Active Aging for Everyone

The target demographic for active aging supplements may be younger than you think, with Millennials joining Gen X and Boomers by taking preventative measures to extend healthspan.

cartoon woman doing yoga with bicycle and shoe background graphic
“Active aging, by definition, is the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people age.”
— Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, Bluebonnet

Consumers are more tuned into the need to take action to age well, and from a younger age. Where “anti-aging” supplements were once primarily an interest for those over 55, Gen X and Millennials have shifted into the space. They are taking control, with a focus on lifestyle strategies to promote healthy, active aging.

“It is important to approach these concepts in the context of healthy aging and not anti-aging,” stresses Susan Hewlings, Ph.D., RD, Director of Scientific Affairs, Nutrasource, on the way to win in this market. “Anti-aging is not possible. We have to age. The idea is to do so in as healthy a way as possible. The goal is to work with your physiology, not against it, while not letting it get the best of you. I think we have also realized a lot of what we attributed to aging was really an accumulation of the effects of unhealthy lifestyles. Basically, years of inactivity and an unhealthy diet finally catches up with people.”

Hewlings explains, “My definition of active aging is to be proactive about your health, stay physically and mentally active, don’t let your age be the reason you stop trying new things or learning new skills. Yes, some hormones and physiological aspects change with age, but stay on top of what you can manage as part of healthy aging.” For more insights from Dr. Hewlings and other experts in the healthy aging space, view her educational talk and more sessions from Naturally Informed virtual event Active Aging: Mastering the Market, now available on demand at www.NaturallyInformed.net.

The fact that the definition of aging itself has changed is one reason this topic has grown so much in popularity, says Maite Jeanroy, Marketing Manager, Activ’Inside. “Today, it’s more than passing a certain age or being old and inactive. During the natural course of aging, the accumulation of molecular and cellular damage plays a significant role in one’s health over time. So, it’s more important to focus on the rate at which we age biologically based on various internal and external determinants. At Activ’Inside, these determinants are established based on four pillars, Jeanroy says:

  • Physical appearance (skin, hair)

  • Cognitive health

  • Emotional wellbeing (stress, sleep)

  • Overall general well-being of the body.

“Active aging no longer considers a particular age bracket,” Jeanroy adds. “Research and technology has shown that we can slow down or reduce the undesired effects of aging by maintaining the health and performance of the aforementioned determinants, taking preventative measures against disorders (when possible), and remaining active and independent throughout the course of our entire lives.”

Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, Sr. Director of Research & Development/National Educator, Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, points to another reason this category is booming. “Active aging is more popular than ever because the average life expectancy for men and women continues to rise, so reaching that ‘midlife’ stage is not as alarming as it used to be. In this day and age, life does not end at 40 or 50. In fact, especially for parents, it can be a new beginning as kids go off to college.”

Macdonald emphasizes, “Remember, age is just a number. It is about how you feel and your ability to live life to the fullest. With age comes wisdom and wherewithal, which can open new worlds like traveling, starting a side business, working towards more fulfilling relationships, and maintaining physical activity and mental acuity. Although we cannot be forever young, people want to maintain a youthful existence and improve the quality of those years as they mature. While aging can take a toll on your joints and bones, most men and women want to feel as good and energized as they did in their 20s and 30s.”

Consumers Take Control  

“I think as Gen X has started to enter this category, it is part of what is changing the aging market from treatment-oriented to ‘take control of your own health’ prevention-oriented,” Dr. Hewlings commented at the Naturally Informed event. “Gen X is known to be mistrusting, and is the first generation to have a high percentage of its members uninsured and disillusioned by traditional western medicine.”

Jolie Root, Senior Nutritionist and Educator, Carlson Labs, adds, “As more generations reach adulthood and begin to reach their 30s, they see the challenges faced by their parents and grandparents who may not be aging well. Boomers and Gen X are dealing with what used to be thought of as age-related health problems but are more accurately the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking to excess, not exercising, and over consumption of ultra-processed foods and sugar. In other words, poor lifestyle choices. Active aging is a conscious choice to support health at every age.

Dr. Hewlings explains technology’s role in the shift. “I think the rapid advances in technology like health trackers, artificial intelligence, access to information, access to genetic health screening, and more allows people to be more proactive about their health and therefore more empowered.”

Social Media

Social media is a part of this evolving technology and awareness, adds Zac Sniderman, Director of Business Development, OptiBiotix Health Plc. “The beauty of active aging is that it’s open to all ages and all demographics. As children, we naturally mirror what our parents do—or don’t do. As we age, we become more accustomed to how our bodies feel when we eat or do certain activities. The next generation to come into the workforce—Gen Z—are now teenagers and are being influenced by more than just those around them. They look to influencers of their own age on TikTok and other forms of media to follow new trends.”

Pointing to data from Mintel, Sniderman notes that 37% of U.S. social media users who follow influencers say they are following niche vloggers and bloggers, while up to 44% of U.S. Gen Zs now want to celebrate themselves mainly due to feeling like they’ve lost two years of their lives from the pandemic.

