Holistic Health for Him: The men’s health toolbox is expanding with new ingredient research

Nutritional Outlook, Volume 25, Issue 4

The men’s health toolbox is growing with ingredients for everything from skin and heart health to testosterone, muscle, and sex support.

It wasn’t that long ago that ingredients in the men’s health category were narrowly focused on testosterone boosters, sexual function improvers, hair restorers, and preworkout and postrecovery solutions. But according to Maggie McNamara, marketing director, Gencor (Irvine, CA), there’s been a relatively recent shift that is moving the men’s health category to respond to the expanded expectations of its customers.

“The men’s health category wasn’t immune to the great effects of a worldwide pandemic that turned not only the world on its head but the supplement industry inside out,” says McNamara. McNamara advises that, like all the others, men’s health is joining the ranks of the women’s health market and other non-gender–targeted categories in that it “is now embracing a much more holistic approach to health.”

She’s not suggesting that interest in the original benefits will go away, or that men will stop wanting to purchase those ingredients; she’s simply recommending that companies in this category consider offering products with more than one benefit. “The male consumer is not oblivious to his newfound supplement needs,” says McNamara, urging that “the new products in this arena need to also address things like immunity, stress, and sleep,” as examples.

She’s not alone in that viewpoint. Sébastien Bornet, vice president, global sales and marketing, Horphag Research (Hoboken, NJ), says that “the men’s health category continues to grow as it is an umbrella that encompasses so many aspects of health.”

One of those emerging aspects, according to Bornet, is skin health. Once a category occupied by women, lumped in with beauty and makeup, Bornet says “that is no longer the case. Skin health is a growth area in the men’s health category. Men are more concerned with their appearance than ever, and skin health is an entry point for younger men into the natural supplement market.”

He references sales statistics from Allied Market Research that demonstrate men’s interest in skincare products is on the rise, and that the men’s personal care market is expected to hit $166 billion this year.1 While those figures are focused on beauty skincare products like cosmetics and creams, they also suggest opportunity for companies to generate interest in skin-healthy supplements among those same men.

Pycnogenol Study Stresses Skin Health Benefits

And that’s one of the many reasons why Bornet keenly reports on a new study for Horphag’s branded ingredient, Pycnogenol, a French maritime pine bark extract, on its skincare properties.

Already well-established for its antioxidant assets, cardiovascular and cholesterol-lowering benefits, and anti-inflammatory effects, French maritime pine bark extract is one of the most well-researched ingredients on the market with more than 450 scientific publications, most of them specifically based on Pycnogenol, according to Horphag’s website.2 Horphag is the exclusive worldwide supplier of Pycnogenol.

A 2021 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study3 examined the effects of Pycnogenol on skin health in 76 Han Chinese subjects with an average age of 41. Although 75% of the study’s population were women, Bornet advises that this study “offers important findings for those that are concerned with their skin health”—men included.

The results join other studies on Pycnogenol reporting benefits for the skin, according to the researchers. In this study, a variety of skin physiological parameters were studied at intakes, twice daily, of 50 mg Pycnogenol or placebo for 12 weeks. The first wave of the study was conducted from April to July, and then the interventions were switched. The second part took place between August and November.4

Researchers evaluated skin moisture content, transepidermal water loss, and skin elasticity at baseline, during, and after the study. The subjects were working outdoors in Beijing under considerable environmental stress. According to information posted on Horphag’s website5, the study found that Pycnogenol “may help to significantly retain skin hydration, increase skin elasticity, and reinforce skin barrier function for those exposed to urban environmental pollution, as well as seasonal temperature and humidity variations.”

Bornet believes that this new research is just one more reason for men to make Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract a staple ingredient. “A deep catalogue of research supports Pycnogenol’s benefits for various areas of health that men are concerned about, such as cardiovascular, joint, sports performance, and cognitive function,” he says. “This new skin research further supports Pycnogenol’s ability to provide overarching benefits and a holistic approach to wellness.”

Lycopene Meta-Analysis Presents Heart-Hardy Results

Lycopene, a powerful, carotenoid-based antioxidant, is perhaps best known for its potential heart health benefits. Now, a new meta-analysis6 reaffirms those benefits as related to blood pressure.

The meta-analysis included 10 studies from 2006 to 2019, either randomized controlled or crossover trials, with lycopene doses between 5 and 30 mg. The results of the meta-analysis found the lycopene supplementation resulted in a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure, consistent with other recent systematic reviews on tomato and/or lycopene supplementation. The authors further noted that observational cohort studies have reported positive associations between higher tomato and/or lycopene intake and lower risk of CVDs.

