Maintaining memory and cognitive health is not an issue that should be thought of lightly. Here’s how ingredient suppliers and manufacturers are working to help keep consumers’ minds sharp.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defines cognitive health as “the ability to clearly think, learn and remember.” This is only one component of brain health, as NIA breaks it down to three additional categories: motor function, emotional function and sensory function.
Although many individuals may argue that these components will begin to decline with age, NIA offers ways to help maintain cognitive health, including:
• Taking care of your health—getting the recommended health screenings, managing chronic health problems, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, getting adequate sleep;
• Eating healthy foods—fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, fish, poultry, dairy;
• Being physical active—exercise and other activities can help increase energy, improve mood, decrease depression;
• Keeping the mind active—reading books, learning new skills, playing games; and
• Staying connected—interacting with others via social activities can not only improve one’s well-being, but help with brain activity.
Of course, following these recommendations does not necessarily mean that dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD) will be prevented, but a lifestyle change does not hurt.
In support of these suggestions, both ingredient suppliers and manufacturers have designed natural products that provide consumers with a chance to support their memory and cognitive health goals. Beyond that, items have been scientifically researched and have demonstrated promising results.
From a broader perspective, the search for the proper ingredients begins with the basics: vitamins and omegas.
“There are so many ingredients on the market for brain health,” said Elyse Lovett, MS, MBA, marketing manager with Kyowa Hakko USA in New York.
“I think some of the more preferred ingredients are those that have been on the market for awhile and those that are backed by strong research. Two of the most popular are the B-complex vitamins and the omegas. Another gaining a lot of tracking is vitamin D with new research on brain health.”
The company manufacturers its own branded form of Citicoline, an ingredient that the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported can help with the treatment of cognitive impairment.
“Cognizin, the branded form of Citicoline is also gaining traction in the market place for is research on focus, attention and mental energy,” Lovett added. “An established ingredient with a great safety profile and numerous clinical studies.”
Along with Citicoline, cognitive benefits have also been reported with the use of polyphenols.
“Polyphenols have been widely touted for their beneficial effects on the brain,” noted Jocelyn Bérubé, MSc, executive vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs with innoVactiv Inc. in Canada. “For example, a 12-week [study] of blueberry polyphenols intake can help improve cognition in healthy older adults by supporting optimal blood perfusion.
“InSea2 concentrates polyphenols of seaweed origin. These polyphenols can impact brain function in a completely different way. InSea2 is known to regulate digestive enzymes amylase and glucosidase, two enzymes involved in converting dietary starch and sugar into glucose units in the digestive tract. Slowing these enzymes have been shown in previous trials to increase control over blood glucose peaks in the hours after meal, to support a lower insulin release and to improve insulin sensitivity. All of these effects allow the brain to have a more sustainable access to glucose in the post-meal period to avoid any ‘sugar crash.’ Also, controlling insulin peaks helps avoid the imbalance in brain chemicals associated with transport of tryptophan to the brain.”
When thinking about cognitive health, another ingredient that immediately comes to mind is Ginkgo biloba, which has evidence supporting its effectiveness.
“As one of the largest suppliers of Ginkgo biloba extract,” noted Dolnick, “TR Nutritionals has watched this product continue to grow year after year. There are many published articles to support its use for memory and cognitive health, which is the reason why it has stayed in the forefront of the category. One of the newest ingredients in this category is bacopa extract with 20 percent bacosides. Research has shown that it has an anti-inflammatory effect and may repair damaged neurons.”
Besides gingko, fish oil, which contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and phosphatidylcholine can also be viable options, with their ability to directly target the brain. Otherwise, BioPQQ, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America, Inc.’s branded form of PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), is a choice.
