Maintaining and improving cognitive health has become a major concern for consumers of all ages. Ingredient manufacturers have developed natural solutions to address both the mind and body.
The natural health care community and society as a whole are increasingly recognizing that mental health is just as important as physical health. Physical issues and ailments can affect our mental health and wellbeing, and mental illness or impairment can keep us from being as physically active as we should be, potentially leading to additional physical health problems. There are several aspects of brain function that affect us physically, mentally and emotionally. According to The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Aging (NIA), “brain health refers to how well a person’s brain functions across several areas.” They identified four aspects of brain health: cognitive health, motor function, emotional function and tactile function.
Maintaining overall brain health is crucial, especially as we age. Particularly, it is important to maintain our cognitive health, which is an aspect of brain health that provides us with, as defined by the NIA,“the ability to clearly think, learn and remember.” Risk factors for poor cognitive health were listed as “some physical and mental health problems, such as high blood pressure or depression; brain injuries, such as those due to falls or accidents; some medicines, or improper use of medicines; lack of physical activity; poor diet; smoking; drinking too much alcohol; sleep problems; and social isolation and loneliness.” Cognitive health also declines with age.
They noted that the following lifestyle habits can help us to maintain our cognitive health: “take care of your physical health, manage high blood pressure, eat healthy foods, be physically active, keep your mind active, stay connected with social activities, manage stress and reduce risks to cognitive health.”
In addition to these lifestyle habits, there are several natural ingredients that can be used to maintain and improve cognitive health. According to www.grandviewresearch.com, “the global brain health supplements market size was valued at $7.21 billion (U.S.) in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.0 percent from 2021 to 2028. The increasing interest in improving and maintaining brain health among consumers has been driving product demand over the world.” Some of the ingredients that are widely known to support cognitive function, according to www.healthline.com, include fish oils like omega-3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), resveratrol, caffeine, phosphatidylserine, acetyl-l-carnitine, Ginkgo biloba and creatine. Due to rising consumer concerns, however, several natural ingredient manufacturers are responding with new innovations that can help people to maintain and improve their cognitive health.
Consumers of all ages have reported concerns related to their cognitive health. Linda Peek, Biotis brain health lead at FrieslandCampina Ingredients located in The Netherlands, noted that “Adolescence and puberty initiate intense learning and social development. This is a time of structural remodeling and neural re-configuration. Adolescence is, therefore, a critical window where the microbiota can help fine-tune the gut-brain axis … young adults may be continuing [their] education or starting new careers—and drug and alcohol use commonly [increases during] this time. New and working parents are prone to stress, while later in life, cognitive decline can begin, pushing memory up the list of priorities.” This means that different age groups typically have some differences in their concerns about cognitive health, and these often continue to change as they age.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Itay Shafat, cognitive health product manager at IFF Health located in Hazlet, NJ, “Consumer trends … are related to general concerns, such as transparency, clean label, pill fatigue and more.” As the demand for natural products without artificial ingredients rises, consumers want to be ensured that what they are putting into their bodies is safe, clean and effective enough to adequately address their concerns.
Cognitive Health Market Trends
Cognitive health ingredient innovators have taken note of the latest market trends in order to create their ingredients. Laurentia Guesman, business manager of food & supplement ingredients at AIDP, Inc. located in City of Industry, CA, has noticed that “The market for cognitive products continues to grow, but more importantly, it is diversifying.” She elaborated, “The events of 2020 caused a lot of stress and anxiety for many individuals. We are seeing this segment of cognitive health growing at a faster rate … also, there is increased awareness of maintaining a longer lifetime of cognitive strength.” When it comes to age demographics, she noted that, “The market is also expanding to younger individuals, [more] than historically seen. Younger individuals are taking control of their overall health and turning to a variety of stress support options. In addition, the increase in gaming has created a new focus for cognitive products, especially among a younger demographic.”
