I am 65 years old now, belonging to the group of people that actively think about what can be done to add healthy and active years to their life. This to ensure that I can continue to do what I like to do as long as possible.
The segment of people being 65 years or older is growing faster than all other age groups. According to the United Nations, already in 2018 people aged 65+ outnumbered children under 5 years of age, globally. These seniors are an important, growing consumer segment for the food industry that deserves attention.
As nutritionist I am aware that there are many things beyond our genes that influence this prospective of adding healthy years to your life. Our daily food choice is an important influencing factor. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grain is one universal recommendation relevant through lifespan. However, there is more that food can do. To use the words of Professor Jeya Henry, Singapore, “food is our new medicine”. Nutrition has a role in prevention, therapy and longevity.
Science-based ingredients address the dietary needs and health challenges of seniors
Science-based ingredients are contributing to a growing number of food choices addressing the needs of an ageing population.
In addition to the biological ageing that takes place in every organism, what are the diet-related challenges? Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, certain types of cancer as well as depressive disorders, dementia or osteoarthritis, are part of the burden of diseases of growing importance when being 60+. But not only NCDs play a role. Also, infectious diseases are of major concern as the immune systems is partially loosing strength and therefore older people are in a weaker position to fight against pathogens. Figure 1 illustrates the health challenges and highlights at the same time that BENEO’s ingredients support health when getting older, all based on high quality human intervention studies. Figure 2 gives an insight of the microbiota reach-out, e.g. via the gut-brain axis, and the particular health benefit of chicory root fibres as proven prebiotics for people of 60+.
This impressive science gives confidence to me as a nutritionist and to the “silver age consumers” in general who are looking for substantiated nutritional help to add quality years to their lives.
Here some of my personal interests that are relevant for many in my generation or even older generations.
Prevention of osteoporosis, reducing the risk for hip fractures
I do not want to be the 1 in 3 woman in the age group of 50+ who is getting a hip, spine or wrist fracture due to osteoporosis. Good food choices can help me to avoid fractions. My diet needs to contain sufficient calcium, protein and vitamin D – this is “school knowledge” for a nutritionist. And now the new learning that is not yet in teaching books: if you eat chicory root fibre, you are boosting your calcium absorption to a new high and this calcium is making the bones stronger. This is measured as “bone mineral density” parameter in human intervention studies. Calcium is a nutrient of concern in many countries in particular in the ageing population. About 70% of the calcium in the diet is excreted via the faeces as absorption capacity in the small intestine is limited. Chicory root fibre increases the bioavailability of calcium included in the diet. The microbiota in the colon, driven by the prebiotic fermentation based on chicory root fibre, influences the gut environment and enables absorption in the large intestine. Structure/function claims in the U.S. are possible. Also in other regions national legislation may allow related claims – hopefully more product development will happen in this direction!
And just to be clear: these nutritional properties are dedicated to chicory root fibres, only. Other dietary fibres like resistant maltodextrins are not supporting the microbiota selectively, they are no prebiotics and have no science that demonstrates increased bone mineral density.
Microbiota support, bowel function improvement and the strengthening of inner defence functions
With age the microbiota changes and the risk for imbalances increases. Chicory root fibres help to support the growth of beneficial bifidobacteria. Also my bowel functions are supported by chicory root fibres. I eat them daily, minimum 3g/day, often more than that. I just feel better with it and notice if I forget my daily intake. I am convinced that it is not just me, it is the generation 60+ that will be grateful for more products on the shelves.
Systemic inflammation processes are common when getting older and go hand in hand with high blood sugar levels and overweight. Damages of the gut barrier are more relevant too when getting older. Prebiotic chicory root fibres help to fight against those unwanted developments because they support a healthy and balanced microbiota.
Lower blood glucose profiles throughout the day
Another wish I have on my “healthy ageing check list” is to keep my blood sugar under control. Also here, I know it is not just me with this aim. High blood sugar levels, prediabetes and diabetes are very common when getting older. High blood sugar levels are making situations worse in many other ways as well. It even negatively impacts the immune system which is weaker at high blood sugar levels. This became obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic with a higher rate of hospitalisation and death for people with higher blood glucose profiles. The risk factor of age as such came on top.
Therefore, a large choice of products that keep the blood sugar low and avoid large variations is needed. Products are needed that deliver the carbohydrate energy (reflected in the blood glucose profile) in a low, balanced and sustained way. I know, Palatinose™ can do this. I would also love to see more combinations of Palatinose™ and chicory root fibres or beta-glucan to address blood glucose management interests.
Good mood and good sleep
What else is on my check list? It is a “must” for me to be in good mood throughout the day and have a good sleep. Food that supports me in these directions is well perceived. I eagerly follow the research with chicory root fibres and Palatinose™ in these emerging fields of science with great interest. In the same direction I see the topics of brain and cognition support – I will be excited to even learn more and apply it in my diet.
Ageing better in every stage of life
Overall, I am just lucky to know all this science due to my profession. I can support my ageing process with substantiated ingredients I know well.
It is my job and my passion to also let others know about the science on healthy ageing and the way BENEO’s ingredients can contribute. The aim is to initiate product development in many directions and to seek support by health professionals in private and public sectors. To close the circle, consumers of all age groups will find products in the supermarkets that support their needs.
Because ageing does not start with 65, prevention and health support is relevant during the whole life span. Even during pregnancy, the baby’s health is influenced by the mother’s diet and lifestyle. Sensitivity for the topic of prevention-oriented nutrition increases. The insight that it indeed matters what you eat increases with age, too. This wisdom motivates senior consumers to demand products that support their intention to add healthy years to their lives.