Brain boosts: Growing cognitive support market fueled by healthy aging, esports and holistic health trends
04 May 2023 --- Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to boost their brain health and support, maintain or increase their cognitive abilities. Nootropic and nutraceutical launches that can offer these benefits are experiencing progressive global growth.
According to Innova Market Insights, supplement launches with cognitive support claims increased 2% year-over-year when comparing 2021 and 2022 launches. With supplements making up 88% of launches in 2022 and brain-mood health taking up the top positioning at 83%.
NutritionInsight speaks with experts and professionals at Kerry, Mibelle Group Biochemistry, Activ’Inside and Solabia Aglatech Nutrition about the latest innovations and trends in the cognitive support space.
“The huge changes in day-to-day life brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have amplified the anxiety and unease already being experienced across society,” says Dr. Anthony Thomas, global product manager at Kerry. “In response, consumers are taking a more proactive approach to their health.”
“The market for this kind of product has been growing in recent years and is expected to continue to increase at an annual rate of more than 10%,” Dr. Torsten Grothe, head of food and health, Mibelle Group Biochemistry, explains. “Emerging research has helped to understand which nutrients and ingredients can contribute to a healthy brain function.”
Maïté Jeanroy, marketing strategy and communications manager at Activ’Inside agrees, adding that the company expects growing popularity of brain health and cognition-supporting supplements to continue, with the demand being driven by health-conscious consumers.
“Especially the younger cohort,” says Jeanroy. “Millennials and peak performers, such as knowledge workers and students, constantly look for new solutions, often synthetic, to keep their brain youthfully active in order to stay mentally fit.”
“There is an increasing demand among consumers for holistic solutions that support their physical, mental and emotional well-being,” reveals Liat Shemesh, head of marketing at Solabia Algatech Nutrition. “As consumers are putting more emphasis on prevention, cognitive health solutions are becoming increasingly important.”
According to Solabia Algatech Nutrition, most consumers are looking for improvements in four key subcategories in the brain health category – focus, cognition, mood and sleep.
“Regardless of age or job role, all four of these needs resonate across all ages, whether at school, in the workplace, or even in the gaming sector,” says Shemesh. “Moreover, as the elderly population grows, more people are seeking ways to preserve their cognitive abilities.”
“In addition, the awareness of the gut-brain axis is increasing. Imbalance in the composition of the gut microbiome has been shown to increase the risk of a number of diseases and dysfunctions throughout the body and can even alter mood and the ability to cope with stress. Therefore, the use of dietary supplements that have an effect on the gut bacteria will increase.”
Kerry spotlights the growing F&B market for cognition and brain health support.
“Stress is an increasingly common experience, exerting pervasive effects throughout the body, including on cognitive performance, mood, and sleep quality,” says Thomas. “As a result, there is growing interest in dietary supplement approaches that moderate the biological response to stress to improve focus, well-being and sleep, and preserve cognitive health with aging.”
“With the growing body of science on the efficacy of ingredients like adaptogens and nootropics, cognitive health is carving out a strong foothold in the food and beverage space and we predict this trend will continue.”
Mibelle Group Biochemistry highlights a growing trend driven by the younger generation, which struggles with work and studies and the rise of esports. The company estimates that more than 200 million Americans play video games and as the market continues to grow, so does the demand for nutritional supplements.
“Players need their brain to be highly alert for a very long period,” says Grothe. “Amazingly competitive players can coordinate up to over 500 movements per minute on average – that is eight moves per second. This requires a high level of concentration, alertness, information processing, endurance and visual skills. They spend up to 12 hours a day playing games and it is not surprising that the cognitive challenge during gaming is very high.”
“There are an estimated 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide and this rapidly growing industry has significant potential for development in the coming years. Gaming sales increased by 37% annually in the US in the last few years.”
Activ’Inside states that it has conducted two clinical studies on the benefits of its cognition-supporting ingredient, Memophenol.
Jeanroy highlights the growing revenue that is being generated in esports as a factor in the growing cognitive support market.
“With the increase in revenue comes the increased pressure to perform better,” she elaborates. “This new generation of ‘cognitive athletes’ requires concentration and endurance but also a short reaction time and decision-making in addition to physical abilities such as dexterity and hand-eye coordination are also required – all of which could be boosted by Memophenol.”
Kerry spotlights natural and traditional ingredients and remedies, including botanicals used in traditional medicinal systems – such as ashwagandha, amla, shilajit, haritaki and shatavari – nootropics and omega 3 essential fatty acids as important active ingredients.
“For example, ashwagandha, a botanical traditionally used in Ayurveda to promote well-being, is among the fastest-growing nutraceutical ingredients,” Thomas states. “Sensoril is a unique, aqueous extract of ashwagandha that uses both roots and leaves to provide a fuller spectrum of health-promoting metabolites than roots only as most commonly used.”
“Omega 3 fats are an essential part of brain structure and are thought to be important for memory function. Eupoly-3 provides omega 3 fatty acids derived from ultra-purified fish or algal oils, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).”
Activ’Inside highlights its patented grape and wild blueberry formulation, Memophenol, and its clinically proven “triple synergistic effect.”
“There is clear evidence that flavanol monomers improve cerebral blood flow,” says Jeanroy. “Memophenol was developed to be the optimal source of these smallest forms of polyphenols. Better, the ratio of its ingredients allows a synergy; it multiplies their bioavailability by five. After crossing the blood-brain barrier, monomers are found in the brain and improve cognitive performance in situ.”
Solabia Algatech Nutrition stresses how astaxanthin helps the brain, which consumes approximately 20% of the total oxygen in the body, according to the company, but has limited antioxidant defenses to reduce oxidative stress. Shemesh further explains that oxidative stress is a condition that can cause damage to neurons in the brain leading to various symptoms and impaired functions.
“Due to this, antioxidants are often present in supplements intended to support cognitive well-being. Astaxanthin, a dark red carotenoid naturally produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, is one of the most powerful antioxidants known in nature,” she states. “It is much more potent than any other carotenoid and over 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C.”
“Its unique structure enables it to cross the blood-brain barrier providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection to brain cells. A recently published clinical study showed that AstaPure Arava – a whole algae complex that delivers 3% of astaxanthin – had beneficial effects on global well-being, including stress reduction and the immune system.”
Mibelle Group Biotechnology emphasizes study results for the efficacy of SaraPepp Nu, a standardized timut pepper extract the company says has significant effects on cognitive parameters which it says lasted for over 5 hours – longer than other nootropics such as caffeine.
“This was observed immediately after first intake as well as after taking it over a longer period. One immediate effect was the significant improvement of the reaction time,” says Grothe.
“Participants were much more accurate when tested in a gaming-like, computer-based assessment model,” he adds. “SaraPepp Nu also showed significant results on the same cognitive tasks after 57 days of supplementation.”
“This confirms that next to a fast effect, this innovative timut pepper extract also has long-term impact on mental performance and stress resistance,” he concludes. “The study results indicate that the cognitive benefits are mediated through the interactions with neuronal ion channels. This makes the difference to other typical stimulants like caffeine, taurine and others, where the activity of these classic stimulants disappears after one hour.”
By William Bradford Nichols
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