Beverages for Healthy Ageing

An interesting article. Research shows that cardiovascular health, eye health, cancer, retaining mental sharpness, engaging in normal activities, lack of energy, stress, muscle health and osteoporosis topped the list of concerns among older consumers according to the research conducted by HealthFocus in 2010. A closer look at the change in concern between 2006 and 2010, however, shows that the biggest gainers weren’t so much the “killers” like hypertension, high cholesterol or cancer (up only 3%, 4% and 5%, respectively) but conditions that affect independence, mobility and wellbeing: Alzheimer’s (up 14%), eye health (12%), lack of mental sharpness (10%), stress and arthritis (both 7%) and tiredness/lack of energy (6%).

A summary of other findings below or the full article here.

From strength to strength

Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, function and strength, is a pressing concern. Multiple studies have shown that as many as 30% of those over age 60 and half over age 80 experience the condition, with the average loss of muscle mass ranging from around 0.5% to 1% per year beginning at about age 40.

Ready-to-drink beverages can pack anywhere from 2% to 7% protein  without concerns for safety, digestibility, processing or product texture.

Soy power

Muscle-building protein can also come from soy, but that’s hardly the only healthy-aging benefit soy ingredients provide. A 2003 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (88(3):1048) found consuming soy protein with calcium enhanced bone formation in postmenopausal women by 69%.

FDA has authorized a health claim linking soy protein to reduced risk of heart disease; products that contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per reference amount customarily consumed and meet FDA requirements for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium qualify.

Long chains for long life

Two other nutrients receiving FDA approval for a heart-health claim (albeit a qualified one) are the long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

The American Heart Association, Dallas, recommends patients with documented coronary heart disease consume 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day, and that those lowering triglycerides increase the dose to 2 to 4 grams daily, whether from food sources like fatty fish or supplements administered under a physician’s direction.

Higher up on the body, DHA is a major structural and functional component of cells in the eyes and brain, where it plays a part in visual and neurological maintenance as we age. A cohort of the Framingham Heart Study found that subjects in the highest quartile for plasma concentrations of DHA had a 47% decreased risk for all dementia and a 39% decreased risk for Alzheimer’s compared to those in the bottom three quartiles. Meanwhile, a 2009 National Eye Institute (NEI) study using Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) data revealed that participants reporting the highest dietary levels of omega-3s were 30% less likely than their lower-level counterparts to develop macular degeneration over a 12-year period.

The body’s best defenders

Reduced risk for macular degeneration is among the anti-aging benefits associated with antioxidants, a huge class of nutrients comprising everything from the mineral selenium to vitamin C to coenzyme Q10. That should come as no surprise considering that most degenerative diseases of aging—not just cancer and atherosclerosis, but Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and more—include an oxidative component.

Dietary antioxidants can quench those free radicals, neutralizing them and slowing down their associated degenerative effects. Exhibit one is resveratrol, an anthocyanin abundant in grape-based foods—including red wine—and that may account for the famed French Paradox: the observation that despite a high-fat diet and penchant for cigarettes, the French suffer significantly less heart disease than do other Westerners.

Vitamin E is another antioxidant with anti-aging activity. Vitamin E actually comprises several forms of tocopherols and tocotrienols, the whole collection of which works with other antioxidants, including vitamin C, selenium and the carotenoids, to reduce the risk for heart disease, strengthen immune function and defend cells against oxidative attack.

Speaking of carotenoids, these red, orange and yellow pigments in vegetables, fruits and even some shellfish have attracted attention for reducing the risk of multiple conditions of aging. Among the 600-plus carotenoids present in nature, three of the most studied are beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein.

Special Delivery

And do your aging audiences a favor and make their beverages easy to drink. Beverage developers should be sensitive to the limitations their older consumers face; Convenience, speed and access.