Aging With Dignity

By Amanda Baltazar, Contributing Writer | September 4, 2013

Fortified foods, beverages, supplements and creams aim to help people look and feel better as they age.

The global population of people aged over 65 is expected to triple by 2050, growing from 516 million in 2009 to 1.53 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the market for anti-aging products is vibrant, as consumers strive to feel healthy and attractive.

According to a new research report from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), Harleysville, PA, titled “Trends In Healthy Aging: A Multi-Generation Perspective,” consumers are interested in new approaches to managing their health. When it comes to actually trying new products though, Generations X and Y (aged 18-47) are more inclined to do so. Respectively, 58% and 63% of consumers in these demographics said they’d be willing to take new products.

Beauty supplements brought in $3.5 billion globally last year, according to market research firm Euromonitor, and sales of food and beverages containing beauty ingredients are expected to exceed $1.1 billion by 2016.

We all know the signs of aging—wrinkles, gray hair, sagging skin, creaking joints, a general slowing down and less spring in our steps. But what can people do about these issues and how is science evolving to slow the natural aging process?

Revere The Telomere
A new area of research on aging involves telomeres. Humans have 46 chromosomes, and within each DNA strand are about 20,000 sequences, or genes, for determining our characteristics. Telomeres are regions of nucleotide sequences located at the end of chromosomes that protect from deterioration or fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, we lose a telomere. Once every cell in the body has lost most of its telomeres, we die.

Draco Natural Products, San Jose, CA, has developed botanical extracts that contain phytocompounds that can activate telomerase. “When your body turns telomerase on, you start to make new telomeres of your DNA,” said Brien Quirk, director of R&D. So, in essence, you are prolonging your life.

Scientists have discovered different phytocompounds that activate telomerase. These include cycloastragenol and HDTIC from the Chinese herb astragalus. Another herb, cynomorium, has been found to increase telomere length; and hu zhang contains resveratrol, which activates telomerase.

Studies have shown telomerase-increasing effects of specific phytocompounds. For example, puerarin, found in the plant kudzu has been shown to stimulate telomerase and to delay the aging of the cells, Mr. Quirk said. Draco’s kudzu extract contains 40% isoflavones, of which a significant proportion is puerarin.

People with either high levels of vitamin D or omega 3 (or both) have also been shown to have high levels of telomeres.
However, there is disagreement about telomeres. “Many scientists still think it’s unproven as to how much of an anti-aging effect there could be,” Mr. Quirk said.

It may be, he explained, that some phytocompounds work on specific cells in the body but not all, so it may be necessary to use as many different telomerase activators as possible for an overall anti-aging effect.

Draco is also looking into another area that’s gaining recognition these days: stem cells. Stem cells are vital for the body’s ability to repair or regenerate damaged or worn out tissues—for example cells damaged by diabetes or heart disease. They are the cells from which all other specialized cells in our body are made, said Mr. Quirk.

“If you go through illness or have an injury, your body manufactures stem cells, which make new cells be produced,” he said. However, scientists have discovered that common Chinese herbs such as dong quai and rehmannia may help produce more stem cells in bone marrow.

Forces of Flavonoids
Much simpler than telomeres and stem cells, fruits and vegetables packed with flavonoids have been at the forefront of health, and fighting the war with aging.

Originally known as vitamin P, flavonoids are antioxidants found in plants. They are the superheroes of the health world, helping counter the damage free radicals invlict on cells. Free radicals’ effect on cells is akin to that of water rusting metal. It’s believed that when these cells are damaged, our bodies age—inside and out.

The effects of some flavonoids have only been recently discovered, and Draco is using them in powdered phytoconcentrates, which manufacturers are incorporating into dietary supplements, foods and beverages.

Yumberry contains a flavonoid called myricetin, which has anti-glycation effects. Glycation, explained Mr. Quirk, occurs when the sugar in skin reacts with proteins in the body and forms glycation products, which are damaged proteins. “Your body mounts an attack against them leading to inflammation, and their destruction by white blood cells, which leads to aging,” he said. (For more on advanced glycation end-products click here.)

Blue honeysuckle berry has five times higher phenolic value and five times the antioxidant value of blueberries, according to Draco. It is also a rich source of anti-glycation flavonoids.

Jackfruit contains phenolic, anti-inflammatory compounds that are potent antioxidants. They could also have an anti-aging effect if used to offset the inflammatory effect caused by high blood sugar.

A multi-component formula of these phytoconcentrates would be ideal, Mr. Quirk said. “Addressing a combination of pathways would make the most sense to decrease the damage and aging effect on cells.”

Half a century ago, Horphag Research developed Pycnogenol from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Containing procyanidins, flavonoids and organic acids, Pycnogenol provides four basic properties: it’s a potent antioxidant; it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory; it helps generate collagen; and it aids in the production of endothelial nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels.

On the U.S. market for 25 years, Pycnogenol is used in more than 700 consumer products—mostly in capsules, tablets, beauty creams and functional beverages—and as both a standalone supplement and an ingredient. It acts as a sponge for nefarious free radicals before they cause damage by oxidative stress.

Horphag Research conducted tests on women’s skin before they used oral Pycnogenol supplements and 12 weeks later. Researchers found the women had more hyaluronic acid (which binds large quantities of water in the skin and in other tissues), improved elasticity, greater hydration, fewer wrinkles and smoother skin.

