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Key drivers of cognitive health and meeting consumer needs

Article-Key drivers of cognitive health and meeting consumer needs

Stress and anxiety are increasingly targeted by cognitive health developers, as they represent a major worldwide health problem with important psychological, social, and economic costs.1 Unsurprisingly, they are major contributing factors to these costs. In today's day and age, almost every person experiences some degree of stress and anxiety, and more and more consumers are looking to natural solutions.

The impacts of stress and anxiety

Negative mood and stress maintained over a long period of time can commonly lead to severe alterations in the cognitive functions, such us difficulty to maintain attention and concentration, learning problems, shorter memory, sleep deprivation, reduced mental performance and deteriorated executive function. All these directly impact on quality of life, social relationships, and job performance.

As a consequence of these negative states of mind, the brain suffers from oxidative stress, which consists of an excess of free radicals damaging brain structures and cells. This contributes to the ageing process and plays an important role in the development of a range of conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases.3 The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress because of how much substantial oxygen brain cells require.

Breaking it down to numbers, clinical anxiety affects 10% of the population in North America, Western Europe and Australia/New Zealand. The American Pyschological Association has noted the rise in stress levels amongst children and teens aged 9-12, warning about the long-term health implications if left untreated. Six in ten workers in major global economies experiece workplace stress, according to The Regus Group, with workers in China reporting the highest rise in workplace stress (86%). 

Consumer perspective and market

The global cognition supplement market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of approximately 13% during the period 2018-2022.10 This is motivated by an increase in consumer awareness (with 47% growth over the past decade),unhealthy lifestyle, competitive work environments, and healthy ageing concerns amongst a progressively more aged population.

Stress, energy and sleep management are no longer concerns of young consumers, but are also highly prioritised amongst ageing consumers too. 26% of the cogntive health market is made up of younger consumers.3 Moreover, consumers are increasingly aware of the need to improve their lives by adopting a proactive approach to ensuring a better health outcome in the future.

In the US market, stress and sleep are in second and fourth place as personal health priorities for consumers, 51% of the population being worried about stress and 38% about sleep quality.4

The way consumers manage stress and mood follows three patterns: 36% uses only dietary supplements, 30% uses a combination of pharmaceutical drugs and supplements, and 18% uses only pharmaceutical approaches. This suggests a huge market for dietary solutions in stress, mood and sleep quality, being especially important the combination with pharma therapies without side effects derived.4

Another global and interesting trend are plant-based products, which are growing in a race to gain the mainstream consumer who seek natural, green solutions to cope with their health concerns.7

Saffron for cognitive health

A variety of botanical ingredients are effective in targeting cognitive health concerns, with stress being a particular area of interest and primary focus since it is at the root of sleep and other cognitive issues. One such ingredient is saffron, or Crocus sativus L. (C. sativus), which has been widely used as a medicinal plant to promote human health, especially in Asia. Pharmactive Biotech has developed Affron®, an all-natural Spanish saffron extract (Crocus sativus L.), clinically backed by five human studies that resulted in multiple health benefits: improved mood, stress relief, relaxation support, and enhanced sleep. This was the first saffron extract clinically studied on adolescents. The ingredient offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects through its ability to balance key neurotransmitters levels (such as serotonin and dopamine), but also to target the oxidative stress produced during anxiety and stress process in the brain, protecting it from being damaged.5-8 In a recently published human clinical study, the ingredient showed good tolerance when administrated with antidepressant drugs, meeting the 30% of US consumers looking for combined solutions.

Read the latest digital magazine on emerging ingredients for cognitive health here.


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  4. Kerry Consumer resaerch 2019.
  5. References for the action mechanism: Hosseinzadeh H., et al. Phytother Res. 2009 Jun; 23(6):768-74.
  6. Georgiadou G., et al. Neurosci Lett. 2012 Oct; 18;528(1):27-30.
  7. Mehri S.,et al. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2015 Sep; 18(9): 902-908.
  8. Oruc S., et al. Life Sci. 2016 Jun; 1;154:79-86.
  9. Innova Markets insight report about Top 10 trends for 2019.
  10. Market watch.