Why we need to give our gut the care it deserves

In the last decade, there has been a significant shift in health concerns for consumers. The winds of change have begun to blow, and more people are now prioritising daily living and ageing  instead of worrying about life-threatening acute conditions. This is further exacerbated by our rapidly ageing population, where 1 in 4 people in Asia is expected to be aged 60 years and older by 2050 . 

As a result, consumer awareness concerning the importance of nutrition for healthy ageing is climbing up by the day. COVID-19 has also added to the readiness of consumers to make diet and lifestyle changes that will last beyond the pandemic . For example, in a recent HealthFocus International survey  conducted on behalf of BENEO, 85% of those aged 50 and older have shown a willingness to take charge of their health, and a key way of doing this is through changing what they eat and drink. 

It has long been known that healthy eating, healthy living and healthy ageing are all strongly related to each other. As diet impacts metabolism at every stage of life, there is a need to pay attention to what is being consumed — no matter a person’s age. 

The link between gut health and positive ageing 
As we grow older, the stability of our microbiota composition goes down. There is a lower diversity of bacteria and an increase of potentially harmful bacteria groups also occur.  

Constipation, too, becomes more common as people age, with 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men aged 65+ struggling with this condition . Thus, the benefits that nutrition can offer in terms of supporting gut health and strengthening the inner defence system is increasing in interest to older consumers. In fact, 50% of older consumers are extremely or very concerned about gastrointestinal/digestive problems, while 56% are worried about their immune health . 

Healthy nutrition goes beyond ensuring the consumption of the right vitamins and minerals. It also encompasses eating a good balance of carbohydrates, along with appropriate amounts of protein, good fat sources, as well as foods and beverages that support the gut microbiome.

The starter pack for optimum digestive health
Even though all dietary fibres are non-digestible, they differ in the way they function in the large intestine. When the fermentation of fibres allows a selective increase of healthy microbiota, they are classified as prebiotic fibres. Gut friendly foods, such as pre and probiotics can be supportive in nourishing the gut microbiota as a person gets older. Research has shown that microbiota-support using gut-friendly foods or food supplements not only promotes a person’s digestive health but can also improve their frailty index. 

Prebiotics, such as BENEO’s Orafti® Inulin, Orafti® Synergy1, and Oligofructose chicory root fibres, play a role in selectively promoting the growth of good bacteria. The beneficial effects of BENEO’s prebiotics have been proven in more than 50 human intervention studies. They are the only plant-based prebiotics, and consumption of just 5 grams per day of inulin or oligofructose results in a significant increase in bifidobacteria, therefore supporting a person’s digestive health and overall well-being, while helping to keep their inner defence system in good shape. These prebiotic fibres also have fat mimicking and sugar replacement properties, making them ideal to be incorporated into elderly food and drink products to create healthier versions while increasing the fibre content.

Taking the next step towards the healthy ageing aspiration
The demand for nutritional food and drink choices will only continue to rise, and food manufacturers will be pressed to source for functional ingredients that support healthy ageing more than ever. 

The good news? There isn’t much sourcing to be done, since many of these ingredients are already easily available and readily supplied. The market is well-positioned to embrace the positive ageing trend, and all we need is for food manufacturers to take that leap.

  1.   Source: Health Focus International, Global Trends Study 2010-2020, *Global Total: Includes core trended countries – Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, UK, Russia, India, Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia, and Philippines How concerned are you about the following (extremely/very concerned – top 2)
  2.   United Nations ESCAP, Social Development Division. 2016 Population Data Sheet. 9 September 2016 revision
  3.   Health Focus International, 2020 BENEO Healthy Ageing consumer research
  4.   Health Focus International, 2020 BENEO Healthy Ageing consumer research
  5.   Gallegos-Orozco JF, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Sterler SM, Stoa JM. Chronic constipation in the elderly. The American journal of gastroenterology. 2012 Jan;107(1):18. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325863/pdf/0610152.pdf 
  6.   Health Focus International, 2020 BENEO Healthy Ageing consumer research
  7.   Buigues C, Fernández-Garrido J, Pruimboom L, Hoogland AJ, Navarro-Martínez R, Martínez-Martínez M, Verdejo Y, Mascarós MC, Peris C, Cauli O. Effect of a Prebiotic Formulation on Frailty Syndrome: A Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Jun 14;17(6):932. doi: 10.3390/ijms17060932. PMID: 27314331; PMCID: PMC4926465.