“Some common ingredients include fish oil, gingko and phosphatidylcholine. These ingredients are widely recognized by consumers as having some positive effects for improving brain function,” said Shoji Matsukawa, PhD, general manager, organic chemicals sales and marketing with the company. “They may contribute to brain health by enhancing blood flow in [the] brain or by being a constituent material for neurons. BioPQQ, an all-natural supplement, which has been widely tested, is also recognized as a ‘brain food.’ Studies suggest it is a mitochondrial booster that may improve brain health and promote nerve growth factor. Because of these effects, BioPQQ may work more directly to improve brain function.”
According to Annie Eng, CEO of Florida-based HP Ingredients, Quantum IQ, the manufacturer’s patented extract of Polygonum minus is standardized to:
• 0.5 percent quercetin 3-glucoronide
• 0.25 percent quercitrin
• 15 percent phenols
Eng noted that the actives above are clinically proven to improve cognitive function and stimulate immune health; additionally, Quantum IQ has been clinically proven to provide improved cognitive performance, improved memory capabilities, reduced symptoms of stress, mood balancing, antioxidant protection and support a healthy immune function.
Concerns & Innovations
Consumers are now seeking label transparency. “Today’s customers want safety and clean labels—that is, products sans irrelevant and/or potentially harmful ingredients,” Eng stressed. “If making beverages or powders, exotic flavors and flavor combinations will get the interest—the days of chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter are way in the past.”
Bérubé agreed—manufacturers must be fully aware of side effects, and how these can affect their customers.
“One of the main concerns should be about safety and tolerability,” he explained. “Caffeine has been used widely in memory and cognitive products as this molecule increases awareness. However, caffeine intake can induce sleeplessness, fast heart and respiration rates, and can interact with some medications including SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors].
“A safe way to improve cognition and memory is to work on optimizing the body’s structures and functions so that the brain can work more effectively. Being a pivotal function of the body, blood glucose control has a strong and direct impact on brain function, as the brain feeds only on glucose for its energy production. Any strategy able to sustain optimal glucose throughout the day should be a valuable one to include in a dietary supplement. InSea2 is able to sustain optimal glucose and insulin levels after meals, and its safety and quality have been recognized through multiple human trials and the GRAS [generally recognized as safe] self-affirmation process.”
Finished product standards should go beyond clean labels. “Manufacturers should be trying to fulfill this unmet need: optimal cognitive health. The ingredients behind the supplements and functional food-and-beverage products should be supported by research, clinical whenever possible, should be effective, and should be safe,” suggested Dan Lifton, president, Maypro Proprietary Branded Ingredients Group in New York. “Sprinkling ‘fairy dust’ levels of ingredients in order to list something on a label does not benefit consumers.”
Being aware of which particular age groups prefer which delivery system is essential.
“Everyone is looking at things differently, hence variation is the key,” said Diyanah Roslan, nutritionist, ExcelVite Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia. “While the elderly prefer that the vitamins supplement food, the Millennials now are looking for functional food with added benefit. Cereal, drink, sports bar and even breakfast oat with added ingredients for memory and cognitive enhancement are among the hot items in the market now.
“ExcelVite’s EVNol SupraBio, patented and bio-enhanced full spectrum palm tocotrienol complex, meets these requirements—basically the three Bs’—bioavailability, bioefficiency and bioefficacy.” For Mitsubishi, being able to properly purify its branded PQQ ingredient has been the secret behind the company’s success. Studies on PQQ date back decades, and the company has used its own conducted research to help demonstrate its accomplishments.
“In 1979, Nature published a study that detailed the discovery of PQQ as a by-product from alcohol dehydrogenases,” explained Matsukawa. “We decided to focus on this new ingredient and began supplying PQQ for research purposes as early as 1987. Among the research was the discovery of PQQ-deficiency symptoms in mice, which was published in Science. A Nature study in 2003 suggested that PQQ be classified as a new form of vitamin B. Although there is some dispute about whether PQQ is truly a vitamin, we have conducted a number of in-vitro, animal and human clinical studies on our own brand, BioPQQ, that demonstrate potentially important roles in supporting good health, including brain health. Purification of PQQ is a difficult process. Our proprietary technology enables the best quality of this ingredient, and this lead to the first and only NDI (new dietary ingredient) notification of BioPQQ. This authenticity is critical for a truly safe ingredient.” As a result of these scientific studies, Matsukawa said, Mitsubishi now has a better understanding of ingredients’ real benefits, which can lead the charge to helping prevent the decline in brain function.
