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Keep on Moving

Boomers are driving interest and R&D in bone and joint health ingredients

The baby boomers are at it again – this time they’re the group primarily behind the interest in bone and joint health ingredients.

According to recent statistics, the bone and joint health ingredients market in the U.S. is expected to reach US$246 million by 2015. And, says Frost and Sullivan, it’s the aging population that’s fuelling the growth.

Staying active

While the bone and joint health ingredients market hasn’t yet hit its stride – compared to the functional foods market in general and antioxidants, which have both seen explosive growth – there seems to be a future for products fortified to support bone health. There isn’t as much of a focus on joint health because as Heather Biehl suspects, “when people have pain they’re going to go to their doctors instead of looking toward foods and beverages.”

Biehl is manager, H.I.T.S. (Health Ingredient Technology & Solutions) with Erlanger, Ken.-based Wild Flavors Inc. She says that boomers are increasingly looking to maintain bone and joint health and flexibility “so they can maintain the active lifestyles they’re used to.”

Wild Flavors’ H.I.T.S. features a line of ingredients and concepts that address the concerns of boomers. The variety and number of ingredients goes to show that interest is also fuelling research and development. The line includes MSM (methylsulfonul methane), a naturally occurring sulfur compound and an important component for the maintenance of collagen (connective tissue). There’s also Hyaluronic Acid, and Boswellia Serrata, which can block the immune cells responsible for inflammation. Other ingredients include collagen hydrolysate, horsetail extract, devil’s claw, olive polyphenols, soy isoflavones, and pomegranate extract.

According to the research and manufacturers, the ingredients that are most widely used are calcium and vitamin D for bone health, and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for joint health. A report from Parsippany, N.J.-based DSM Nutritional Products called Strengthen your bones explains that during childhood and adolescence it’s critical to maximize the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton until the bones reach their peak strength and density, which is around the age of 30. And the most important nutrients that build peak bone mass? Those are calcium and vitamin D, with vitamin K, protein, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc contributing as well.

The boomer market

Todd Sitkowski, senior Marketing manager at DSM, agrees that the bulk of the growth in bone and joint health ingredients is coming from boomers. Right now, he says, “bone health is the number-3 concern among shoppers – right behind mental sharpness and maintaining the ability to continue with normal activities as aging progresses.” DSM offers ingredients such as Ropufa, which are long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that may have bone-preserving qualities; and geniVida, which can play a critical role in the bone remodelling process in menopausal and postmenopausal women. Other ingredients include Quali-D, Quali-C, and Quali-B.

While there are myriad ingredients, Sitkowski says calcium has been historically linked to bone health and vitality. And awareness of the role vitamin D plays in bone health has increased dramatically over the past few years. Consumers are also now more knowledgeable of the benefits of these ingredients and are being proactive in ensuring they have sufficient levels of them. This explains why we’re seeing products that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D beyond the dairy aisle, into ready-to-eat cereals, grain-based products such as pastas, and energy bars. “With the baby boomer segment coming into their older years, they have the mentality of wanting to stay active and involved in their communities and families,” says Sitkowski.

While these products are mostly popular with women and men age 50 and over, they are piquing the interest of younger generations. Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice-president and chief scientific officer at Schenectady, N.Y.-based Fortitech Inc., says people who lead active lives or who are very athletic and regularly play sports are looking to these ingredients to curb or cope with wear and tear. Chaudhari notes that older folks, past the baby boomer stage, are looking at these ingredients as well. “But baby boomers are the main group who are interested because they’re used to having an active lifestyle and health and wellness, and I think generally they are strong believers in these ingredients, especially boomers worldwide,” he says. Fortitech offers products such as omega-3s, the antioxidant pycnogenol, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.

Healthier bones

Another ingredient in the area of bone and joint health that’s receiving more attention is vitamin K. An article on, reports that inadequate vitamin K intake can put your bones at risk. The European Food Safety Authority confirmed that claim in 2009 after a study found “a cause-and-effect relationship is clear between vitamin K dietary intake and maintenance of healthy bones.” Both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 are key, but it’s K2 that science suggests is the best source for bones’ needs. DSM’s report Strengthen your bones notes that vitamin K activates a protein that binds calcium into the structure of the bone. Clinical studies also show that after supplementing with vitamin K there is a reduction in fractures, an increase in bone mineral density, or signs that the bone formation has been boosted.

Information on vitamin K1 and K2 – and all the other ingredients – is readily available online. And consumers, who are keen to take their health into their own hands and seek out preventative measures, often now turn to the internet as a tool. Sitkowski says this has made consumers a lot more aware of bone health now then they were five to 10 years ago. “Consumers have a genuine interest in learning how to take care of themselves,” he says. “Their attitudes towards themselves and their health are progressing.  Because the awareness of the health benefits of vitamin D is growing, there is expected to be growth within the bone health segment as a whole.  Consumers are more inclined to buy products [in foods and beverages] versus supplements if these ingredients that they see as vital are already in products that are incorporated into their daily diets.”