Antioxidant sales are higher than ever as new sources are utilized and delivery methods reconceived.
The market for antioxidants is fast expanding as consumers strive to slow the aging process and improve their health. According to a recent Food Marketing Institute survey, antioxidants are already among the top five health components U.S. consumers want in their products. And as they start making antioxidants a part of their daily Lives, consumers are seeking out new delivery methods and trusted, quality products.
“The antioxidant category has grown quite broad over the past five to 10 years,” said Melanie Bush, director of science and quality communication at Indiana-based Artemis International, Inc. “Predictions are that the antioxidant category will continue to grow by at least another six percent over the next five years.”
What used to be a specialty ingredient is now a mainstay in everything from foods, snacks, beverages, nutritional supplements, cosmeceuticals and even chocolates, gum and skincare products, according to Bush. “No longer are we seeing the occasional ‘contains antioxidants’ on a food or beverage—it crosses many delivery systems,” she said.
Increasing health awareness is the primary factor responsible for the exponential growth of the antioxidant market in the last decade, according to Jamie Spell of Nutraceuticals International Group in New Jersey.“Growing popularity of antioxidant potential and shifting trends in consumer health from being reactive to proactive, from treatment to prevention, are major drivers identified for the antioxidant market,” she said.
Bruce Howe, president of Californiabased Select Ingredients, said he sees no end in sight for continued growth.“The market for natural antioxidants is strong, growing and more sophisticated,” he said. “The basic message is antioxidants combat free radicals, which damage our healthy cells. This, in turn, helps minimize inflammation, which is the root cause of many diseases of aging.”
The Anti-Aging Factor
Antioxidants are thought to reduce oxidative damage in the body. The damage, caused by an over-abundance of free radicals, may lead to age-related complications, such as Alzheimer’s disease. “Having a proper balance of antioxidants is of greater concern as we age as many of our body systems do not work quite as efficiently on their own,” said Bush.“This can result in an excess of free radicals and corresponding disease.”
New research suggests that antioxidants may help slow the aging process, as well as support brain and cardiovascular health. “Antioxidants are other compounds that have positively been identified in the protection of some brain functions. Oxidation reactions take place continuously in the body as part of normal cellular function; however, excess production of certain free radicals might play a role in pathophysiology of many disease conditions,” said Puya Yazdi, PhD, medical director at Cyvex Nutrition in California, noting that unregulated oxidative stress can lead to the production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) and this has been implicated in some clinical disorders such as atherosclerosis, ischemiareperfusion injury, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, stroke, cataracts, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. “The more the body and brain are enriched with antioxidants, the better chance the brain has to handle stress and offset accelerated aging processes caused by oxidative stress.”
The growing Baby Boomer population is the main driving force behind the growing antioxidant market. This demographic is living longer due to advances in medical technology, and they want to age in a healthy way. “ … They look to be more proactive about their health to offset some of these age-related diseases as well as the general cost of health care as they age,” Bush said.
Yet the younger generation is gaining interest in antioxidants and learning about aging prevention. “Younger consumers seem highly interested in antioxidants in personal care cosmetics where the need to counter the effects of the sun and environmental irritants is great,” said Bush. “[These] consumers want to look and feel young as long as they can and are starting to further embrace the concept of ‘prevention’ through diet/supplements as a means to achieve this.”
Select Ingredients’ Howe has also observed growing interest from both young and old consumers as trends move toward healthy living. “Baby Boomers and younger consumers are more conscientious about the foods and dietary supplements they purchase,” he said. “They are shopping for less processed, chemically altered food; foods that are more natural and organic with high nutritional value, and antioxidants to ward off the negative signs of aging.”
New delivery methods are making antioxidants more convenient and easier to take, whether for a busy person on the go, or a child or elderly person who has trouble swallowing pills. “We still feel the best delivery method is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables,” Bush said. “However, consumers admit to not always eating the recommended amounts of fresh produce daily and therefore look to other ways to supplement their diet.”
