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Teaching Consumers Why They Need Immune-Health Dietary Supplements Year-Round: Page 2 of 3

Teaching Consumers Why They Need Immune-Health Dietary Supplements Year-Round: Page 2 of 3

Photo © Shutterstock.com/TypoArt BS

Ganeden’s Bush points out that athletes make prime study candidates because they enable researchers to study the impact of an immune-health ingredient in a healthy population. Other immune-health studies in healthy populations are generally long-term studies in which researchers can examine factors such as work or school absences, etc.; however, says Bush, those types of studies can be swayed by a number of variables (e.g., a lighter flu season this year compared to last year, etc.) and could be considered less reliable. Athletes, he says, are prime candidates in which to study any impacts on immunosuppression. “There are really well-validated models to show that you can significantly affect the immune system by a very intense workout,” he says. 

“We think that’s a great market,” Bush continues. His company’s Ganeden BC30 probiotic strain has appeared in numerous sports-nutrition launches. One of the most recent is Beveri’s Probiotic Whey Protein powder containing Ganeden BC30, a product marketed for supporting digestive and immune health, in addition to other benefits. In the aforementioned consumer survey Ganeden sponsored, 36% of respondents who said they typically did not purchase protein products said they would be more likely to purchase a protein product if the product also claimed to provide immune support.

Another company that recently introduced an immune-health product for athletes is the ingredient supplier Valensa International (Orlando, FL). Last fall, the company introduced a pre-workout chewable supplement for athletes called Immunum that contains, among other ingredients for immune support, 1,3 beta-glucan from German brewer’s yeast.

 

Targeting Personalization and “Need States” 

As immune-health marketers look for entry points, some experts believe that the best opportunities will come from identifying a specific consumer “need state,” as Megan DeStefano, probiotics global marketing leader for supplier DuPont Nutrition & Health (Wilmington, DE), calls it. After identifying a consumer’s need state, marketers can then explain how immune health relates to that need—just as they are doing already with athletes and their desire to stay active and therefore well.

This is where the market is going, DeStefano says. “We see the immune-health category, and really all supplement categories, moving in the direction of more personalized care. What we see now, and what we believe we will continue to see even more of in the future, is supplements segmented by consumer demographics such as age and gender, need states like ‘more energy,’ and life stages such as maternal health.” 

DuPont has invested in research on how its numerous probiotic strains can serve the needs of specific populations, including adults, athletes, pregnant women, infants, children, and seniors/aging adults. Consider, for instance, a population as specific as infants with eczema and allergic sensitivities. As the company explains, the development of an infant’s microbiota and immune system go hand in hand, and “the disruption of the development of the microbiota and immunity during this critical period has been linked with the development of allergies and eczema.” DuPont’s Howaru Protect EarlyLife Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 probiotic strain has been proven to help support an infant’s immune balance so as to reduce the prevalence of eczema and allergic sensitivities.3,4,5 DuPont also offers a probiotic strain for the sports market—Howaru Protect Sport, a combination of Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 and Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM. And in its latest news, in early 2017 the company expects to publish the results of a new immune-health study on its Howaru Protect Adult Bifidobacterium lactis BI-04 ingredient.

Stress—or, more specifically, the compromised immune health that can come from stress—is another need state worth considering, says NutraGenesis’s Abedon, because “numerous studies have shown that stress can affect immune function.” NutraGenesis combines its aforementioned MaitakeGold 404 immuno-modulator with the company’s Sensoril ashwagandha root and leaf extract, which Abedon says provides stress-relieving properties, to form an ingredient called WellBody 365. “By providing immune modulation and reducing stress, WellBody 365 helps provide multi-mechanism immune support,” Abedon says.

NutraQ’s Seward also believes that marketers can benefit from emphasizing the stress/immune-health connection. “Stress and immunity are deeply connected,” he says. “Chronic stress weakens the immune system, making it more susceptible to disease. Being physically ill can induce feelings of malaise and low mood, making the whole situation worse. Immune-support supplementation can’t address the underlying causes of stress, but it can be a beneficial input to the immune system of people subject to stress on a regular basis.”

Another example of a need state is weight management, says Ganeden’s Bush. People trying to lose weight not only experience digestive stress but also may begin exercising for the first time and thus encounter immune-system stress. For those customers, a weight-management product that also supports immune health is key. Bush points to the Nutrisystem brand, which recently included the Ganeden BC30 probiotic ingredient in its TurboShakes claiming to help consumers “support digestive health, help bust belly bloat, and feel fuller longer.” “Consumers love the fact that the probiotic that is in the product helps support digestive health, helps support protein metabolism, but also supports the immune system,” Bush says. “Why not have an ingredient that can support all of those things in a product that also helps consumers support their weight loss?” 

Finally, with more consumers making the connection between gut health and immune health and the fact that 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, these two markets are also increasingly complementary, says Embria Health’s Doug Reyes. “Our belief is that you will see the biggest immune-supplement growth in the digestive-health area because the two systems are so interlinked.”

Reyes says that in 2017, Embria hopes to see published the results of a new human clinical study that demonstrated the benefits his company’s EpiCor immune-health ingredient had on digestive health. EpiCor is a whole-food fermentate ingredient derived from brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Embria says that EpiCor is more than just a beta-glucan: “Beta-glucans are simple extracts from the cell wall of yeast or grains like oats and cannot be considered a whole food. Because EpiCor is not highly processed or refined, it is a whole-food yeast fermentate containing a complex range of nutrients and metabolites, in which beta-glucan is only one of dozens. It’s the whole, natural composition of EpiCor that makes it so beneficial and unique.” 

According to Reyes, the latest study showed that EpiCor acts as a prebiotic to support healthy bacteria in the gut while also supporting normal stool consistency and regularity. “We believe that EpiCor’s gut-health benefits are in part related to its overall immune-health benefits,” Reyes says. “For instance, several of our human clinical trials on immune health showed an increase in salivary sIgA antibodies, which are the most abundant antibody in your mucosal system and is believed to increase commensurately throughout the [gut] mucosa. So we could assume that EpiCor also increases sIgA antibodies in the gut to support your digestive health.”

Reyes says that immune-health and digestive-health benefits can be packaged together to address specific populations—for instance, “elite athletes such as marathon runners [who] are more prone to both immune and digestive challenges.”

“With EpiCor’s diverse benefits in the gut and immune categories, we believe that it could branch into many other categories,” he says.

As immune health becomes increasingly personalized in the ways described above, DuPont’s DeStefano says, “I predict the category will get more disparate but will also allow consumers to find an immune supplement that will match their specific needs even better than they can today.”

 

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