The market for cognitive health has already shown great promise in the past, and is predicted to continue its upward trend. This can partially be attributed to multiple age groups showing an interest in improving their cognitive capabilities.
“The brain health supplement market was valued at $2.3 billion (U.S.) in 2015, with the largest segment [coming] from memory enhancement,” Roslan said. “It is estimated that this memory and cognitive health market will continue to grow until 2024.1 The market for memory and cognitive health is not only restricted to the seniors citizen and elderly. In fact, younger adults and millennials also showed interest in this issue, especially on stress reduction, improving alertness and enhancing cognitive performance. This market is expected to continue to increase, as baby boomers mature into the senior and elderly demographic, hence presenting a significant market segment for dietary supplements that address this issue.”
Lifton added that by the year 2024, the category of brain health supplements is projected to reach more than $11 billion, depending on how one classifies certain segments.
He also noted that with the various cognitive conditions that affect consumers, not only is the planet’s older generation growing in size, but so is the concern for optimal health.
“The world’s older population continues to expand rapidly. In fact, 8.5 percent of people worldwide (617 million) are age 65 and older, and this percentage is expected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population (to 1.6 billion) by the year 2050. In the U.S., the 65–69 year-old age bracket recently jumped by 30.4 percent—and those 55 and older account for nearly 30 percent of the population today.
“Healthy cognition is extremely important to consumers—whether it’s handling our weekly finances, shopping, remembering or communicating—being able to mentally function well, and independently, is of paramount concern. The specter of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease aside, Americans want to maximize their cognitive health, and targeted nutrition can help.”
The demographics of consumers utilizing brain health supplements vary, but are on the rise with both younger and older consumers, said Lovett. “There is a split between these consumers, where the younger demographics are looking for focus, attention and concentration type products, and the older are looking for memory type products. “We also have seen another group looking for cognitive health benefits in the sports nutrition arena to get a competitive edge.”
Dolnick said she welcomes a variety of ingredients, but added that what the industry calls the “gold standard” of studies is needed to support them. Despite various groups consuming them however, she feels that those experiencing cognitive conditions or diseases are most impacted.
“We can never have too many ingredients that support memory and cognition,” she expressed. “What the industry needs is double-blind placebo-controlled trials to support existing and new ingredients. The consumers that are most concerned with memory and cognition are those watching their loved ones suffer from declining cognitive health. That age group ranges anywhere from early 40s to early 60s.”
Eng summarized two specific studies involving HP Ingredients’ Quantum IQ extract:
1. “In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover trial published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2013), 20 healthy individuals aged 35–65 were given 150 mg of Quantum IQ or placebo. When compared to baseline, the Quantum IQ group demonstrated significant improvement in Cognitive Function Score in Reaction Time, Working Memory and Sustained Attention. Supplementation of Quantum IQ also demonstrated a significant reduction in tension, depression and anger in profile of mood states (POMS) survey.
2. “Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2015 gave 35 healthy middle-aged women either 250 mg of Quantum IQ or placebo twice daily for six weeks. Subjects were assessed for neuropsychological test, psychosocial status and anthropometric at baseline, week 3 and week 6. Quantum IQ showed significant improvement on [the] Digit Span test and social functioning domain of SF36 among subjects with mood disturbance. Among subjects with normal mood, Quantum IQ significantly improved short-term memory, Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) for IQ verbal and full scale IQ of WASI. Further, the supplement group also experienced improvements in anger, total mood disturbance, tension, lack of energy/fatigue and social functioning.”