According to Loukiana Chatzinasiou, senior product manager, Europe sales & marketing at Sibelius Limited (Abingdon, U.K.), “The cognitive health supplements market has been on the rise even before the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, according to a recent article by Euromonitor International, between 2015 and 2020, the market for memory and cognitive health-positioned supplements saw a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent globally.” However, in agreement with Guesman, she acknowledged that “The pandemic outbreak has accelerated the demand for mental wellness ingredients, encompassing not only cognitive health but also sleep and stress management products. It is now clear that these three health areas are interconnected and should be kept in balance to maintain a healthy mind. With COVID-19 restrictions still in place and individuals struggling with their mental health, the need for cognitive product innovation is constantly growing.”
Like Guesman, Chatzinasiou also mentioned the e-gaming market, which has been rapidly growing. “With e-gaming intensifying during lockdowns and increasingly being acknowledged as a sport, the industry is now focusing on the underserved sector of nootropic ingredients. Although energy drinks have been on the rise for several years, their high sugar and caffeine content make them less appealing to e-gamers who are looking for healthier, on-the-go alternatives to improve hand-eye coordination [and] reaction times and to remain competitive in the fast-paced world of online games.”
Chatzinasiou also noted that “recent launches show a consumer appetite for functional beverages that help reduce stress, aid rest or improve focus and productivity” and that “clinically studied botanical extracts are gaining traction over the years and are expected to be the fastest growing product category in the brain health market from 2021 to 2028.”
Peek concurred, stating that “functional foods and beverages remain a huge market across the globe and brain health is definitely one of its hottest categories.” She also found that in 2020, 60 percent of people said they were interested in health products to reduce their stress levels.
“Brain health supplements have traditionally been used for improving concentration and mood, but more recently, insomnia and anxiety have, perhaps unsurprisingly, risen up on the agenda,” Peek continued. COVID-19 has increased levels of uncertainty and anxiety across the globe, so it is no wonder why much of the population would have issues with stress, anxiety and sleep. All in all, she noted that “As consumers become more educated about the holistic nature of well-being, they are actively seeking safe, natural ways to support their brain health. Ingredients that can address issues such as stress, anxiety and sleep disruption will be at the forefront.”
Annie Eng, CEO of HP Ingredients located in Bradenton, FL, broke down what each generation is generally looking for when it comes to ingredients for cognitive support. “Younger adults (upper tier of Generation Z, Millennials) are more keen on ensuring their concentration, focus, attention and endurance of acuity are functioning optimally,” she said. “Generation X, meanwhile, are also desirous of maintaining these abilities, and are more concerned about sustaining healthy memory. Older adults—Boomers and the Swing generation—are primarily concerned about maintaining healthy brain structure and function and preventing deterioration that can result in loss of memory and other functions.” Like Guesman and Chatzinasiou, she also noted the growth in the e-sports industry among younger generations, where cognitive endurance and sustained intense focus are important for competitors.
Stephanie Udell, global marketing leader—probiotics at IFF Health, mentioned that “as consumers become more comfortable discussing their own mental health, and as science continues to highlight the critical impact the gut can have on the brain, interest in natural supplements—such as probiotics that target brain health, and more specifically stress—continues to grow.” She elaborated that, “As a whole, the dietary supplement market is evolving toward an increased focus on microbiome health,” which “can likely be attributed to consumers’ growing understanding of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, and the fact that gut health influences all aspects of the body.”
Udell also noted that “in the last five years, brands around the world launched more than 8,500 new supplements positioned to manage mood, stress or anxiety. Of those offerings, 333 were probiotic based, a niche market segment which saw a 34 percent growth during the same time.” Therefore, IFF Health has focused on the connection between gut health and cognitive health, and have released ingredients in accordance with their findings.
Ingredients to Support Cognitive Health
Due to the increasing demand for cognitive support supplements, manufacturers have been innovating their own unique natural ingredient solutions. Guesman shared that AIDP, Inc.’s core ingredient is Magtein (magnesium L-threonate), “a patented compound discovered by MIT scientists with strong evidence supporting cognitive function and brain health.” She continued, “Magtein is the most effective form of magnesium able to cross the blood brain barrier. Significant improvements were noted in four major domains of the brain: executive function, working memory, attention and episodic memory. Magtein was shown to reduce the effects of brain aging by nine years.” She added that consumers have also noticed a difference in sleep, mood and stress levels.
