2020 was a year of change and uncertainty, leaving many businesses unable to thrive amid the myriad disruptions of society. But a few industries flourished, including dietary supplements. Though the marketplace for supplements from 2014-2019 was strong—with a growth rate of around 3% worldwide—2020 brought a surge, contributing to a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.3% between 2020-2027, according to “Dietary Supplements – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics” from Research and Markets. Much of this growth can be attributed to an increased interest in products that support immune health.
The consumer’s increased interest in immune health encompasses the entire family, including very young and school-aged children, especially as communities transition back to in-person classroom learning and parents return to their office environments, necessitating the need for day care facilities.
Just like adults, the immune systems of children benefit from a healthy diet, plenty of rest, exercise and basic good hygiene. But many parents and caregivers are looking for additional support through supplementation. As a result, the purchase of multivitamins saw large increases, along with products containing exclusively vitamin C, vitamin D or zinc. Some of the growth in these ingredients can be attributed to their familiarity with the consumer. Though these ingredients play a role in keeping the immune system in tip-top shape, other ingredients may add an extra level of immune support. For example, several botanical ingredients have risen to the forefront because of their safe history of use in children and potential benefits providing additional support to the immune system.
Children are vulnerable to upper respiratory infections, so diligence in taking measures to reduce this susceptibility may help decrease the incidence of some common health issues. Most pathogens that enter the body do so through the nose and mouth, which can make children vulnerable to almost continuous immune system challenges, as they are less likely to be attentive to handwashing and keeping their hands away from their face (and the faces of others around them). Therefore, it is critical that attention be paid to the health of the oral cavity.
The oral cavity of healthy individuals is home to around 700 species of bacteria, most of which reside only in this location. Unfortunately, not everyone has a healthy oral cavity microbiome. Even in children, genetics and the use of medications, particularly antibiotics, can negatively impact the colonies of these protective bacteria. Probiotics may be helpful as an adjunct to other hygienic measures.
Derived from the human strain Streptococcus salivarius K12, BLIS K12 has been supported by multiple clinical trials, most conducted in young children. A meta-analysis published in 2019 included seven of the published studies.1 The review concluded S. salivarius K12 is a useful prophylactic tool for reducing the incidence of bacterial and viral pharyngotonsillitis and acute otitis media, the use of antibiotics, antipyretics and anti-inflammatories, and the necessity of surgical tonsillectomies for recurring pharyngitis.
Young children can also be vulnerable to gastrointestinal (GI) problems—consider that their gut microbiomes are just developing and being populated with protective intestinal bacteria. Therefore, support for the GI tract is also extremely beneficial, especially for those who have taken repeated doses of antibiotics. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii have been shown to be both safe and effective in treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea.2
GI health can also be supported with a postbiotic. Postbiotics are the byproducts of fermentation produced by probiotic bacteria. They can include the cell-free nutrient media alone that contains beneficial enzymes, proteins and peptides, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and vitamins, etc.; or they could also include the inactivated microbial cells of the source probiotic. These beneficial powerhouses exhibit all the benefits of their probiotic source, but with the advantage of shelf- and gastric-stability.
One postbiotic that has been extensively studied in children is Lactobacillus LB (tradename LBiome). Around for over a century, numerous studies have supported its pediatric digestive benefits, including supporting antibiotic-associated diarrhea.3,4
Supporting the immune system of the entire family is becoming an increasingly important consideration when making lifestyle and dietary choices. Supplements developed for children may help families with young kids to find additional hope for remaining healthy now and in the years ahead.
To read additional articles about the booming immune health niche, click the following link to download the “Immune health rising” digital magazine.
Nena Dockery is a scientific and regulatory affairs manager at Stratum Nutrition. She began her career as a medical researcher at Kansas University Medical Center, but later pursued her master’s degree in human nutrition. With over 20 years’ experience in the nutritional supplement industry, Dockery is knowledgeable in virtually all areas of dietary supplements, from physiological effects to the governing regulations.
1 Bertuccioli A et al. “Streptococcus salivarius K12 in pharyngotonsillitis and acute otitis media -a meta-analysis.” Nutrafoods. 2019;2:80-88.
2 Hojsak I. “Probiotics in Children: What Is the Evidence?” Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2017;20(3):139-146.
3 Troche JMR et al. “Lactobacillus acidophilus LB: a useful pharmabiotic for the treatment of digestive disorders.” Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2020;13:1756284820971201.
4 Yap Soo Kor J et al. “Lacteol Fort Treatment Reduces Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea.” Singapore Fam Phys. 2010;36(4):46-49.