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Personalized health gets real as attitudes toward healthy aging mature

As life expectancy is on the rise, so, too, is the consumer’s focus on personal health and solutions to address mind-body harmony.

“You can’t control what goes on outside, but you can control what goes on inside.” – Unknown

When it comes to defining personalized nutrition, responses may vary from person to person. That’s because it is specific to individuals and their health goals, whether it is referring to a targeted health condition or specific category (e.g., weight management, healthy aging, sports nutrition), all the way to customized DNA testing kits requiring a blood, stool or urine sample. Regardless, if a definition is agreed upon, the base of personalized nutrition should help individuals easily incorporate their health goals into their everyday lives. And those solutions should improve their current situation, allowing for an overall improved health care routine. The category growth of personalized nutrition has been exponential in recent years. In the U.S. alone, the market for personalized nutrition was valued at $5.59 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $11.35 billion by 2026, according to Reports and Data.

As a whole, the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country. In 2017, the U.S. spent about $3.5 trillion on health expenditures, which is more than twice the average among developed countries, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Yet, U.S. life expectancy is lower—78.6 years in 2017, compared to an average of 82.3 years in other developed countries, according to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker. “Life expectancy can be influenced by a number of factors, including those within the domain of the health system (e.g., quality of care, access to preventive health services) as well as economic, behavioral and environmental factors that may be outside the control of the health system (i.e., poverty, lifestyle, violence and accidents),” researchers said about possible factors. Although Americans on average may have shorter life expectancy, studies from the World Health Organization (WHO) show they have a longer healthy life expectancy at a rate of 68.5 years, compared to the global age of 63.3 years. Healthy life expectancy simply means the average number of years that a person can expect to live in “full health.”

During the 20th century, U.S. life expectancy nearly doubled, with a ten-fold increase in the number of Americans aged 65 or older, and this number is expected to double over the next 25 years. It is estimated that by 2050, there could be nearly 1 million American centenarians—an extreme increase from 1950, when there were approximately 3,000, according to the National Institute on Aging.  

As life expectancy increases globally, the health conditions and ailments that threaten people’s health remain viable concerns. This could explain why the natural products industry has become increasingly relevant. 

Aging should be viewed not as a single process, but the sum of many interrelated processes. The ability to reduce the burden with proactive and preventive health care, a safer and cleaner environment, and lifestyle factors like clean eating and mind-body balance can all play a role. Some factors and processes are still being understood and studied while others are demonstrating extreme growth. For example, Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) estimates sales of Ayurvedic herbs in 2016 dominated at $378 million, which is a 212% increase from 2010, and sales are expected to double by 2020 to $766 million.

Consumers are also becoming aware of mindfulness, and there is growing evidence for the positive impact it has on well-being. Mindfulness has been found to have beneficial psychological, somatic, behavioral, and interpersonal effects (JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2015;3[3]:e82). The same scientific review indicated mindfulness may also reduce psychological distress and optimize psychological function in young people, and that mindfulness-based programs may help in reducing depression and preventing relapse in depression. Due to the growing evidence and popularity of the topic, one site, The Week, reported the existence of more than 1,300 iPhone apps dedicated to mindfulness and meditation, many counting millions of downloads.

Because people are living longer, becoming more aware, and taking proactive approaches to health, personalized nutrition is booming. Regardless of the lack of unanimous agreement about the definition, the term and products surrounding the market are rising. The question  industry must ask is whether it will we be there in time to respond with innovative personalized options.

Chase Shryoc has been in the pharmaceutical and nutritional industry since 2008. His in-depth knowledge, marketing and sales experience allow him to build lasting relationships with international ingredient suppliers, manufacturers and brand owners. Shryoc has held several positions during his tenure at Gencor, from senior manager to his current role as vice president of sales and business development, where he is responsible for all North American sales.

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