Opportunity for Retailers

The essential—and the opportunity—for retailers, according to Jeanroy: “Retailers should leverage the expertise and trust held in companies that actually prove and understand the science that supports the solutions that they provide, and not rely purely on marketing without proven efficacy. When you put scientific evidence at the forefront and provide tools and personalized services to help consumers better understand the benefits of the solutions being proposed, you increase consumer trust and fidelity. Reflecting our belief and mission to constantly base our solutions on factual science is our Silver Brain Food research program.” Jeanroy says a focus is on cognitive health.

Jeanroy continues, “The research program aims to develop local, personalized solutions, products, and services that minimize cognitive decline. Then, as part of a more holistic solution, we can propose a nutrient-rich diet that is clinically focused on maintaining optimal brain health for as long as possible.

“Under the same research program,” Jeanroy elaborates, “Activ’Inside also developed the Silver Brain Food App, a personal coaching application that helps ameliorate not only brain health but also overall emotional wellbeing—another determinant of active aging. By identifying the pillars that improve or maintain cognitive and emotional wellbeing through nutrition, physical activity, and sleep and stress support, users get to feel and assess tangible results based on personalized recommendations from a team of medical experts and proven scientific evidence.”

Shifting Attitudes Around Aging

The biggest change that consumers have today, Jeanroy concludes, is a more positive attitude in embracing the aging process by taking the initiative to age gracefully. “In short, trying to achieve the best versions of our age. This is why: Maintaining mental health and overall interior health is important. And I believe people are starting to be more aware of this, especially in the light of COVID where consumers are more than ever prioritizing prevention over cure. Steps like taking food supplements, adopting a more balanced diet, and engaging in more physical activities to support aging, both mentally and physically, are becoming more of a norm these days and not just a fad.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, maintains Vishal Shah, Director, Nutriventia Limited, “one of the most important things consumers have realized is that while some factors may seem to be spinning out of control, we do have some control over our health. This has led many people to turn towards supplements to enhance overall mental and physical health, which is what active aging is all about. Nutriventia has enough data to conclude that consumer perception towards active aging is changing, and COVID-19 has accelerated
the process.”

Economic Effects

Sniderman points to the economy, as well. “Consumer perception is continuously evolving based on socioeconomic culture. One of the biggest culture shifts was the pandemic, where consumers were focused on protecting themselves to protect others. There was a hibernation process, and many felt the need to embrace their newly found freedom to take up passion projects. For those on the frontline, it was the opposite, thrust into the limelight with a relentless sense of duty to keep the wheels turning. In 2023, consumers are coming full circle but with renewed vigor. Mintel cites this as the new ‘me mentality,’ where consumers are embracing their individuality discovered during the pandemic or in the socioeconomic events that followed thereafter.”

For food ingredients and nutraceutical manufacturers, Sniderman says this is good news. “Around half of those aged 55 and over are thinking about how nutrition can prevent illness and lead to a healthier lifestyle, according to a recent Mintel & Lightspeed report. Growth in this area means that many consumers are looking for food and beverages that can improve cognitive capacity, stress levels, and brain function. FMCG brands that want to tap into these trends need to look at ingredients that can help boost cognitive health, such as pinto beans, wellness mushrooms, and fiber-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, to name a few.

In-demand categories in the active aging space

Brain health is the top concern by consumers in the U.S., followed by bone and joint health, according to a report from Industry Transparency Center. Here, more on current trends.

1) Cognitive Health

“Cognitive health is most definitely one of the top trends in the active aging space,” says Shah. “According to a WHO report, more than 20% of people over 60 suffer from some form of mental or neurological disorder. Another study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 48.8% of those aged between 45 and 65 discussed either memory loss or confusion with a healthcare professional.” Shah also points to a survey involving 4,800 consumers across five countries, which revealed that more than 20% of consumers eat foods to boost their overall mood and state of mind.

2) Muscle and Bone Support

“The dietary supplement industry, which is all about providing long-term benefits, is playing an important role in healthy aging by providing support for overall musculoskeletal health,” says Shah. “The musculoskeletal market was valued at $57.4 billion in 2017 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 5.5% by 2023.” This, Shah says, makes it one of the top trends in the active aging space.

“I actually think we do have the secret to healthy aging,” says Dr. Hewlings. “At the core of it is a combination of resistance, exercise, and increased dietary protein.” The number one goal of consumers, she says, should be to maintain lean body mass. “To this end, protein and essential amino acids should be a key ingredient for healthy aging. There are decades of research to support the benefits of maintaining lean body mass for helping to prevent metabolic diseases and loss of functionality that are often associated with aging including cognitive function.”

3) Microbiome Balance

“As leaders in the microbiome modulator market, active aging to OptiBiotix would be defined by what’s happening on the inside of an individual’s gut microbiome, not what’s on the outside,” says Sniderman. “What they eat, how they live, what exercise they partake in, and even where they live will have great consequences on how that individual ages over time.”

