “By lowering these two factors, curcumin may also be vital to maintaining cognitive function. Lastly, curcumin is also known to cross the blood-brain barrier;10 thereby it could be a useful tool in managing neuroinflammation.”

Gencor’s HydroCurc, an extract of C. longa (standardized to 95 percent) using LipiSperse delivery technology (from Pharmako Biotechnologies) to increase bioavailability and functionality, is currently under investigation by researchers at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) at University of Wisconsin for its potential to reduce inflammation in the brain.

Loukiana Chatzinasiou, product manager at Sibelius, pointed to 2015 research showing maintaining good sleep quality promotes better cognitive functioning and helps protect against age-related cognitive decline.11

Roman chamomile is an ingredient shown to improve sleep and have anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing effects. A 2017 study conducted on 60 elderly volunteers concluded a specific chamomile extract significantly improved sleep quality.12

Research shows bacopa (as Bacognize, from Verdure Sciences) may help promote better quality of sleep and support the regulation of sleep cycles by interacting with serotonin receptors, helping to alleviate stress, and providing antioxidation benefits.13

Activity and Wellness

“A reduction in one’s physical activity level and functional fitness has also been identified as a natural part of the aging process and is thought to occur largely as a result of decreased muscle strength and changes in body-fat percentage, flexibility, agility and endurance,” Marshall explained.14

Baby Boomers and older generations are turning to exercise and diet to stay healthy in their twilight years. Several sports nutrition ingredients offer researched benefits to help these consumers stay fit and recover from exercise.

Older adults have increased protein needs aside from any exercise-related needs. Adults can start experiencing age-related muscle loss in their 40s. Further, masters athletes (age 40 and older) have lower rates of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) than do younger athletes, leading to poor muscle protein repair and modeling, according to Australian research.15

A 2016 study showed Pycnogenol’s benefits for curbing age-related muscle loss. The study reported significant improvement in muscular function and reduction of oxidative stress in healthy adults ages 70 to 78.16

High-intensity resistance training combined with protein ingestion has also been found useful in helping older adults—especially those who typically forgo such exercise—achieve and maintain stronger, leaner bodies.

A study on non-resistance-trained women (ages 52 to 63) demonstrated both whey and casein intake in combination with high-intensity resistance training (three sets, 10 repetitions at 75 percent of 1RM [one-rep maximum]) improved body composition, muscular strength and muscular endurance.17

Soy protein can help bump MPS in the short term, but it might not have the same ability as whey to promote MPS longer term.18

Brands are slowly targeting healthy, active aging consumers on protein products, according to proprietary data from New Hope Network’s NEXT Trend Database, which tracks all products exhibited at the Expo West and Expo East trade shows.

Protein mixes and powders with an aging claim accounted for only 0.54% of all protein mixes and powders at the Expo shows in 2016, but this increased greatly to 6.35%in 2018. In 2016, only 1 of 185 protein mixes and powders carried an aging claim compared to 16 of 252 protein mixes and powders in 2018. While these overall numbers are low, the growth indicates brands are starting to see value in touting protein for healthy aging.

Healthy bones and joints are also important to maintaining active lifestyles.

One of the biggest threats to bone health as people age is osteoporosis, a condition where new bone creation doesn’t keep up with old bone removal, resulting in increasingly porous bones. Porous bones are more prone to fractures from falls, strains or bumps.

“The balance between bone formation and bone loss changes after peak bone mass is reached, around 30 years old,”19 explained Samantha Ford, business development director at AIDP. “Usually, men and women have the same speed of bone loss in mid-life. However, women can lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone in the five to seven years after menopause [according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation].” In response to the lopsided instances of bone loss in older women, a good amount of research is centered around maintaining and recovering bone density in female participants.

In a four-year randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 236 postmenopausal women were given 1,600 mg/d of calcium supplements with a check-in period of six months. Results showed long-term administration of calcium supplements to older women may partially reverse age-related bone loss.20

Acting as a partner to calcium by further supporting bone health and preventing calcification of arteries is vitamin K2.

Vitamin K2 activates osteocalcin, a protein hormone found in bone, which binds calcium and integrates it into the bone matrix. “Without adequate vitamin K2 activation of osteocalcin, not enough calcium is absorbed into the bones,”21 Ford stated. “Excess calcium can also be harmful when deposited in soft tissues like arteries. Vitamin K2 MK-7 helps to bind excess calcium to prevent harmful deposits and helps restore arterial flexibility. It helps keep calcium in balance.” Current literature also lends credit to vitamin K2’s ability to lessen some of the potential negative side effects of calcium supplementation.22

NattoPharma, a nutraceutical company based out of Norway, has spent the past 15 years building its reputation in clinically studied vitamin K2. Its branded vitamin K2, called MenaQ7®, has been the source material for more than 19 human clinical trials. In postmenopausal women, 180 mcg/d of vitamin K2 (as MenaQ7) provided statistically significant protection of the vertebrae and hip (femoral neck) against bone loss.23

A 2019 study showed daily use of Pycnogenol in the form of a topical patch improved osteoarthritis symptoms, reducing the need for NSAID painkillers.24

Pomegranate extract (as Pomella) has been shown to inhibit collagen degradation and support anti-inflammatory effects, which indicates possible joint health support opportunities for individuals trying to supplement their health with physical activity.25

Information for this article was extracted from the articles, “Ingredients for active aging,” by Steve Myers; “Memory and cognitive performance: Supporting the needs of an aging brain,” by Rachel Adams; and “Digging up ingredient research on bone health,” by Connor Lovejoy, originally published in INSIDER’s Healthy Aging digital magazine. Read more about ingredients to support healthy aging, along with market and product development insights, by downloading the digital magazine.


