Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, responsible for more than 10 million mortalities in 2020, according to Cancer Research UK. While the number of cancer diagnoses continues to rise each year, evidence shows that between one-third to half of all cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and adopting a range of evidence-based preventative measures.
As awareness of the link between diet and health rises, consumers are increasingly looking to nutrition as a tool to improve their holistic health and limit exposure to chronic illness. More than half (51%) of global consumers choose food and drink over nutritional supplements and medicines when seeking to address health issues, FMCG Gurus data shows.
Younger consumers have the strongest conviction in the ability of nutrition to improve health, including reducing the risk of developing cancer. Over one-fifth of Chinese Gen Z consumers are interested in specialised nutrition for cancer, compared with 15% of Boomers, Mintel data shows. This makes them a key consumer segment for brands seeking to improve holistic health via nutrition.
Keto and plant-based solutions come to market
A scan of the market shows that global trends in the food and beverage industry, such as ketogenic and plant-based diets, are gaining popularity among consumers in the medical nutrition industry.
Rather than being a sole therapeutic target for cancer, evidence exists to suggest that the ketogenic diet – which is high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and moderate in protein – can boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment. The ZonePerfect Keto shake from US-based Abbott Nutrition is a vanilla-flavoured, keto-friendly shake, containing 4 g net carbohydrates to keep the consumer in nutritional ketosis.
Plant-based diets may also reduce the risk of developing cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers, observational studies conducted over the past five years show. Using a blend of soy and pea protein, Netherlands-based Nutricia's Fortisip mango-passionfruit plant-based drink is suitable for vegans and provides high protein and energy malnutrition support.
Artificial intelligence to drive cancer nutrition market growth
New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) promise to disrupt and accelerate the development of new products in the medical nutrition sector.
In February, Nestlé Health Sciences entered a strategic partnership with EraCal Therapeutics, a Swiss biotech startup producing a novel anti-obesity drug, to harness the power of EraCal's drug discovery platform for the development of innovative nutraceuticals targeting metabolic disorders, including obesity. This collaboration brings together Nestlé Health Sciences' expertise in nutraceutical development and the startup’s novel drug discovery technology to address an unmet need in the global health and nutrition industries.
NutrifyGenie, an Indian nutraceutical technology company, has developed an AI-driven platform to create a range of cancer-targeted nutrition support products in collaboration with Esperer Nutrition. These products, collectively known as ES-fortitude, include both medical and non-prescription products and are available in four countries, including the UK.
Poor nutrition believed to increase cancer risk
Dietary patterns and lifestyle choices play a vital role in the risk, development, and progression of all cancer varieties. The same is true for other chronic diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular illness, which can lead to cancer.
Just under half of preventable cancer deaths (45%) in the US are linked to lifestyle-associated risk factors such as obesity, poor dietary choices, and physical inactivity, studies from the American Cancer Society show.
Although no foods or nutraceuticals have been scientifically proven to directly cause cancer, studies have found “convincing evidence” that certain foods such as red and processed meats may be carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Additionally, regular consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) has been associated with a rise in the adult obesity rate, which currently stands at around 15% globally, data from the WHO shows. Each 10% rise in the consumption of UPFs is linked to a 12% increased risk of cancer, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).