Antioxidants find new potential amid modern life’s demands

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14 Aug 2017 --- Nutrition suppliers have been selling the benefits of antioxidants for some time, and the general public continues to show curiosity about their potential health and anti-aging benefits. Today, we take a look at the state of the market for antioxidants, which seem to be becoming ever more specialized and more responsive to other nutritional trends.

Consumer interest
Why are so many consumers still showing an interest in antioxidants? Modern life is an important factor according to Efrat Kat, VP Marketing and Sales for Algatech: “Today's modern life is associated with more stress, air pollution and so on. This accelerates the development of stress-related diseases […] free radicals and antioxidants have become commonly used terms in modern discussions of disease mechanisms. The industry, medical and nutritional experts have done a good job getting the message across and educating the market [about] the benefits of natural antioxidants, which [has led] to an increasing demand.”

Bryan See, Business Development Manager at ExcelVite, also believes that the demands of modern life are increasing the demand for antioxidants. “Most consumers today live a lifestyle [with] a fast-pace, high stress, no time for cooking (which means consuming less fruit and vegetables and more processed foods), competing in cross-fit exercises (high oxygen consumption) and [a] lack of sleep,” he says. “Such […] activities are linked to excessive production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species, leading to damages in cells and DNA, thus hastening the aging process.”

Widespread knowledge of vitamins’ benefits could also be a gateway to the benefits of other antioxidants, according to Brian Appell, Marketing Manager at OmniActive Health Technologies: “I think consumers are interested in antioxidants because they know that some of our basic vitamins or minerals act as antioxidants and there are other, more specialized ingredients that can play a key role in promoting health and possibly preventing disease.”

Of course, antioxidants are becoming ever more targeted in what they can do, not just offering “anti-aging” properties. “Consumers are also interested in antioxidants because they can address specific issues. Antioxidants are still an important part of general health, but a more targeted approach is being taken when providing options to consumers,” notes Appell. “Condition-specific supplements address a variety of health benefits, from daily to chronic, or age-related, issues. Eye, brain, joint, bone, heart and skin health can all benefit from antioxidant formulas.”

Delivery systems
Antioxidants now seem to be moving into food-based areas of delivery, moving away from the pill and powder formats that many would associate with supplements and fitting in with the more natural diets that are increasingly being followed.

“Food-based and whole food extracts are increasingly popular with consumers as they look more to their diet to optimize nutrition,” Appell says. “With that, powder formulas, fortified food-based products – like bars – and ready-to-drink formulas resonate with consumers because they feel they’re getting more comprehensive antioxidant protection than just taking a pill containing vitamin C, for example.”

A demand for novelty that spans the generations is also being felt. “Lately, there is a growing demand for chewables or gummies as millennials and baby boomers prefer new and exciting delivery systems,” observes Kat. “Healthy and sport drinks are also on the rise.”

New forms of more medicine-like delivery are becoming popular, too. “For optimal absorption in the body, it is preferable [that they are in a] form that seals them from all external environments. For example, encapsulation into a softgel, encapsulation by spray-drying or encapsulation using nanotechnology […] can best preserve their integrity or potency,” offers See.

Consumer trends inspire innovation.
The shift toward a more diet-based approach from consumers can be seen in the way in which their preferences have moved away from the classic vitamins of choice. Synthetic vitamin supplements are being replaced in the public’s affections by a dizzying array of new compounds with difficult-to-pronounce names, all with the aim of getting back to eating in a more “natural” way.

“Even though the basics like vitamin C and E are still popular antioxidants, other, more exotic compounds like flavonoids, xanthophylls, diarylheptanoids and polyphenols are piquing the interest of consumers and this coincides with the shift in preference to food-based nutrition rather than synthetic vitamins,” Appell says. “Herbal extracts, too, resonate with consumers because of their ‘natural’ aspect and a long history of use with regard to specific benefits. For example, curcumin continues to be a superstar in the herbal category because of a large body of science supporting its potential benefits tied to its role as a powerful antioxidant that mitigates oxidative stress that plays a role in the pathology of disease.”

Antioxidants are therefore not immune from the “clean label” trend or more general clean eating. “Educated consumers want to know the sources of their antioxidants – natural or synthetic, extract or whole food, organic or non-organic, etc.,” says Kat. “The influence of vegetarian and vegan diet trends [also] drives manufacturers to produce vegan formulations.”

“The market for antioxidants has evolved [over] the past one to two decades, from product with single compound to mixture of natural compounds and antioxidants,” according to See. The first example he gives is carotenoids: “Beta-carotene was known as the most powerful carotenoid when it was first discovered. Now, the market has evolved to natural multi-carotenoids, extracted from fruits and vegetables.” The second is vitamin E: “The market for this ‘generic’ vitamin E product has been declining – which [is] mainly due to increased awareness of natural vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) and the negative reports of alpha-tocopherol in relation to prostate cancer etc.”

Different types of antioxidants are also breaking free of the perceived age-based restrictions they may once have had tied to them. “Antioxidants are seeing growth in many demographics as well,” Appell explains. “For instance, lutein – a popular antioxidant long associated with the senior population – has expanded into other categories as researchers continue to deliver compelling science supporting this powerful carotenoid’s health benefits for eye, skin and brain health, which has implications across all age groups.”

The second part of our report (to be published on Wednesday) into antioxidants will delve into the scientific support emerging around a number of commercial antioxidant launches. 

By Paul Creasy

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