AIDP’s newest ingredients are BacoMind and OciBest. “BacoMind is a patented, clinically tested, ‘memory and cognition enhancing,’ standardized phytochemical composition—containing a full-spectrum extract with nine different bioactives,” said Guesman. “BacoMind is clinically tested to support learning and memory in adults and children and has strong scientific support for brain and cognitive health. [It] has been shown to improve memory acquisition and retention in the elderly, as well as improved verbal memory. Clinical studies with children aged 6-12 years also showed a reduction in restlessness and improved self-control and action.” OciBest, on the other hand, has been shown to support stress management. “In a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, OciBest significantly reduced forgetfulness, frequent feeling of exhaustion and sleep problems,” Guesman said.
Chatzinasiou noted that “some of the core, long-standing ingredients for cognitive health have been caffeine, gingko, ginseng, omega-3, B-vitamins and vitamin E. These ingredients have been widely studied for their benefits in the brain; however, they are gradually losing steam as students and professionals are looking for innovative supplement formats with immediate effects and less stimulatory side-effects, like those of caffeine.” She said that over the last few decades, botanicals, such as bacopa, ashwagandha and Salva officinalis, have gained traction.
“Sibelius: Sage is our first and most successful brain health ingredient,” stated Chatzinasiou. “Our ingredient is a non-GMO (genetically modified organism), patent-pending Salva officinalis extract that provides a fast lift to cognitive performance for those looking for a non-caffeinated natural brain boost. Clinical studies have shown volunteers to experience significant improvements in memory focus and attention within less than one hour after supplementation.” She added that Sibelius: Sage was recently the subject of a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, which was conducted on human in-vitro data. “The study investigated the effects of Sibelius: Sage on inflammatory responses in human mature adipocytes and neuroblastoma cell lines” and found that the results supported the “utilization of sage extract as a potential anti-inflammatory agent, which may contribute toward maintenance of long-term cognitive health.” Another one of their studies, performed on young adults and children, found improvement in word recall, short-term episodic memory and ability to focus, without any adverse effects noted.
Peek described FrieslandCampina Ingredients’ successful ingredient, Biotis GOS, which focuses on the gut-brain axis. “Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) are prebiotics derived from bovine milk. They have been used for fortification for many years, notably in infant nutrition, and have been shown to increase the relative abundance of lactobacilli and bifdobacteria in the gut.” She continued, “Via the gut-brain axis, higher levels of these beneficial bacteria have been shown to provide brain health benefits, including reduced stress levels. Our solution, Biotis GOS, is the most researched galacto-oligosaccharide in the world and has been found to stimulate bifidobacteria present in the microbiota, as well as help build mental resilience and maintain mental balance.”
In a human study analyzing the effects of GOS on young women diagnosed with anxiety, “48 participants, divided into two groups (mild vs. high anxiety), were placed on a four-week course of Biotis GOS or a placebo. The results showed that Biotis GOS reduced self-reported anxiety levels in participants and also improved the processing of emotional content in a behavioral task.”
HP Ingredients offers two products for the cognitive and brain support category, according to Eng. “IQ200 Kesum (Persicara minor and Polygonum minus) is primarily for intellectual performance and memory (function more than structure). Two human studies have shown that IQ200 exerted significant improvements in Cognitive Function Score in reaction time, working memory, and sustained attention, as well as on the Digit Span test, short-term memory, and Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence Score.”
Their latest study on IQ200’s benefits showed that “six months of IQ200 supplementation potentially improved visual memory, negative mood, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and triglyceride levels among older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Further, significant improvements were observed in most of the negative mood status, particularly tension, anger, confusion and total negative subscales in the present study,” according to Eng.
Their other ingredient, NeuroActin (Andorgraphis paniculata) “is standardized to andrographolide 14-deoxyandrographolide and neoandrographolide. Murine research has shown modes of action to improve learning and memory by reducing oxidative stress and neuroinflammatory status, induces post-synaptic proteins and stimulates neurogenesis. Therefore, NeuroActin supports both structure and function of the brain,” said Eng.
The newest cognitive health ingredient available from IFF Health, according to Udell, is HOWARU Calm, which contains 17 billion CFU of their signature strain, L. paracasei Lpc-37. “The featured strain has been demonstrated in a clinical trial to help adults manage the psychological response to stress, support brain health by reducing perceived stress in adults, and provide stress relief by helping to balance and regulate general feelings of stress,” said Udell. “Additionally, the strain promotes a balanced mood, a relaxed state of mind and overall mental well-being.”
