Whether it’s work, inflation, war or the pandemic, Americans are stressed out. And according to Stress.org, the US is one of the most stressed out countries in the world. The current stress level experienced by Americans is 20% higher than the global average.
Susan Hewlings PhD, RD, Director of Scientific Affairs at Nutrasource, said that while the need for stress management is nothing new, since the pandemic hit, addressing it is more important now than ever.
Getting to the root of stress
“In a recent inquiry into ‘psychological stress’ at www.clinicaltrials.gov, there are more than 1,000 studies investigating numerous interventions for the management and treatment of stress,” said Hewlings.
One such study she noted was a 2022 survey conducted on over 2,000 US adults by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA). The research found top sources of stress were the rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation. Nearly 90% cited gas prices, energy bills and grocery costs, followed by supply chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (80%) and potential retaliation from Russia in the form of cyberattacks or nuclear threats (80%).
Following these findings, APA stated, “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come. There is no question: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the lives of all Americans, and it will continue to do so. It has disrupted work, education, health care, the economy, and relationships, with some groups more negatively impacted than others”.
Hewlings explained that studies of stress interventions are part of the larger mental health research program with numerous outcome measures from biomarkers such as Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR), through the more conventional scales like Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale (DASS-21), various visual analogue scales (Bond-Lader, VAS-stress, etc.) to some of the recent smartphone patient reported outcome (ePRO) applications like Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ).
Looking into 2023, Hewlings said she anticipates more studies related to stress management efficacy as well as more studies assessing multi-ingredient products that address the symptoms of stress as well as physiological mechanisms related to stress.
Hewlings pointed out that nearly every system of the body is impacted negatively by chronic stress. “Therefore, the best approach is always overall health and well-being. Exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep go a long way. Therefore, any supplement strategy you can implement to support these efforts is advantageous.”
Research looking into the impact of essential fatty acids (EFAs), B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and/or zinc, consumed as dietary supplements on female stress and anxiety levels, found that magnesium and vitamin B6 may be effective in combination in reducing premenstrual stress, and vitamin B6 alone may reduce anxiety effectively in older women. High-dose sustained-release vitamin C may reduce anxiety and mitigate increased blood pressure in response to stress.
A 2022 randomized controlled trial examined the effect of a combination of magnesium, vitamins B6, B9, B12, rhodiola and green tea/L-theanine (Mg-Teadiola) on stress in chronically stressed, otherwise healthy individuals. Effects on stress-related quality-of-life parameters were explored. Stress as assessed by the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS)-42 questionnaire significantly improved after 28 days of supplementation.
“All of these ingredients have been studied individually for their effects on stress so it makes sense to explore multi-ingredient stress management formulas, especially considering that stress impacts all physiological systems,” Hewlings said.
Other ingredients that Hewlings found promising are L-theanine, magnesium and ashwagandha. Lesser known ingredients that she said show great potential include kava, valerian, pennywort, hops, chamomile, ginkgo biloba, passionflower, skullcap and lemon balm.
Stress knows no boundaries
Hewlings said this is one market that crosses all demographics, so it’s ideal to attract new supplement users and appeal to a wider market. “It is relatively straightforward and non-invasive to study in that there are some easy-to-administer reliability and validity tested surveys for determining effectiveness. It does involve many different mechanisms and systems however, so the focus here will be on multi-ingredient formulas.”