Although nutrition is considered to be a core element of a healthy lifestyle, people seem to find it difficult to meet adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals. Maria Pavlidou, head of communications EMEA at DSM, explains the differences in the nutrition we need at various stages of life, and how targeted nutritional products can benefit consumers.
In affluent regions like Western Europe, obesity levels are high, yet people often suffer from a condition known as 'hidden hunger' due to having diets rich in fats and sugar rather than essential nutrients. Nutritional requirements vary throughout life, and specific micronutrients can help support human health at various ages.
Targeted nutrition is growing in importance in the food industry. According to market-insight company Mintel, the marketing of food supplements as aids to healthy lifestyles according to life stages could resonate better with consumers. UK sales of demographically positioned vitamins performed well last year, highlighting that further exploration of different demographic groups and lifestyle needs could help to drive category sales growth.
Recent research also suggests that targeted nutrition could help consumers achieve optimum well-being throughout life. As part of this ongoing research, DSM has addressed the adequate nutrition needed for specific life stages.
The 1,000 days between the start of a woman's pregnancy and a child's second birthday have a significant impact on the child's future. It has been established that children with adequate nutrition at this crucial stage are ten times more likely to avoid life-threatening childhood diseases. Numerous nutritional solutions exist to help the growth of children during this period.
Due to the physical, mental and behavioural changes during early childhood, such as the development of cognitive and psychomotor skills, toddlers require a higher nutrient intake than older children or adults.
Essential micronutrients including vitamins A, C, D, B6 and B12, as well as minerals, can support the immunity of toddlers - an important factor during growth. In addition, emerging studies highlight that having an adequate status of nutritional lipids (DHA and EPA) can enhance the learning and mental capabilities of school-age children. Meanwhile, vitamin D is also essential for the growth and maintenance of bone mineral density, and deficiency of this vitamin is sometimes associated with infections, autoimmune diseases or rickets in children.
For teenagers, vitamins B, C and E are required to accommodate their more active lifestyles. Research also shows that these vitamins, alongside biotin and zinc, can help skin metabolism, synthesis and repair. Carotenoids and antioxidants can help to protect the skin against UV light during this life stage.
Across the globe, people are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies. For example, 88% of individuals have a suboptimal vitamin D status due to poor nutrition and sun exposure. According to recent consumer insights, adults are looking to address individual needs with dietary supplements. The most frequently cited health concerns include heart health, eye health and energy, as well as sports recovery and beauty from within.
Ageing well is a key concern in today's society. There is evidence suggesting that physical activity and a balanced diet can be more influential than genetic factors in decreasing the risk of non-communicable diseases, slowing disease progression, reducing disease symptoms and, in general, helping the elderly age as healthily as possible.
Research also shows that higher intakes of micronutrients such as vitamins, PUFAs and minerals can help people lower the risk of developing cognitive deficits. As the health impacts of diet and lifestyle are mediated by circulatory function, PUFAs may also help support the cardiovascular system as people age.
Supplementation and fortified foods are effective, low-cost and safe sources of micronutrients. By developing targeted nutritional products, the functional food and beverage, and food supplements industries can support people throughout their lives. Through its scientific research and development, DSM provides effective nutritional solutions that can help unlock the potential in every individual. As part of its ongoing research, the company can provide detailed consumer insights that can be used to help manufacturers develop targeted and successful products.
The DSM team will be in attendance at Vitafoods Europe (stand I10) on 10-12 May with more information and resources on targeted nutrition.