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, researchers “divided 120 healthy adults into two groups and instructed them to take one capsule of either 17B CFU of Lpc-37 or a placebo every day for five weeks,” explained Udell. “Researchers found that following the five-week intervention, perceived stress was statistically significantly reduced in those participants taking Lpc-37 compared to those taking placebo (n=112, p=0.048).”
Advice for Manufacturers
When it comes to what supplement manufacturers should consider when choosing ingredients for their products, these ingredient innovators offered a few pieces of advice. Guesman simply stated that “most important is clinical support, research validation and safety.” If a company uses ingredients that have demonstrated success in human clinical trials and have been recognized as safe to use, consumers will feel more assured of their safety. Furthermore, she added, “we are seeing product development shifting to maintenance vs. stimulation. The cognition space has evolved to focus, calm and sleep vs. memory, which appeals to a broader audience. Many natural ingredients are being used synergistically with other compounds for improved energy and cognitive support, and we see this with the rise in popularity of adaptogens.”
Echoing Guesman, Chatzinasiou explained that “With consumers wanting to feel that a product works, manufacturers should choose ingredients with proven efficacy and safety. Although multiple ingredients claim to boost cognition, only a few are backed with solid science and well-designed volunteer studies, confirming their beneficial effects on brain health. Everyone deserves to know what’s in their food.” She continued, “flexible, water-dispersible ingredients that allow for product innovation beyond capsules and tablets should certainly be considered when formulating cognitive health supplements. Manufacturers should create unique formulations, combining not only commodity botanicals, vitamins and minerals, but also branded, science-backed ingredients to make their products shine.”
Furthermore, Chatzinasiou acknowledged that there are challenges that formulators must consider when choosing cognitive health ingredients. For example, she explained, “omega-3s are prone to oxidation, vulnerable to heat and present formulation challenges related to their taste and form, creating limitations when it comes to product innovation.” She advised that while manufacturers could choose to tackle such challenges, another option would be to “look for flexible cognitive ingredients that do not present such issues and allow for creative concepts that stand out from the crowd.”
Udell also concurred with Guesman and Chatzinasiou regarding safety and efficacy of products. In addition, she stated that “manufacturers must also ensure the strains have been formulated and evaluated to ensure availability through end of shelf life and have been tested for toxicity to confirm safety for human consumption. Additional considerations include whether the strain has been FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) evaluated and is accepted without objection, and if the strain has been manufactured under FDA good manufacturing practices.”
Peek noted that “what remains consistent is the need for solutions that are not only natural and non-addictive but also practical and easy to fit into everyday life” and “as growing numbers of consumers recognize that all elements of their well-being are interconnected, demand is sure to grow for solutions that can help ‘tick all the boxes.’” She pointed to the fact that sleep has become an increasingly crucial concern for consumers, who are becoming more aware of how a lack of sleep can impact their health. “This desire to combat sleep problems and the increasing need for convenience offer an opportunity for foods and drinks that require minimal preparation and provide the nutrition consumers know they need. Products, such as shots, as well as bars and sachets, will thrive,” Peek concluded.
Shafat added, “Branded ingredients will always be more appealing than others for a variety of value adds not found in typical standard ingredients. Branded ingredients have proprietary studies behind them, which is especially important in plant extracts, where inter-species variability is significant.”
The consensus is that supplement manufacturers should make safety and proven efficacy a priority when it comes to creating new products for cognitive health maintenance and improvement. There are new ingredients being continually innovated by ingredient manufacturers that have been successful for mentally healthy, mentally ill and cognitively impaired people. Manufacturers need to choose the ingredients that will work best with their overall product and the goals that they are trying to achieve for consumers concerned about their cognition. NIE
For More Information:
• AIDP, www.aidp.com
• FrieslandCampina, www.frieslandcampinaingredients.com
• HP Ingredients, www.hpingredients.com
• IFF Health, www.iff-health.com
• Sibelius, www.sibeliusnaturalproducts.com