The Latest Trends In Immunity-Boosting: What Works And What Doesn’t – Forbes
The pandemic has been accelerating demand for immunity boosting products and ingredients. Functional ingredients supplier, Beneo reveals that the coronavirus has caused 75 per cent of consumers to seek out healthier foods and beverages, and according to Google Trends data, searches for the combined terms, ‘food’ and ‘immune system’ skyrocketed by 670 per cent between February and March.
But, while COVID-19 is piquing consumer interest in a variety of trendy products, not all are worth the hype. The following are the most popular trends in the immunity-boosting market with the scientific evidence, or lack thereof, to support their claims.
Wellness shots are small servings of concentrated juices consisting of ingredients that are considered to have beneficial properties. Immune boosting wellness shots typically have one or more of a number of ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, wheatgrass, citrus, echinacea, cayenne pepper or apple cider vinegar.
A testament to the growing popularity of this sector is that Vive organic raised $13 million in series B funding in mid-July. According to the company, sales have been improving by over 400 per cent year on year.
But the immunity boosting claims of wellness shots have never been scientifically substantiated. According to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, wellness shots can provide a healthy boost but their impacts are not as effective as a healthy diet in boosting immunity.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt that stimulate the immune system through interactions with the gastrointestinal tract.
The market for probiotics is estimated to reach $136.5 billion by 2024— and with good reason. Probiotics are medically proven to have therapeutic value in the treatment of a number of immune response-related conditions such as allergies, eczema and viral infections, and a recent study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that widespread use of probiotics could result in 2.2 million fewer antibiotic prescriptions, 54 million fewer annual sick days and $919 million in avoided annual productivity losses.
The most popular form of probiotic consumption is via yogurt. Since the onset of the pandemic, Danone North America has reported an uptick in sales of its Activia Probiotic Dailies and this month, Chiobani launched a fruity plant-based beverage by the name of Chobani Probiotic.
Recently a number of global brands in the functional food and beverage sector have been launching innovative probiotic-fortified products. Farmi Piimatoostus Ltd., an Estonian dairy company, launched fermented buttermilk with strawberries, fortified with vitamins B6 and B12, while a number of packaged snacks with probiotic, GanedenBC30, have been appearing on shelves.
Global consumer surveys conducted by InsightsNow, Inc. before and during the pandemic reveal that COVID-19 has affected consumer perceptions of health and wellness, creating a renewed interest in functional foods or foods that are fortified, enriched or enhanced, providing health benefits beyond the provision of basic nutrients.
In February 2020, global sales of functional foods topped $267 billion, and naturally healthy food sales were $259 billion during the same period (Euromonitor, 2020).
Some of the functional food trends identified by food intelligence startup, Tastewise include the use of elderberry and pickled vegetables for immune system health, melon for sickness treatment and kombucha for gut health, while Datassential reveals that almost 60 per cent of adults are interested in eating more superfoods.
More than half of consumers are trying to increase their consumption of fiber, protein, vitamin D, calcium, nuts/seeds, and whole grains while more than 40 per cent are adding antioxidants, omega-3s, green tea, and probiotics to their foods (Hartman 2019a). Nielsen statistics reveal that retail revenue for products containing turmeric has grown by 179% over the past three years.
But how helpful are functional foods in boosting immunity?
A 2002 article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that “micronutrients incorporated into foods contributes to an enhancement of immunocompetence,” but according to the American Council on Science and Health, “only a small number of [functional ingredients] have substantive clinical documentation of their health benefits. An even smaller number have surpassed the rigorous standard of “significant scientific agreement” required by the FDA for authorisation of a health claim.” It appears that the efficacy of functional foods in boosting immunity should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
At the risk of being boring, there is a great deal of medical evidence to show that low-fat, plant-based diets are the best for immunity. White blood cells, that produce antibodies to combat viruses and bacteria and other invaders, have been found to be more effective among vegetarians.
Researchers in Northern Ireland conducted a randomised experiment with 83 healthy volunteers, ages 65 to 85, split into two groups. One group was instructed to maintain their typical diets, averaging two servings of fruits and vegetables per day while the other group was instructed to maintain their typical diets, averaging at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. After 16-weeks, the 5-serving group had a better immune response than the 2-serving group.
“The design of our immune system is complex and influenced by an ideal balance of many factors, not just diet, and especially not by any one specific food or nutrient,” say researchers at the Nutrition Source, at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “A balanced diet consisting of a range of vitamins and minerals, combined with healthy lifestyle factors like adequate sleep and exercise and low stress, most effectively primes the body to fight infection and disease.”
There is no silver bullet for immune system health.
- ^ https://www.beneo.com (www.beneo.com)
- ^ https://korshots.com (korshots.com)
- ^ https://sujajuice.com (sujajuice.com)
- ^ https://viveorganic.com (viveorganic.com)
- ^ https://www.danone.com (www.danone.com)
- ^ https://www.chiobani.com (www.chiobani.com)
- ^ https://www.farmi.ee (www.farmi.ee)
- ^ https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/5571396/Final%20PDF%20Files%20(Spotlights%20+%20Reports)/Tastewise_Food_for_Function_Sep_2019_Report-1.pdf (cdn2.hubspot.net)