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  2. Reyes-Izquierdo T et al. “Modulatory effect of coffee fruit extract on plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy subjects.” British Journal of Nutrition. 2013:110(3):420-425.

  3. Moré MI, Freitas U, Rutenberg D. “Positive effects of soy lecithin-derived phosphatidylserine plus phosphatidic acid on memory, cognition, daily functioning, and mood in elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.” Adv Ther. 2014 Dec;31(12):1247-62.

  4. McDaniel MA, Maier SF, Einstin GO. “‘Brain-specific’ nutrients: a memory cure?” Nutrition. 2003 Nov-Dec;19(11-12):957-75.

  5. Hosoi M et al. “Pycnogenol® supplementation in minimal cognitive dysfunction.” Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences. 2018 June;62(3):279-84.

  6. Belcaro G et al. “The COFU3 Study. Improvement in cognitive function, attention, mental performance with Pycnogenol® in healthy subjects (55-70) with high oxidative stress.” Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences. 2015 Dec;59(4):437-4

  7. Ahmed AH et al. “Pomegranate extract modulates processing of amyloid-β precursor protein in an aged Alzheimer's disease animal model.” Curr Alzheimer Res. 2014;11(9):834-43.

  8. Cox K, Pipingas A, Scholey A. “Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population.” Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0269881114552744.

  9. Velazquez R et al. “Maternal choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology by reducing brain homocysteine levels across multiple generations.” Molecular Psychiatry. 201

  10. Hatami M et al. “Molecular Mechanisms of Curcumin in Neuroinflammatory Disorders: A Mini Review of Current Evidences.” Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2019;19(3):247-258.

  11. Scullin MK, Bliwise DL. “Sleep, cognition, and normal aging: integrating a half century of multidisciplinary research.” Perspectives on psychological science: a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. 2015;10(1):97-137. DOI: 10.1177/1745691614556680.

  12. Adib-Hajbaghery M, Mousavi SN. “The effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality among elderly people: A clinical trial.” Complement Ther Med. 2017;35:109-114.

  13. Hall et al. “Pharmacology of Bacopa monnieri (Bacognize) at 5HT2a receptors.” Am Soc Pharmacol Absts. 2005;83-85.

  14. Milanovic Z et al. “Age-related decrease in physical activity and functional fitness among elderly men and women.” Clin Interv Aging. 2013;8:549–556.

  15. Doering TM et al. “Lower Integrated Muscle Protein Synthesis in Masters Compared with Younger Athletes.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Aug;48(8):1613-8.

  16. Belcaro G, Dugall M. “Preservation of muscular mass and strength in aged subjects with Pycnogenol® supplementation.” Minerva Ortopedica e Traumatologica. 2016 Sept;67(3):124-30.

  17. Urbina SL et al. “The effects of post-exercise whey vs. casein protein ingestion on muscular strength, muscular endurance, and body composition in older women (50-70 years of age).” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011;8(Suppl 1):P27.

  18. Mitchell C J et al. “Soy protein ingestion results in less prolonged p70S6 kinase phosphorylation compared to whey protein after resistance exercise in older men.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:6.

  19. Levine M. “Assessing bone health in children and adolescents.” Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Dec;16(Suppl 2):S205–S212.

  20. Riggs BL et al. “Long-term effects of calcium supplementation on serum parathyroid hormone level, bone turnover, and bone loss in elderly women.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 1998;13(2):168-74.

  21. Myeni VD, Mezey E. “Regulation of bone remodeling by vitamin K2.” Oral Dis. 2017 Nov;23(8):1021-1028.

  22. Wasilewski GB et al. “The Bone-Vasculature Axis: Calcium Supplementation and the Role of Vitamin K.” Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2019;5(6):6-16.

  23. Knapen MH et al. “Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis International. 2013;24(9):2499-507.

  24. Feragalli B et al. “Pycnogenol®: supplementary management of symptomatic osteoarthritis with a patch. An observational registry study.” Minerva Endocrinol. 2019 Mar;44(1):97-101.

  25. Jean-Gilles D et al. “Inhibitory effects of polyphenol punicalagin on type-II collagen degradation in vitro and inflammation in vivo.” Chem Biol Interact. 2013 Sep 25;205(2):90-9.

About the Author(s)

Rachel French

Rachel French joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products Insider, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. French left Informa Markets in 2019, but continues to freelance for both FBI and NPI.

Steve Myers

Senior Editor

Steve Myers is a graduate of the English program at Arizona State University. He first entered the natural products industry and Virgo Publishing in 1997, right out of college, but escaped the searing Arizona heat by relocating to the East Coast. He left Informa Markets in 2022, after a formidable career focused on financial, regulatory and quality control issues, in addition to writing stories ranging research results to manufacturing. In his final years with the company, he spearheaded the editorial direction of Natural Products Insider.

Connor Lovejoy

Connor's first foray into the global nutrition industry was in 2018. Since then he's dived into a wide variety of  topics, including product formulation, vitamins and minerals and botanicals. A graduate of Arizona State University; outside of work you can find him spending time with his wife, Maddy, and their two rabbits Puck and Winnie. 

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