Next time you’re at the grocery store, look around at who’s putting functional foods in their shopping carts. You’ll find that many of them are baby boomers. This large and savvy group of consumers is highly conscious that dietary choices strongly impact their chances of leading longer, healthier lives.
This is considered one of the main reasons why the line between health products and food continues to blur. More products than ever before now contain a wider array of nutrients, additives and ingredients with specific health functions in mind. “As baby boomers age,” says Dr. Ram Chaudhari, senior executive vice-president and Chief Scientific Officer at Fortitech Inc., “their nutritional needs change. Increased levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are necessary to maintain their overall health.”
Functional foods targeted at active, healthy older adults – and younger adults as well – feature ingredients that will not only boost or maintain health, but also enhance quality of life. According to Chaudhari, these include omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, choline and botanicals such as ginseng and gingko biloba for enhanced cognition. Melatonin, B vitamin complex, tryptophan and antioxidants are used to promote good sleep. For stress reduction, GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), selenium, zinc and chromium are becoming popular, and prebiotics such as inulin and oligofructose are being added for digestive and heart health. In addition, nutrients that could play a role in addressing specific health concerns of older adults “could include chromium, magnesium and biotin for type 2 diabetes management, CoQ10, folate and riboflavin for dementia, and nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis,” says Chaudhari.
There is also a strong demand for fibre-rich foods, says Laura Cooper, director of Marketing for SunOpta Ingredients Group. “Typical consumption [of fibre] is well below recommended levels,” she says. “The number of new product introductions claiming high fibre has increased steadily from 2004 to 2008.” Cooper adds that different types of fibre have different health benefits. “Fibres are commonly classified as insoluble and soluble, and both are necessary in a healthy diet. For example, a product can be formulated with both soluble oat bran, to help lower cholesterol, and insoluble oat fibre, to improve colon function and reduce constipation.” Dempster’s new Healthy Way Bread and Snacks with ProCardio recipe contain soluble oat fibre, while Cooper says “SunOpta’s Canadian Harvest Oat Fibre 300-58 is a novel fibre approved for use as a source of dietary fibre in grain and bakery products at levels consistent with the purpose of providing dietary fibre.”
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