By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO Asia Pacific
What is "healthy ageing"? Consumers are increasingly adopting a long-term approach to health maintenance, wanting to stay fit, active and independent until as late in life as possible. The prevalence of lifestyle-related health problems continues to rise and nutrition is beginning to play a key role in this.
Preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or delaying the onset of complications that NCDs bring is high on consumers' radar, with one of the key strategies being prevention-oriented eating as healthy ageing and healthy eating are strongly correlated. For example, to lower the risk of developing osteoporosis, we look for food that support an increase in calcium uptake. Another option is to consume lower glycaemic food and drinks as a way to better-manage our blood glucose levels. Prevention through an active lifestyle and a balanced diet is now considered more important than treatment, with almost 7 in 10 over 65year-olds saying they actively take steps to make their nutrition more healthy[i].
There is a common misconception that NCDs only affect the elderly or is only serious at the later stages of life. Rather, the healthy ageing journey begins the moment we are born. It is a lifelong effort – with our eating and lifestyle habits strongly influencing the way we age. While NCDs tend to manifest in adulthood, many of the behaviours leading to these diseases are developed during childhood and adolescence. The good news is that they are often preventable, with appropriate health interventions through better nutrition and an active lifestyle.
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In a recent BENEO and Health Focus International survey, 30% of consumers aged 50+ said that the primary reason for them choosing healthy foods and beverages was to ensure their future good health. With the rise in consumer demand for healthier nutritional choices, food manufacturers today are well-placed to offer solutions that contribute to a healthy and active lifestyle, no matter the age group. This can be achieved through functional macronutrients that can be used in various applications. The right food choices can not only help seniors, but also consumers at any stage of their lives to grow into their golden years in better health, stay more active and increase their quality of life.
Keeping an eye on blood glucose levels
Supporting the immune system is a key part of healthier ageing. As well as sustaining the gut microbiome with gut-friendly foods containing prebiotics, a key recommendation to supporting immunity is to manage blood glucose levels. In fact, studies have shown that those suffering from diabetes are at higher risk of requiring more medical treatment after being infected with COVID-19.
Having high blood glucose levels is also closely linked with being overweight, obesity, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease and more. Crucially, it is core to the prevention and management of diabetes — which, at more serious stages, may lead to complications such as stroke, heart attack, and others. With more than 250 million diabetics living in Asia Pacific, it is paramount that better strategies are devised to help consumers manage their blood glucose levels, starting with the right daily diets.
Food choices and ingredients that can reduce the blood glucose response will become increasingly important, and low glycaemic functional ingredients play a significant part in this process. In fact, the key to promoting healthy ageing through blood sugar management is via the right choice of carbohydrates.
Palatinose™ is a slow-release carbohydrate made from sucrose which is naturally sourced from sugar beet. It leads to a slower and lower rise in blood glucose and insulin response. This makes it an ideal ingredient to help support blood sugar management. Because of its unique slow-release property and its low glycaemic index (GI), Palatinose™ is a one-of-a-kind replacement for common sugars and maltodextrin, which have high GIs. Furthermore, its mild sugar-like taste and technical properties, can maintain or even improve the taste and texture of the final product.
Building a strong foundation with digestive health
Prebiotic fibre is another important nutrient for a healthy lifestyle, as it not only improves bowel movement, but also benefits the gut — where a large part of our inner defence system lies. As people grow older, imbalances in the microbiome (dysbiosis) are common and the amount of beneficial bacteria in the intestine tends to decline, exposing them potentially to gastrointestinal discomfort, inflammation, and other diseases.
BENEO's prebiotic chicory root fibres, Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose, promote a healthy gut by feeding beneficial bacteria so that they grow selectively. These prebiotic fibres also improve intestinal functions such as stool regularity, while preventing digestive issues such as intestinal infections and metabolic endotoxemia, improving intestinal barrier functions and help in increasing the fibre intake.
In fact, their benefits extend beyond the gut, and may reduce the risk of developing conditions like frailty and osteoporosis. Research has proven that a patented blend of Oligofructose-enriched Inulin, called Orafti® Synergy1 can enhance bioavailability and absorption of calcium in the diet for bone health. This can potentially prevent osteoporosis and improve conditions of patients suffering from the condition.
Teamwork makes the healthy ageing dream work
The pursuit of health is a two-way partnership involving consumers and food manufacturers.
As the focus on heathy ageing continues to grow, and functional food ingredients like chicory root fibre and Palatinose™ rise in popularity, food manufacturers can play an active role in supporting consumer health goals by reimagining their product formulation. Incorporating more natural, functional food ingredients with proven health benefits and provide consumers with better choicesthat contribute to a healthy and active lifestyle – no matter the age group – should be the ultimate goal.
 UNICEF (2020), Non-communicable disease https://www.unicef.org/health/non-communicable-diseases
 Health Focus International, 2020 BENEO Healthy Ageing consumer research
 BMJ 2020;369:m1985 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1985
 Ragonnaud, E., Biragyn, A. Gut microbiota as the key controllers of “healthy” aging of elderly people. Immun Ageing 18, 2 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12979-020-00213-w
[i] BENEO Consumer Research on Health and Nutrition 2020
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