Katy Askew, managing director at IFIS (International Food Information Service) Publishing, revealed the data during FoodNavigator's recent Positive Nutrition Summit, discussing the booming interest in brain boosting food and drink.
Discussing the background of this research, she pointed out that Euromonitor 2022 data cited stress and anxiety as the second biggest health concerns for consumers globally, with memory issues being the number one long-term health concern.
"Clearly this has been driven by the pandemic, but does the science stack up?" Askew asked.
Looking at IFIS data from the last decade revealing the number of research papers focused on the prevention and the treatment of cognitive decline through nutrition, it is blatant that this is a growing space, claimed Askew.
"We’ve seen an almost 400% increase in the amount of research and patents that reference nutrition and cognition – total research is up 395%.
"That increase broken down by age group, reveals that research into cognitive health and nutrition in the elderly saw a 403% increase, while other age groups were around a 390% increase so there’s a slight sway towards the elderly but it’s growing significantly across all age groups."
Looking at the specific ingredients researched between 2022 and 2023, there were a number of reviews noting the following ingredients for cognitive health: B vitamins, n-3 fatty acids, phosphatidylserine, ginkgo flavonoids, curcumin, ginsenosides, psychobiotics, fruit anthocyanins and carotenoids.
Specifically Askew noted that the psychobiotics space is moving ‘incredibly quickly’, adding that looking at trends in microbiome research shows there has been a ‘crazy uptick’ in microbiome research and cognitive health.
She explained this research is being swept up by innovators in the industry.
“Is all this research translating to the amount of innovation on the market? If we look at our patent database, the answer is clearly ‘yes’. There has been a 904.6% rise in patent filings between 2011 and 2021.
“So if there’s been a 400% rise in research, we are seeing that translate to intellectual property at more than double the rate so there’s clearly science that’s feeding through that innovation pipeline.”
Looking at the regional breakdown of patents, Askew revealed Japan is “really punching above its weight” in terms of the amount of patents coming out of this region, which she explained will be due to the social-economic issues in that country due to the ageing demographic.
However, she did caution that not all patents lead to innovation.
"I think what you have to say is there’s a big gap between what you have to do to file a patent and what you have to do to bring a product to market with health claims. Certainly in Europe, that’s a challenge.
“In Japan, that’s a bit of a different story, you do have more products making more specific health association, if not claims - it’s a lot of dairy based products.
“I think there’s a lot we can learn from Japan. They have a declining ageing population, so part of their strategy is to build exports but also part of their strategy is to bring out products that target older people specifically. I think it's one of the few global markets that’s happy to discuss healthy ageing specifically.”
Discussing the importance of looking back at the scientific body of research before starting new product development, Askew added: “A day in the library can save three wasted weeks in the lab. It really shows the importance of looking at the collective body of our knowledge and how that can be leveraged to drive innovation.”
Discussing the increasing number of "predatory publishers", Askew said that between 2017 and 2023, 366 journals have been excluded from the IFIS database, and of those, 223 were considered potentially predatory.
Askew explained that "predatory publishers" tend to run a pay-per article business and the peer-review process tends to be less robust than in other publishers, meaning the science in those papers is not as robust as those found in established scientific peer-reviewed journals.
"There is a lot of fake news and junk science out there," she warned.