08 Sep 2017 --- The topic of healthy aging was explored in detail at Vitafoods Asia 2017 in a panel discussion involving key insights from industry insiders that discussed how to define and serve the “silver consumer” with healthy aging products. Chaired by The World of Food Ingredients Chief Editor Robin Wyers, the discussion featured contributions from analyze & realize Senior Consultant Iris Hardewig and Director of Nutrition Science and Advocacy at DSM Nutritional Products, Human Nutrition & Science of Greater China Weiguo Zhang.
“Prediction of global demographics from the UN for 2050 indicate that all region are expected to age when compared to 2015 figures, with the over 60 population to account for over 34 percent of the European demographic in 2050, compared to 24 percent today,” explained Wyers in his introduction, which emphasized the importance of the healthy aging space as life expectancy grows.
Defining “silver consumers” The 50-plus age group is where the “silver consumer” lies, according to Hardewig: “This is the age when heart disease increases, but not only that, also the eye problems [and others] start to increase […] at least at this age if not earlier than that.”
However, Zhang believes that healthy aging should be a concern even earlier: “I don’t know from when, but 40 or even before that, we should start considering […] intervention or prevention. So apart from omega 3, we are interested in other ingredients and […] solutions.”
This “silver consumer” group’s needs present a challenge that companies in the healthy aging space are figuring out how to meet. “They definitely have different requirements for nutrients – that’s why in some countries their RDAs are age-specific for vitamins, because for some vitamins [they are] higher for the elderly,” points out Hardewig. “For instance, vitamin B12 requirements are increasing with age. The requirements for protein, for instance, [are now] increasing with age.”
Focusing on prevention Ingredients like omega 3, which Zhang gave a presentation on, could be crucial in preventive healthcare for “silver consumers.” “The omegas will have a very beneficial effect in terms of disease prevention,” Hardewig asserts. “[In the last few years I have seen] that the focus is going more and more to plant polyphenols and especially to berry paste products. If you look at those products, they are usually high [in] anthocyanins, and anthocyanins are known to target especially […] eye health, heart health, and now the latest studies show that anthocyanins are able to target the cognitive decline. This is also a nutrient movement that is very beneficial for the aging population.”
“I think prevention is a very important point because we know that with the aging population, [in] the last years of life they need more intensive health care because they develop chronic diseases,” Hardewig says. “Since we know that the life expectancy is increasing, it can be expected that also the lifespan where they need more intensive healthcare will increase. I think it’s one of the responsibilities of the industry to prevent that. [It should] move this threshold where the elderly population is developing these body diseases […] we see that filling up the nutrient efficiencies may prevent chronic diseases, but then also adding these other nutrients like the omegas and so on, there is a chance to delay the development of chronic diseases.”
As far as the Asian market goes, providing vitamin D concerns Zhang, thanks to its link to fighting osteoporosis: “The bone density is going down [in] many young people in Asian countries. The sunshine exposure is reducing, probably for two reasons: one is air pollution that prevents the UVB from penetrating […] and reducing our skin synthesis of vitamin D. The other one is our culture: Asian people prefer fair skin, not darker skin, and whenever the sunshine is strong, we try to [reduce] sun exposure. It’s not [all bad] because it will reduce the incidence of skin cancer; on the other hand, you pay the cost for reducing vitamin D synthesis.”
Healthy aging industry must deliver Whatever the industry’s other concerns are, something that Hardewig also believes should not be forgotten is presenting products in delivery formats that “silver consumers” can handle.
“Consumers of the age of 50 already have problems swallowing capsules, so I think one of the very important things is to consider [is] delivery formats that are easy to consume by the elderly,” Hardewig notes. “Think about the small pellet formats, or the liquid formats, something that is easy to swallow. Also, packaging needs to be easy to open. Getting a pill out of a blister is already a problem for elderly people; this is something that is often forgotten in the R&D departments because they’re [generally] young people and for them, it’s just not apparent that this may be a problem. This is something that really needs to be considered. I think that is already a way of qualifying as a product dedicated to the elderly population: if you can write on your package, ‘easy to swallow’ or ‘easy to open’ [then it qualifies].”
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