According to the study authors, lycopene supplementation has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health because of antihypertensive actions. They urge that further studies, larger and longer, with well-controlled designs, are needed to identify the proper dosage of the ingredient to best access the benefits.

Abigail Heaton, global marketing manager, Sibelius (UK), says the meta-analysis’s conclusion “supported [that] lycopene supplementation can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and heart health.” Sibelius supplies a patented, clinically backed lycopene complex, LactoMato, specifically targeted to the heart health and men’s health categories, she adds.

Although the meta-analysis was not focused specifically on LactoMato, Heaton touts systematic reviews and meta-analyses as “the studies with the highest level of evidence in research, as they don’t rely [on] just one study but collect the data from several.” She adds that “this gives more robustness and validity to the data, further supporting LactoMato in the market.”

Tongkat Ali, an Old Herbal Ingredient with a Host of New Studies

Annie Eng, CEO of HP Ingredients (Bradenton, FL), sees the sustainability story as just as important in the men’s health category as it is in all other categories. LJ100, her company’s proprietary tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) ingredient for men’s health, has a powerful sustainability story, says Eng. HP Ingredients sources the herbal ingredient directly from Malaysia, the country Eng grew up in, and, she notes “it has a longstanding history of traditional use by indigenous people, the Orang Asli. I was always fascinated by the Orang Asli and their herbal traditions.” Eng tells the tale of how men would use the herb, called “Ali’s Walking Stick,” to boost their energy and stamina, as well as libido.

“The Orang Asli remains a strong community throughout the country,” Eng continues, “holding on to traditional ways of life.” She states that close to 14% of Malaysians are indigenous. It’s her viewpoint that “supporting these communities enriches the fabric of the culture and is also demonstrably humane. Therefore,” she adds, “we work with the Malaysian government to protect this population from exploitation and hire only the Orang Asli to procure the raw material from the rainforests for us.”

Eng states that “supporting the indigenous people from the points of origin of our materials is a pillar of our mission.” With four published studies on LJ100 demonstrating beneficial effects for men in 2021, it appears that science is another.

Lead author Alice Erwig Leitão and colleagues generated two publications recently, examining different effects. Both trials7,8 were randomized and placebo-controlled, lasting six months and conducted on 45 men screened via the Androgen Deficiency of Aging Males (ADAM) questionnaire. The study population, in each case, was split into four groups: 1) no training and placebo, 2) 200 mg of supplemented LJ100, 3) training only, and 4) training plus 200 mg of supplemented LJ100.

In the first study7, the researchers investigated sexual performance results using the International Index of Erectile Function, Aging Male Scale, and total testosterone. They concluded that 200 mg of LJ100 combined with concurrent training for six months significantly improved the erectile function of men with ADAM. Both intervention groups saw improvement in erectile function; however, the most significant results were in the men who simultaneously trained and consumed LJ100. Sexual satisfaction scores significantly improved in the supplement-only group by 29%, and 35% in the training and supplement group reported a significant increase in sexual desire.

The second study8, says Eng, examined LJ100’s effects on muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness. For all participants, testosterone levels were correlated with isokinetic peak torque of knee extension, with the more significant effects found in both the training only and the training plus LJ100 groups.

With regard to the cardiorespiratory effects, Eng says the researchers reported a significant difference in heart rate between the control group (no training and placebo) and the training plus LJ100 group at six months. She adds that the men in both the training and training plus LJ100 groups had significant reductions in the total ADAM symptoms after six months (16.71 points and 16.51 points, respectively) compared to baseline.

A third randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial9 on LJ100 was published in May 2021 investigating the impact on men with Low T (low testosterone). The researchers gave the 105 male study population, aged 50-70 years, either LJ100 at 100 mg or 200 mg, or placebo, daily for 12 weeks.

The results: compared to placebo, there was a significant increase in total testosterone levels at week 12 in the LJ100 (100 mg) group, and at weeks 4, 8, and 12 in the LJ100 (200 mg) group. The LJ100 groups (at both doses) also experienced significant reductions in the Aging Males’ Symptoms Fatigue Severity Scale scores at all time points.

Further, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels significantly increased in both LJ100 groups from week 2 onward, and muscle strength significantly increased at week 12. In addition, cortisol levels significantly reduced in the LJ100 (200 mg) group. The researchers concluded that supplementation of LJ100 at 200 mg was able to increase the serum total testosterone, reduce fatigue, and improve the quality of life in aging men within two weeks’ time.

