From antiageing to healthy ageing: functional nutrition for older adults

Published: 19-May-2023

Growing older gracefully is no longer enough. Today’s consumers demand products with functional benefits to support healthy active ageing, says Kerry Group’s Senior Director, Research and Development for ProActive Health, Alexandra Boelrijk

With global life expectancy now at 73.16 years and the 80-plus population set to more than triple between 2015 and 2050, the perception of “old age” is changing dramatically.1,2

Older adults are an increasingly important demographic with more wealth and a desire for better health than previous generations. With this trend comes a shift from “antiageing” and longevity for longevity’s sake towards enjoying more active lifestyles … and consumers are seeking functional products to support this ambition. 

The proactive approach to longer-term health starts young. Half of Generation Z consumers are adopting healthy ageing strategies from the age of 20, whereas 42% of older Millennials and younger Gen X consumers are acting to maintain their cognitive health and improve their sleep.3,4

For older Gen X purchasers, products offering joint, bone and digestive health benefits become increasingly appealing. Boomers tend to focus on a balanced diet, weight management and being physically active — and prioritise solutions for concerns including immune, digestive, heart and cognitive health.5

Evidenced ingredients to support critical factors for healthy ageing
Immune support is the number one health benefit sought by all age groups. Although immune system effectiveness decreases with age, decades of research show that nutritional interventions are an effective way to tackle this.6

From antiageing to healthy ageing: functional nutrition for older adults

Evidence increasingly suggests a beneficial role for probiotics on immunity; for example, BC30, a patented stable and spore-forming probiotic, has more than 25 peer-reviewed and published papers documenting its safety and efficacy in terms of supporting immune and digestive health.

 Omega-3 polyunsaturated essential fatty acids are popular in functional foods, beverages and supplements, with 75% of global consumers being aware of them. There is extensive research into their cardioprotective activity and relationship with eye and brain health.

This includes the National Institutes of Health AARP Diet and Health Study, which followed more than 420,000 participants for 16 years. It found a significant inverse association between fish EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) intake and mortality outcomes, including 15% and 18% lower cardiovascular mortality in men and women, respectively.7 

Research also suggests that EPA and DHA may have a positive effect on cognitive decline and memory function in older populations.8,9 Eupoly-3 is a range of omega-3s that are rich in EPA and DHA, naturally sourced from fish or algae and then purified for a neutral flavour, maximum stability and high availability.

With 38% of global consumers now seeking to address their mental health, products with cognitive benefits are growing in popularity, comprising 52% of all supplement launches in Africa and the Middle East, a quarter of those in Australia and New Zealand, and one sixth in Europe.10 

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for stress management, which is associated with improved senior health and well-being.11

More than 60% of consumers are aware of ashwagandha, making it one of the best-known ingredients for cognitive support.

Sensoril is a patented, highly soluble extract derived from the entire plant to ensure maximum potency. Numerous clinical studies support its safety, efficacy and role in helping to improve sleep, mood, focus and stress levels. 

A common denominator for all age groups is a thirst for information and for clinically evidenced products. Since the pandemic, some 74% of global consumers say they are now more likely to pay attention to nutritional benefits before a purchase, whereas 36% of Gen X adults and 40% of Boomers research ingredients and products.6

When formulating or marketing functional products, it is therefore essential to choose credible ingredients with easy-to-communicate benefits and simple product claims. Kerry’s ProActive Health portfolio offers an extensive range of ingredient brands that share a commitment to robust science and strong clinical data, helping manufacturers to meet the health needs of consumers.


  3. Innova Market Insights, Trends Insider, Healthy Aging: Maximizing Wellbeing (2021):
  4. Innova Market Insights, Trends Insider, Diet Principles and Health Needs by Generation (2021):
  5. Kerry Group, Global Consumer Survey, Digestive, Immune and Joint Health (2021).
  7. Y. Zhang, et al., “Association of Fish and Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Intakes with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality: Prospective Analysis of 421,309 Individuals,” J. Intern. Med. 284(4), 399–417 (2018).
  8. X.W. Zhang, et al., “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Risk of Cognitive Decline in the Elderly: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials,” Aging Clin. Exp. Res. 28(1), 165–166 (2016).
  9. A. Marti del Moral and F. Fortique, “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cognitive Decline: A Systematic Review,” Nutr. Hosp. 36(4), 939–949 (2019).

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