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Tackling metabolic syndrome through product innovation [Interview]

Article-Tackling metabolic syndrome through product innovation [Interview]

© Vitafoods Insights Tackling metabolic syndrome through product innovation [Interview]
Consumers are increasingly looking for solutions to help with glucose control. At Vitafoods Europe 2024, Rick Miller, associate director of specialised nutrition at Mintel, will explore the claims and diets that are currently trending, and what untapped opportunities exist for supplement manufacturers.

What is metabolic syndrome, and what is the impact on human health?

“Metabolic syndrome is a physiological state known as insulin resistance and it is truly a global public health concern. This is due to its trifecta of various health issues – high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids, and abdominal obesity (large waistline). The state of insulin resistance can also lead to type 2 diabetes.

“As such, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, the proportion of total global deaths due to chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome is expected to increase to 70%, up from 61% in 2005, and the global burden of disease to 56%, up from 49%. Estimating the global economic burden of metabolic syndrome is difficult but is likely to be approaching the region of trillions in cost if not already.”

What are some of the root causes behind the global prevalence of this condition?

“Defining the exact cause of metabolic syndrome is challenging. We know that the leading risk factor is the presence of obesity […] as defined by body mass index, but there are cases of individuals who fall within the normal weight range and also present with metabolic syndrome.

“This has led to lifestyle factors being identified as potential risk factors in the development of the condition, such as individual nutrients in food (sugar, fat), food categories (ultra-processed foods) and lifestyle factors (stress, poor sleep). Certain ethnic groups, such as those of a south-east Asian descent, may also be at elevated risk.”

What have been some of the challenges to effectively addressing this health threat?

“A key challenge is the multi-etiological nature of metabolic syndrome, and the fact that individuals do not simply need to be overweight or obese to develop it. This makes it an incredibly challenging issue for public health authorities worldwide to address.”

How would you assess consumer awareness of metabolic syndrome?

“Consumer awareness of the term metabolic syndrome itself is patchy. However, part of the proposed treatment strategy of metabolic syndrome is the restriction of dietary sugars and total carbohydrate intake.

“These dietary approaches are being increasingly popular through social media channels. Good examples would be lower carbohydrate diets such as ketogenic diets, and even 'all-meat' carnivore diets. The terms 'insulin resistance' and 'pre-diabetes' are certainly in the vernacular of consumers from across the markets we track at Mintel.”

What key ingredients and claims are trending at the moment?

“Sugar reduction, low/no sugar and 'keto' claims are very much the key trending claims at the moment in association with metabolic syndrome. There are some brands and categories, however, where such claims don't or cannot make sense without compromising on taste and texture, such as baked goods, cereals, bars, and biscuits.

“Here, increasing fibre content or experimenting and switching to wholegrain varieties of cereal products can provide the basis for a low glycaemic index claim, which has some use in treating metabolic syndrome.

“In terms of other ingredients, brands in the functional food and drink categories are experimenting with more novel compounds such as chromium, or even tackling peripheral health issues associated with metabolic syndrome, such as sleep quality.”

What untapped opportunities do you see in this innovation space?

“The sports nutrition and active lifestyle sector has been heavily targeted in the wake of ultra-processed food vilification due to the fact that many of these products are based on sugar or a derivative. However, given daily physical activity and exercise has a major impact on alleviating metabolic syndrome, tying the two fields together is a relatively under-explored area in terms of new product development.

“Some brands have experimented by tying into the active lifestyle [or] performance keto products. such as supplementary ketones for use during exercise but this is very niche.”

What do you hope the key takeaways from your presentation will be?

“My hope is that attendees will develop a much broader sense of the magnitude of metabolic syndrome as a public health threat but further understand that the additional opportunities from sub-category development to support consumers are enormous.”

Mintel is the event and content partner for Vitafoods Europe 2024. Rick Miller will be delivering a session at the Vitafoods Conference Theatre entitled ‘Tackling metabolic syndrome through product innovation’.

Rick has extensive expertise in dietetics and performance nutrition from a 15-year clinical career in hospitals, as well as working with professional teams and athletes up to Olympic level. Rick is experienced within fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), foods for special medical purposes (FSMP) and supplementation sectors, supporting new product development (NPD), regulatory affairs, and scientific communication to multiple global brands.