Bush has noticed trends toward formulating antioxidant ingredients into gummies and specialty chocolates, stating that this delivery method enables consumers to get their antioxidants and enjoy them, too.
Nutraceu-ticals Inter-national Group’s Spell agreed. “Gummy bear vitamins have made it easier to take vitamins/antioxidants for both children and adults,” she said. “It is a tasty way to take your vitamins without getting sick or gagging from taking pills.”
Outside of the usual capsule or softgel delivery method, Howe pointed to the increased acceptance of wholefood powder mixes, nutrition bars, yogurts, and superfood/fruit drinks in powder and liquid forms supplemented with antioxidants, and he noted a remarkable growth in functional foods.
But according to Frank Davis, CEO of Utah-based Food for Health International (FFH), capsules still remain one of the most bioavailable ways to disseminate antioxidants through every system of the body.
“They generally dissolve faster than tablets,” he said, but was quick to note that there are new advancements within old delivery methods as well. “New delivery trends include cellulose capsules, which in contrast to gelatin do not use animal products and are safe for vegetarian/vegan consumption.”
Further, shakes are another highly bioavailable delivery system and can work well for antioxidant purposes, “provided the manufacturers make the formulation both potent and palatable,” said Davis.
From the (Newer) Source
It’s common knowledge with consumers that blueberries and cranberries contain antioxidants, but there are other sources gaining traction such as resveratrol, which is found in the skin of red grapes. While more human clinical trials are needed, there is a growing body of research suggesting this substance’s powerful antioxidant capacity, according to Davis. Barley is another little-known source of antioxidants that is gaining popularity in the market, he added.
According to Select Ingredients’ Howe, research is continuing to expand and new discoveries regarding the benefits of common fruits such as apples, cherries and strawberries, to more exotic fruits like açai berries, Saskatoon berries and aroniaberries are being found. Some newcomers to the market that have impressed Howe include cocoa, green coffee bean extract and perilla leaf, as well as other antioxidant sources such as botanical extracts from green tea, turmeric and olives.
The aroniaberry, according to Bush, is a fruit her company has played a role in making a stand out in the market.“One exciting new source of antioxidants finally gaining momentum in the market is actually not a new product at all, but rather one that has simply been unrecognized for its incredible health potential until recently,” she said. “Aroniaberry, also known as chokeberry, is a dark berry native to North America and yet gives some of the exotic ‘superfruits’ of distant regions a run for their money in terms of nutritional content and potential.”
The aroniaberry is known for its high anthocyanin content, which is Artemis International’s specialty. Anthocyanins are members of the flavonoid group of phytochemicals, according to PBRC.edu, and are found in dark-colored fruits and berries, offering the fruit a high antioxidant capacity.
Bush said studies on aroniaberries have shown significant health benefits in the areas of cardiovascular health, glucose metabolism, anti-inflammation and cellular health. The aroniaberry is already a very popular fruit in Poland and Eastern Europe, and its purported health benefits have caused the berry to gain commercialization in the U.S. “We are very excited to see this high-Antioxidant berry coming back to its native North American roots with a vengeance,” she added.
Synthetic vs. Natural
No antioxidant is worth taking if it comes from an unhealthy, impure source. And according to FFH’s Davis, an increasing number of consumers are considering ingredient purity as one of their first priorities in their foods, beverages and supplements.“We cannot stress enough the importance of sourcing whole-food ingredients instead of chemical-based nutrients,” he said. “It doesn’t quite ring true to assure your customers that your product helps fight free radical damage when it is created using carcinogenic materials.”