Further, Sniderman says, “While a leaner appearance may give the impression of a fit and healthy individual, if they continue to ingest unhealthy foods—those high in salt, sugar and fats—and avoid exercising, the bacteria found in their gut will alter over time and the good bacteria that helps us fight disease  will decrease. This can have detrimental effects as we age and our metabolism rate shifts to accommodate for the body’s natural aging process. Take the gut-brain axis, for example. Consumers are understanding that there’s now a link between what’s inside our gut and how that can help us improve cognitive health. Now it’s less about mind over matter, and more about what’s feeding our mind that matters. It’s why consumers are increasingly turning towards prebiotics, probiotics, and even synbiotics to stimulate the growth of health positive bacteria in the gut.”

Active aging standout ingredients 

“There is no question that we need more science to understand how we can impact and improve the life quality of an aging population,” says Line Johnsen, VP, Science and Innovation, Aker BioMarine. Here, some of the latest findings.

Collagen. “As people pass through their 20s, 30s, and 40s into their middle age, maintaining a healthy body and allowing your inner youth and beauty to shine through is important,” says Sugarek MacDonald. “With approximately 77 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. now in the 53- to 71-year-old age range, there is a high demand for active aging products. Collagen is widely used in supplements and is mainly targeted toward the aging population because of its exceptional health benefits, like improving immunity, skin, bone and muscle health, and overall wellness, but it can also benefit people of all ages.”

Curcumin. “About 20% of female and 14% of male consumers in the U.S. are turning to curcumin-based nutraceuticals for joint health and nootropics for brain cognitive support,” cites Shah.

Krill Oil. “Aker BioMarine has invested in a new study that looks at how krill oil can influence many underlying mechanisms that contribute to aging,” says Johnsen, pointing to research published in Aging. The findings suggest that krill oil positively impacts several markers of aging, and increases survival of neurons preserving both memory and neuromuscular function. “This study brings huge potential for our industry, as well as society at large, as we expect the age-related health care costs to increase massively over the following years…The recent study in Aging demonstrates how krill oil can help slow down the aging process and potentially improve one’s quality of life.”

Aker BioMarine’s krill oil was used in two additional studies examining krill oil’s effects in aging populations, Johnsen reports. “A recent breakthrough study published in the top-tier American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that krill oil improves knee pain, stiffness, and physical function in adults between 40 to 65 years old with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, krill oil can have beneficial effects on skeletal muscle function and size in healthy, older people. This is according to a recent study led by scientists at the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow.”

Prebiotics. “WellBiome is a synergistic combination of two prebiotic fibers (Inulin and XOS) and a mineral (magnesium),” says Sniderman. “Its mechanism of action supports gut health by stimulating beneficial bacteria and supporting short chain fatty acids (SCFA) production. This thereby promotes gut barrier integrity. By enriching and supporting Bifidobacterium and SCFA throughout the gut, WellBiome is able to enhance magnesium bioavailability. This then supports heart health, cognitive health, bone health and support energy levels. These are all key areas associated with active aging.”

Pycnogenol. “Reports show that dietary supplement use increases with age and is highest among women aged 60 and over,” says Sébastien Bornet, VP Global Sales & Marketing at Horphag Research. “People are also living longer. With an aging population that is looking to live life on their terms for longer, we see the active aging market as a growing opportunity for science-backed natural ingredients, like Pycnogenol. This is especially true as younger consumers become aware of the benefits of being proactive. They look to achieve holistic benefits throughout all stages of life. Industry reports indicate that research to identify evidence-based preventative measures—across all four dimensions of health. This can enable older people to enjoy a higher quality of life. We continue to place importance on educating consumers of all ages of Pycnogenol’s benefits for healthy aging.”

 …and more! For a deep dive into trending ingredients and the latest research and developments, view the educational sessions from the Naturally Informed virtual event Active Aging: Mastering the Market, which took place in November. Scan the code or visit www.NaturallyInformed.net to access the content.

Topics covered include:

  • Ingredient Science Trends 

  • Active Lifestyle for Healthy Aging

  • EAAs: The Under-Recognized Key to Anti-Aging

  • Hobamine – A Radical Approach to Cellular Health

  • Quercefit Quercetin Phytosome: A multi-target ally for healthy aging

  • The Intersection Between Performance and Longevity: Designing Appealing and Relevant Products for the 50+ Consumer

 

Active Aging At-a-Glance: 5 Essentials

Experts listed the keys for feeling fab. Among them:

  1. Eat a nourishing, plant-based diet such as the Mediterranean diet.
  2. Follow a well-crafted supplement regimen that corrects common shortfalls of key nutrients like omega-3, vitamin D, and vitamin K. A supplement routine also should target the primary mechanistic accelerators of aging processes in the body: inflammation, oxidative stress, and glycation.

3. Get daily physical activity that includes aerobic exercise, resistance training, and stretching.

4. Get adequate sleep.

5. Deal with stress and any mental wellness issues, which contribute to problems with inflammation, oxidative stress, blood sugar and metabolic health.