Seizing the ‘window of opportunity’ for aging well

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

© PeopleImages / Getty Images
© PeopleImages / Getty Images

Related tags healthy aging Sleep Protein Hormone

Protein consumption, quality sleep and hormone balance are all key in reframing how the industry considers the ‘healthy aging’ category, according to new insights from a Vitafoods webinar this week.

The talk highlighted the shift towards proactive health management—or ‘well-aging’—and the need for brand's to focus on holistic solutions. 

Manfred Eggersdorfer, professor in healthy aging at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, told attendees that it is important to seize the ‘window of opportunity’ for delivering prevention strategies to promote a healthy life. 

“We're fortunate to enjoy high life expectancy, with averages of 79 years for males and 84 years for females in the European Union,” he said. “However, the increase in life expectancy comes with challenges, as there's a growing concern about the rise of ill health alongside longer lifespans.”

As many people are deficient in essential nutrients, he explained that it is crucial to address these issues by promoting healthier lifestyles and ensuring optimal nutrient intake before consumers age past the point of being able to reap the benefits. 

And with younger individuals showing interest at an earlier age, this window of opportunity may be growing, Aagam Shah, market analyst at Innova Market Insights, added.

This can be in part attributed to the reframing of healthy aging, with Mintel identifying ‘age reframed’ as a top consumer trend for 2024.​ This involves dispelling outdated stigmas about growing older to instead concentrate on consumer interest in extending healthy years.

Protein intake 

Shah noted  McKinsey insights revealing that consumers are more likely to respond when products are shifted away from the aging process itself to specific aspects of longevity such as enhancing fitness.

Discussing potential ingredients to support specific aspects of longevity, he said global functional and sports nutrition consumers are most influenced by high protein claims​ and that there is a growing market for protein-enriched products targeting older adults seeking to support their exercise and fitness goals while promoting healthy aging.

He drew attention to the notable gap between recommendations for protein intake and consumption among older individuals, which he said offers a marketing opportunity to promote ‘active nutrition’ instead of ‘sports nutrition’ with tailored messaging and product development.

Sleep health

Sleep is of the utmost importance for aging healthily, noted Emiliano Pena, senior content producer in nutrition and health at Informa Markets. Yet changes in the brain's internal clock can lead to common sleep issues like insomnia and fragmented sleep, impacting physical and mental well-being. 

“Sleep is so important to regenerate our body and mind and maintain overall health, as lack of sleep has been shown to increase the risk of developing long term conditions like type 2 diabetes and potentially even some conditions like Alzheimer's disease,” he said.

Pena noted magnesium and melatonin are key supplements for improving sleep quality as magnesium has been found to maintain healthy sleep schedules, while melatonin is said to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep quality. 

Ingredients such as tart cherry, which is rich in melatonin and antioxidants, and L-theanine, found in tea leaves, could also contribute to better sleep by promoting relaxation and reducing inflammation, he noted. 

Hormonal health ​ 

Interest in hormonal health is rising amongst aging populations, Niahm Michail, head of publishing at Informa added, which is evidenced by an increase in supplement purchases with hormonal balancing claims​ (2023 Mintel report).

Hormonal health is crucial for various bodily functions as it impacts physical and mental health throughout life, and while the effectiveness of hormone-balancing supplements is still under scrutiny, certain supplements like vitamin D are recognized for their role in hormone balance.

Research explains​ that vitamin D is a prohormone rather than a vitamin due to the role it plays across numerous processes in the body. As the body's ability to synthesize and utilize vitamin D efficiently declines with age, however, supplementation can support overall health and longevity​.

Ashwagandha also shows promise in regulating hormones, particularly testosterone and DHEA levels in men​, and relieving perimenopausal symptoms in women​. 

Michail explained that tech advances are beginning to explore solutions in the early detection of hormonal changes, referencing research​ that is exploring the development of a wearable device that can check female hormone estradiol through sweat. 

“Estrogen plays a really important role in women's health and healthy aging, and new innovations could open up the possibility for non-invasive wearable devices that could detect early on hormonal changes that are associated with, for example, menopause,” she said.

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