Europeans hear about lutein, but AMD awareness is low

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Zeaxanthin

Awareness of lutein in Europe is growing apace, according to a new
consumer survey. But many consumers have not heard of age-related
macular degeneration, meaning that the carotenoid's potential in
reducing risk of the condition may not yet be realised.

The new survey was commissioned by Kemin Health, maker of FloraGLO branded lutein, from Frost and Sullivan. Five hundred consumers aged between 20 and 65 years were questioned across Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France and the UK (500 in each country).

It found that awareness of the antioxidant carotenoid lutein has never been so high in Europe: in Italy and France it had doubled compared to last year, to 25.8 percent and 16 percent respectively.

Germans showed the greatest awareness, of 33.3 percent. The UK was the only country where it seemed to have slipped slightly, to 20 percent (compared to 25.8 in 2005). Spain had the lowest level, at 9.8 percent.

Even though blindness was seen to be the third biggest health concern for Europeans, AMD does not seem to be being recognised as a major threat: 33 percent of French respondents had heard of it, compared to 27 percent in Italy, 24 percent of Germans, and 21 percent in Portugal.

The exception was the UK, where 41 percent of respondents questioned had heard of AMD.

AMD is a progressive eye disease that affects the central macula of the eye, leaving sufferers with only peripheral vision. It is the most common cause of blindness in the over-50s in the Western world, according to AMD Alliance International, and is estimated to affect 25 to 30m people.

A number of studies have shown that lutein can play a role in protecting against AMD as it filters out harmful blue light that can induce oxidative stress and possibly free-radical damage.

Another carotenoid called zeaxanthin (also present in the eye but in smaller amounts) has also been linked with AMD risk reduction, leading a number of supplement-makers to develop formulas containing both lutein and zeaxanthin.

Overall, the highest awareness of lutein was seen in the 50 to 59-age bracket, with females showing a greater level than men. This, Kemin Health Europe's Pedro Vieira said, was to be expected as a lot of the public relations and media coverage is tailored towards older women, who are most educated in health matters and tend to make more of the purchasing decisions.

Moreover, women have a higher risk of developing AMD.

The country-by-country findings mirror Kemin Health's European sales, to some extent.

Germany is the company's number one country in sales terms also, with the widest range of products from specific eye heath supplements to lutein-containing multivitamins.

It was the first country where Wyeth launched its Centrum eye health supplements, accompanied by a big marketing campaign two years ago.

The UK is a "curious story"​, said Vieira. Traditionally it has been the market where lutein awareness was highest, but this year it slipped to just 20 percent.

At the same time awareness of AMD is the highest in Europe - a factor that indicates consumers are perhaps not connecting lutein with the condition.

"In my opinion there is quite a bit of confusion in the UK about nutraceutical substances,"​ said Vieira. Most people questioned in the survey said they were influenced to take dietary supplements by what they read, and awareness of active substances in supplements, such as omega-3, cod liver oil or glucosamine, tended to be greater than awareness of brands.

Vieira noted that none of the major players in the UK, such as Wyeth or Roche, have developed wide consumer campaigns as they have done in other countries.

The survey also looked into awareness of lutein for skin health - an association that Kemin has recently been communicating. Vieira said that the survey found that consumer concerns were broadly the same as with eye heath - that is, ageing and protection from the sun.

As to the reasons behind the overall increase in awareness, Kemin Health is claiming the credit for itself. It has been a major force in building the category, and does a lot of co-marketing with its customers and partners, including the sponsorship of congresses and round tables.

Through the Lutein Information Bureau, Kemin Health is also involved in the production of literature for distribution to consumers and medical professionals.

More than being just a product of Kemin Health's marketing, however, it is also an important tool for future growth.

"It demonstrates to current and potential customers that we are investing in awareness in the marketplace,"​ said Vieira.

"We certainly hope awareness will go up, and we will be continuing our efforts to maintain levels and increase it if possible."

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Content provided by Bioiberica | 23-Oct-2023 | Insight Guide

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