As mentioned earlier, brain health generally declines as one ages, but companies are aiming to help reverse, or at least slow down these complications. In fact, AddNeuroMed Project has helped lead the charge for Alzheimer’s disease research.
“As our population ages,” explained Roslan, “the risk for memory and cognitive decline also increases. To make things worse, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease available in the market yet and the progress in finding a cure is disappointingly slow. Hence, it is no surprise that most companies are interested in research improving memory and cognitive health with an aim to delay the memory and cognitive decline of an individual. A case in point—AddNeuroMed Project—established in the late 2000s, in Europe—a European, public/ private consortium to study and look for novel biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, four epidemiological studies, published in peer-reviewed journals such as Neurobiology of Aging, show that among the many biomarkers in the plasma, low levels of tocopherol and tocotrienol are significantly associated with increased odds of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).2 This series of studies pointed out the relationship and the important role of tocotrienols and tocopherols in relation to supporting healthy cognitive function, especially in [the] elderly. The authors concluded that ‘high plasma levels of vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) are associated with a reduced risk of AD in advanced age, with tocotrienols being more potent than tocopherols in preventing AD.’”3 Research doesn’t always ensure quality supplements, Dolnick warned. As stated earlier, “the gold standard in clinical research is double-blind placebo-controlled trials,” she said. “Typically, we find this research on branded ingredients. However, depending on the ingredient, it doesn’t mean that the research doesn’t transfer over to the non-branded ingredients. Giving a product a branded name doesn’t necessarily differentiate it when it comes to the manufacturing process or the botanicals used. What’s most important is the quality of the ingredients and that an efficacious dose is used. This is not a place for finished goods companies to skimp on ingredients to make label claim. The consumer that purchases this type of product is serious about preserving cognitive health.”
Future of Cognitive Health Ingredients
Over the years, there has been more of a continued focus on AD and Parkinson’s disease, as scientists continue to investigate how the brain can worsen. However, prevention has been the focal point in the natural products industry.
“There has been a great focus on medical approaches to reducing dementia, including discovering therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well as understanding the mechanism of how brain function deteriorates,” said Matsukawa. “However, we’ve seen how big a challenge this is, and recently some large pharmaceutical companies have been withdrawing from this area. On the contrary, we see preventive measures, such as daily supplements and ingredients, becoming more popular.”
In summary, times have certainly changed, especially since the turn of the century. Still, with change comes new discoveries, such as research on a variety of ingredients.
“Back in the late-1990s, the prevailing wisdom was just take your B vitamins and ginkgo and call it a day,” observed Lifton. “Today, in addition to such ingredients as ETAS and MicroPQQ, a number of foods and ingredients have attracted increasing research interest, including curcumin, magnesium, phosphatidylserine, omega-3s and others.” NIE
1 www.businesswire.com/news/home/ 20170621005628/en/Global-Brain-Health-Supplements-Market-2016-2024-Focus.
2 Mangialasche, F., Xu, W., Kivipelto, M., Costanzi, E., Ercolani, S., Pigliautile, M., … & Tsolaki, M. (2012). Tocopherols and tocotrienols plasma levels are associated with cognitive impairment. Neurobiology of Aging, 33(10), 2282-2290.
3 Mangialasche F, et al. (2010). High Plasma Levels of Vitamin E Forms and Reduced Alzheimer’s Disease Risk in Advanced Age. J Alzheimers Dis., 20(4), 1029-37.
For More Information:
• ExcelVite Sdn. Bhd., www.excelvite.com
• HP Ingredients, www.hpingredients.com
• innoVactiv Inc., www.innovactiv.com
• Kyowa Hakko USA, www.kyowa-usa.com
• Maypro Proprietary Branded Ingredients Group, www.maypro.com
• Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America, Inc.., www.biopqq.com
• TR Nutritionals, www.trnutritionals.com