“It increased the presence in our skin of the enzyme that increases hyaluronic acid, which is what is injected into some people’s lips or wrinkles,” said Frank Schonlau, Horphag’s scientific director. “The body produces that acid itself but we produce less as we grow older because the cells are no longer as active as when we were young.”

Olives—More Than Just Oil
Hydroxytyrosol (3, 4-dihydroxyphenylethanol; DOPET) is not a flavonoid but a phenylethanoid that comes from the olive leaf and olive oil. This phytochemical contains some of the most potent antioxidants discovered to date, according to Certified Nutraceuticals—three times higher than CoQ10 and 15 times higher than green tea.

Hydroxytyrosol helps fight aging in a number of ways, but mostly it contains lubricants for skin, joints and collagen cells.
Understanding of hydroxytyrosol is relatively recent. While we’ve known for years that a Mediterranean diet bestows health benefits on consumers, it’s now recognized that the minor compounds in extra virgin olive oil—one of which is hydroxytyrosol—offer health benefits.

Certified Nutraceuticals’ Olea25 ingredient contains 25% pure hydroxytyrosol, and is good for heart health, liver disease, blood pressure, prostate health and cholesterol, according to the company, which recommends 100 mg per day.
“Most people who are buying Olea25 are 40-plus, but it’s for anyone over the age of 25, which is when we start producing free radicals,” said Ahmad Alkayali, president and CEO of the Aliso Viejo, CA-based company. “We are also doing research to see what it does for telomeres—if it does slow the aging process down, we could maybe add 10, 15, 20 years to our life spans.”

Probiotic Power
Hydroxytyrosol may not have made many headlines yet, but probiotics captured the attention of mainstream media in the U.S. when Danone launched its Activia brand yogurt in 2005.

Despite the hype, understanding the complexities of bacteria and gastrointestinal health among consumers is still in the relatively early stages.

“People are understanding that we age from the inside out and that the gut is very important,” said Dr. David Keller, vice president of scientific operations for Ganeden Biotech, Mayfield Heights, OH. “And seniors are a big focus because it’s the largest growing population in the U.S. And as you age it goes from a healthier to a less optimal state as the balance of your gut flora changes.”

Much of the research shows that many causes of aging could be due to changes in the immune system (most of which is located in the gut), the digestive system and the effects of inflammation, Dr. Keller continued.

GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) is a lactic-acid producing probiotic bacteria, which can be incorporated into virtually any food or beverage. In fact, it has been added to more than 80 products, including Bigelow Lemon Ginger Herb Plus Probiotic Tea, Red Mango Frozen Yogurt and Udi’s Ancient Grain Granola Bars With Probiotics.

While probiotics are of great benefit to seniors, Ganeden hopes that consumers start to realize their benefits sooner, and begin taking them preventatively. “You’re not able to start taking GanedenBC30 later on [in life] as a magic fountain of youth,” Dr. Keller explained.

Probiotics are everywhere these days. How is Ganeden’s strain different?

“Our strain is a spore-forming bacteria that allows it to survive manufacturing processes and harsh environments [like the stomach] that no non-spore former will,” Dr. Keller said.

The Red Wine Diet
The other darling of the media in recent years has been resveratrol—a compound found in red wine, which makes it a more palatable nutraceutical for some consumers.

Some research has shown resveratrol to be beneficial for cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and for reducing inflammation and blood clots.

Reverse-vine from Certified Nutraceuticals is a blend of red wine, red grapes, grape cluster stems and grapevines, which the company said is more efficacious than resveratrol alone.

This product is mostly sold in a 500 mg tablet, and the company’s Mr. Alkayali said that its efficacy has been proven in both lab and mice studies. It has also been shown to delay the aging process of vegetables, “so who’s to say it’s not going to help us, too?”

Putting It All Together
DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, NJ, is taking many ingredients that are on-trend and incorporating them into a single product. The company’s powdered blend Age Well includes collagen, lutein, resveratrol, CoQ10 and antioxidants (in the form of carotenoids) to promote healthy skin structure and skin cell metabolism.

“These nutrients work together to support skin health and anti-aging benefits through several complementary mechanisms,” said Dr. Deshanie Rai, DSM’s senior scientific leader. “[They] scavenge free radicals produced [that] cause metabolic and structural damage to the skin cells and may also result in premature aging. So these antioxidant nutrients help to stabilize these free radicals and keep them in balance.”

The key is that the ingredients work together and each has discrete roles. “Collagen helps support the integrity of the skin layer,” Dr. Rai added, “while carotenoids help support the anti-aging benefit through being antioxidants and helping heal the damage by free radicals from sun exposure, the aging process or environmental aspects.”

Consumers are becoming more willing to try new anti-aging formulas. According to market research firm SPINS, Schaumberg, IL, collagen supplements are increasingly popular. Data for the 52-week period ending April 2013 revealed that sales of collagen supplements were up 39% in the natural channel, and 56% at mass merchandisers.

The fountain of youth may prove elusive for at least a few generations yet to come but all of these products have a market that’s waiting for them.

Younger consumers (in their 30s and 40s) are looking to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and collagen loss and are thinking preventatively toward the future. Older Americans (in the 50- and 60-year-old age groups) are hoping to halt—or reverse—the aging they see and feel.

Perhaps by 2050 consumers will be eating, drinking and moisturizing with anti-aging products and not giving it a second thought.