In a fourth placebo-controlled double-blind study10, 32 healthy young men, says Eng, consumed either 600 mg of LJ100 or a placebo daily for two weeks. Eng advises that the main findings were that LJ100 significantly increased testosterone when LJ100 was consumed at that high dose, resulting in an increase in testosterone (14%) and in free testosterone (34%) after two weeks.

A Combination of Botanical Ingredients Breeds Benefits for Men

One of Gencor’s newest branded ingredients, Tesnor, a proprietary blend of two herbal extracts, pomegranate peel (Punica granatum) and cocoa bean (Theobroma cacao), was bolstered by a recent study11 that demonstrated the branded ingredient to be a tolerable herbal blend that increased testosterone levels and muscle strength in healthy young men. The randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study was conducted on 120 men, aged 21-35, over a 56-day period. The study population was divided into three groups: 1) 400 mg of Tesnor, 2) 200 mg of Tesnor, 3) or placebo.12

The primary outcome showed that Tesnor significantly improved free testosterone compared with placebo, in both intervention groups. Additionally, the higher-dosed group showed significant increases in total testosterone and luteinizing hormone compared to baseline, with secondary outcomes of significant improvements in hand grip strength and mid-upper arm circumference.

There were no side effects in any participants, according to Gencor Marketing Executive Risha Gill. “While this particular study is specific to young males, other studies have shown that daily doses of Tesnor have improved testosterone levels as well as reduced aging male symptoms scores,” said Chase Shryoc, vice president of sales and business development, Gencor. Tesnor has been tested with NSF and LGC for the absence of WADA-prohibited substances.11,12

Men’s Health to Move into Next Generation, Next Set of Benefits

According to Gencor’s McNamara, when it comes to the men’s health category, “There is always going to be a need for more energy, more sex, more muscle, and less fat, but just like the rest of us, men feel the need to add even more value to their supplemental intake.”

With information more readily available online, whether through social media, company websites, or more accessible exposure to research, Horphag’s Bornet thinks engaging in a personalized health and wellness routine is easier than ever.

Says Bornet, “Men are learning more about the importance of natural supplements to support their health goals. We see younger men entering the supplement market to treat specific concerns, such as hair loss, erectile dysfunction, or skin health. However, as they become more educated, they find supplements can complement a preventative approach to lessen the burden of health concerns later in life. We have Gen Xers and Boomers to thank for the size of the men’s health market. Gen Z will be the next to continue building that momentum.”

References

  1. Warfield N. “Men Are a Multibillion Dollar Growth Opportunity for the Beauty Industry.” CNBC.com. Published online May 18, 2019.
  2. Pycnogenol science overview.
  3. Zhao H et al. “Oral Pycnogenol® intake benefits the skin in urban Chinese outdoor workers: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, and crossover intervention study.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, vol. 34, no. 3 (2021): 134-145
  4. Krawiec S. “Pycnogenol may help protect skin from environmental stressors, says recent study.NutritionalOutlook.com. Published online May 3, 2021.
  5. Press release. “Groundbreaking New Study Shows Pycnogenol to Retain Skin Moisture and Elasticity, Increase Skin Lightening, and Reinforce Skin Barrier Function.www.pycnogenol.com. Posted April 28, 2021.
  6. Kelishadi MR et al. “Lycopene supplementation and blood pressure: Systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized trials.” Journal of Herbal Medicine, vol. 31 (February 2022)
  7. Leitão AE et al. “A 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial to evaluate the effect of Eurycoma longifolia (tongkat ali) and concurrent training on erectile function and testosterone levels in androgen deficiency of aging males (ADAM).” Maturitas. Published online December 9, 2020.
  8. Leitão AE et al. “Exercise associated or not to the intake of Eurycoma longifolia improves strength and cardiorespiratory fitness in men with androgen deficiency.Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, vol. 42 (February 2021)
  9. Chinnappan SM et al. “Effect of Eurycoma longifolia standardized aqueous root extract—Physta on testosterone levels and quality of life in ageing male subjects: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicentre study.Food & Nutrition Research. Published online May 19, 2021.
  10. Chan KQ et al. “The effect of Eurycoma longifolia on the regulation of reproductive hormones in young males.Andrologia, vol. 53, no. 4 (May 2021)
  11. Sreeramaneni PGA et al. “A proprietary herbal blend containing extracts of Punica granatum fruit rind and Theobroma cocoa seeds increases serum testosterone level in healthy young males: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Journal of Dietary Supplements. Published online head of print February 6, 2022.
  12. Krawiec S. “Recent study shows that proprietary herbal blend from Gencor may boost testosterone levels: Natural Products Expo West 2022 preview.NutritionalOutlook.com. Published online February 17, 2022.