March 16, 2010
by Keith Nunes
The baby boomer market, those consumers born between 1946 and 1964, is estimated to total 76 million people and is considered an opportunity-rich market for food and beverage manufacturers. The market is especially ripe for functional ingredients related to joint health.
“My generation represents one-quarter of the U.S. population today,” said Ian Friendly, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the U.S. retail division for General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, during the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference, held in February. “As most of us reach middle age we have a strong interest in health and maintaining a youthful lifestyle.”
A part of General Mills’ strategy going forward is to target market segments such as baby boomers and millennials with products designed specifically for their needs, especially in the area of health and wellness.
One health concern for many baby boomers is joint health, specifically as it relates to osteoarthritis. In the past, research related to musculoskeletal disorders has focused on strengthening and improving bone health. But as arthritis has become an issue for many aging consumers the topic of joint health has stepped to the fore.
In March 2002, President George W. Bush declared the years 2002 – 2011 the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade (U.S.B.J.D.). The mission of the U.S.B.J.D. is to promote and facilitate collaboration among organizations to improve bone and joint health through education and research.
More than 1 in 4 Americans has a musculoskeletal condition requiring medical attention and the annual direct and indirect costs for bone and joint health are $849 billion — 7.7% of the gross domestic product, according to the U.S.B.J.D. Yet research is currently less than 2% of the National Institute of Health’s budget, while the burden of musculoskeletal conditions is expected to escalate in the next decade due to the aging population and sedentary lifestyles.
Targeting pain, inflammation
A technical paper published by Fortitech, Inc., Schenectady, N.Y., this past January and titled “Strategic Nutrition for Bone & Joint Health” identified several nutrients that may play a role in joint health, including chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids. Other potential bioactive ingredients that may benefit joint health include vitamin K, eggshell membrane and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).
The author of the Fortitech paper, Ram Chaudari, senior executive vice-president and chief scientific officer, said that information about the role of nutrients and bioactive ingredients in joint health is generally much less developed than that of bone health, but those that stand out are constituents of cartilage or play a role in controlling inflammation.
Chondroitin sulfate is a structural component of cartilage. Primarily delivered as a supplement, the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial, a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled intervention study in patients with knee osteoarthritis, reported that patients taking 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate three times per day had a “significant” improvement in joint swelling.
Glucosamine is also a component of joint cartilage and has been the subject of several studies relating to the management of osteoarthritis. Two studies cited by Dr. Chaudari in the Fortitech paper noted that glucosamine sulfate slowed the progression of osteoarthritis, and prevented joint space narrowing in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis.
In 2007, Cargill, Minneapolis, received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for specific food and beverage applications with its Regenasure brand of glucosamine. Product applications the ingredient may be added to include dry mix beverages, functional water, ready-to-drink teas, ready-to-eat cereal clusters, fruit smoothies, yogurt and frozen yogurt.
In addition to osteoarthritis, the Fortitech paper identified rheumatoid arthritis, which is characterized by a systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many parts of the body, as an area of interest where omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids may have a positive impact. Brazilian researchers, for example, found that the administration of fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids at 3 grams per day over 24 weeks resulted in a significant reduction in joint pain intensity and an increase in hand-grip strength.
Interest in eggshell membrane
Eggshell membrane currently is used as a dietary supplement, but interest in it is growing. In 2009, ESM Technologies, Carthage, Mo., announced the publication of a study in the peer reviewed medical journal Clinical Rheumatology that evaluated ESM’s natural eggshell membrane (NEM) in patients with joint pain and stiffness. The study was conducted in the United States and was a double-blind, placebo controlled effort that tested the effects of a 500-mg daily dose of NEM on pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. Sixty-seven subjects were enrolled in the study and were randomized to receive either the NEM treatment or a placebo. The subjects were tested at 10, 30 and 60 days for joint pain, stiffness and function.
Compared to the placebo, NEM produced an average 15% reduction in pain and an average 13% reduction in stiffness after 10 days, according to the study. After 60 days, 32% of the NEM group experienced more than a 50% reduction in pain while stiffness continued to improve, registering an average 27% reduction compared to those taking the placebo.
In February, Valensa International, Eustis, Fla., entered into a license agreement with Bova, L.L.C., Johnston, Iowa, that will allow Valensa to include BiovaFlex, a water-soluble eggshell membrane ingredient in a new series of joint health products, including gummy-type chewables.
“Today, more than 140 million adults in the U.S., and many times that around the world, suffer from some form of joint or connective tissue issues,” said Rudi E. Moerck, president and chief executive officer of Valensa International, Eustis, Fla. “There is a substantial opportunity to improve the quality of life for millions of people by applying sound science to joint health.”