NutraIngredients-USA put the question to Guru Ramanathan, PhD, senior vice president and chief innovation officer for leading retailer GNC. In his view, much education still needs to be done to convince men that this is a suitable area for prophylactic supplementation.
Problem often left until its too late
“Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the most common prostate problem for men older than age 50. It affects about 50% of men between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90% of men older than 80,” Ramanathan told NutraIngredients-USA.
“Men may not pay attention to the health of their prostate until they start to experience symptoms or changes in urination, etc. The occurrence of these symptoms typically increases with age. It is critical to consult with a physician and monitor the health of your prostate. Catching changes in early stages can mean that intervention can start earlier, too,” he said.
Big potential market
The scope of the potential problem—as well as the market opportunity—becomes clear by consulting demographic statistics. According to the publication Insurance Journal, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from about 46 million today to almost 100 million by 2060. By then, 24% of Americans will be in this group, compared to 15% today.
Ramanathan said a variety of botanical ingredients have been used in prostate health preparations. A common theme for these formulations is to impact the inflammatory pathways and 5 alpha-reductase activity, which prevents conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which may in turn help with prostate health.
Saw palmetto leads the pack
Saw palmetto is the most common ingredient, Ramanathan said. But others include beta-sitosterol, lycopene, pumpkin seed, pygeum and stinging nettle. Many essential fatty acid based preparations include Evening Primrose oil, fish oil and flax seed oil. Other commonly used ingredients include vitamins and minerals such as zinc, selenium and vitamin E. A few less common ingredients include prune extract and Suma root extract.
“Saw Palmetto stands out as having undergone numerous in-vitro, in-vivo, and human clinical studies showing potential benefits for men's health and prostate support, with new research being published yearly. It is also among the top 20 herbs sold in the United States. Beta-sitosterol, essential fatty acids, selenium and zinc have also been the subject of many studies. Varying degrees of research evidence exists on the other ingredients,” Ramanathan said.
Saw palmetto as the market leader has had its challenges in the form of supply issues. Valensa, a leading supplier of the ingredient, has spearheaded a plan run through the state of Florida to control the harvest of the berries, which are a fruit of the palm-like plant, and to try to make sure only ripe berries, with the proper amount of active constituents, come to market.
“The state of Florida recently started requiring harvesters and sellers of saw palmetto to obtain a permit. This appears to be an attempt to help manage the demand for saw palmetto and help ensure that the crop is not exploited,” Ramanathan said.
“Over the past few years, GNC has spearheaded the development of SSCI, a retailer driven industry initiative that is focused on elevating industry quality standards globally. A key part of the SSCI includes GACPs and GMPs for botanical raw materials. These cover farming, harvest and processing of botanical ingredients. Ensuring the quality, identity, traceability and sustainability of the crop is a critical part of SSCI’s focus. The changes implemented by Florida will help ensure traceability, transparency and quality of the product and will enable a sustainable and responsible method of harvesting the plant,” he added.
Healthy Aging online event
Men’s health is just on of the product development areas that falls under the aegis of Health Aging. NutraIngredients-USA will host an all-day Healthy Aging Online Event on Oct. 25. This FREE event will include a market overview session by Diane Ray of the Natural Marketing Institute as well as a panel discussion hosted by this reporter. In addition, sessions presented by top ingredient suppliers will also be available. Stay tuned for more information on this FREE online event.