Davis said that those in favor of synthetic vitamins often argue that the molecular structure is identical to naturally occurring vitamins, and therefore they must have the same effects on the body as food-based nutrients.“This is only a partial truth, however,” he said. “Synthetic nutrients often replicate small portions of more complex molecular clusters and therefore lack the necessary co-factors to help the body utilize and experience the potential benefits from the vitamin.” Davis stressed that the substances used to formulate these nutrients are created from chemicals proven to be toxic to the human body, listing petroleum esters, acetone (found in nail polish), hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and benzene as the worst offenders.
“[FFH’s] philosophy and commitment to purity drives every decision we make,” Davis said. “We ensure that our formulations are successful by being vigilant about our sourcing and by seeking out ingredient manufacturers whose technologies retain the nutrient compounds needed to have true antioxidant benefits.”
Manufacturing Tips & Tricks
One problem antioxidants pose is that the term has become a buzzword and may have lost its meaning.
Nutraceuticals International Group’s Spell said that even before the results of clinical trials, the media and the supplement and food industries began to hype the benefits of antioxidants. “Frozen berries, green tea and other foods labeled as being rich in antioxidants began popping up in stores,” Spell said.“Supplement makers touted the diseasefighting properties of all sorts of antioxidants.” But not all companies have the science to back up claims they make about their antioxidant products, and this is something that consumers want.Anyone can say the word ‘antioxidant,’ but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is doing something helpful for the body,” she added. “There needs to be evidence and science behind all products, which a lot of companies lack.”
Select Ingredient’s Howe stressed that today’s consumers are expecting science-backed research to support the benefits of antioxidant products, as well as products derived from a trusted source. “Manufacturers should seek out ingredients that have sound scientific research [and] are manufactured from sustainable sources whenever possible. Look for ingredients that are traceable from seed to seal and are manufactured using cGMP standards,” he said.
Trusted ingredients are key, but so is the formulation process. “When formulating a particular quantity of antioxidants into a product, it is important to use standardized ingredients so you can be assured of consistency,” said Bush. “We recommend using a combination of a standardized extract to deliver a consistent and potent level of the high-antioxidant actives, as well as a fruit/juice power or ‘whole food’ component to account for any additional benefits of the matrix of the berry in its most natural form.”
Bush added that more is not necessarily better when it comes to an extraction ratio/equivalence claim.“The more efficient a manufacturing process is or the higher the level of naturally occurring actives in the raw material, the lower the extraction ratio,” she said. “Ultimately manufacturers should work with suppliers who have clear traceability of their ingredients and impeccable quality and expertise around their products.”
Natural Standard: Resveratrol
Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard. com) provides access to the most comprehensive database of high-quality, evidencebased systematic reviews on dietary supplements and CAM therapies.This database is a clinical decision support tool that is designed to advise clinicians and researchers on the safety and efficacy of herbs, supplements, vitamins, diets, nutrition, exercise and complementary practices and modalities.
Here is what Natural Standard is offering its users about resveratrol:
• Resveratrol is a natural compound that is found in more than 70 plant species including nuts, grapes, pine trees and certain vines, as well as red wine. It is thought to play a role in preventing heart disease and has been studied for its antioxidant properties.
• Early studies have shown that resveratrol also has anticancer, antifungal, antiviral and even antibacterial effects. Further research has examined the effects of resveratrol on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, bacterial infections and viral infections. Benefits were first noticed due to the “French paradox,” the finding that death rates from heart disease are lower in France where red wine is consumed on a regular basis.
• The substance has been included in many herbal supplements that are meant to increase lifespan and prevent aging. However, reliable human research is lacking, and more highquality studies are needed to determine the effects of resveratrol alone.
• Resveratrol has also been reviewed for use as a weight-loss aid, vaccine adjunct, anti-aging supplement and exercise performance enhancer, as well as for diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, as an anti-inflammatory and in the treatment of acne.
• Limited human data suggests that resveratrol may be safe, as it is commonly found in foods and drinks.In general, studies have found that resveratrol is well-tolerated and its side effects are mild.
Antioxidant sales are higher than ever as new sources are utilized and delivery methods reconceived.