As we enter the third year of the pandemic, interest and demand for products that support the immune system continue to trend.
Direct sales distributor Shaklee recently surveyed millennials to gauge their attitudes about immune health and how it has evolved over the last three years.
The survey included 2,000 adults in the United States between the ages of 22 and 39 years old.
The findings indicated that 70% of the respondents are more concerned with their health and wellness now than prior to the pandemic and 94% want to make health and wellness a priority this year.
Erin Barrett, PhD nutritional biochemistry, Director of Product Innovation and Scientific Affairs at Shaklee, explained that meeting those health and nutritional goals is easier said than done.
“The average consumer now has a basic understanding that the ability of germs to make us sick depends not only on the strength of the germ, but also on the health of our immune system. And that it’s not only the germs we are exposed to over our lifetime, but also our lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, weight management, sleep and stress, that play an important role in the strength of our immune response,” said Barrett. “At Shaklee, we provide education on diet and lifestyle, and how these factors can affect immune health.”
The immune category has experienced remarkable growth that has sparked new opportunities– but also made standing out in the crowded category more challenging than ever.
Barrett explained that one way Shaklee distinguishes itself is by offering a robust portfolio of products backed by hundreds of clinical studies, including the company’s Landmark Study, as well as over 100 patents and pending patents all over the world.
“We partnered with Dr. Gladys Block to study the nutritional status and health biomarkers of long-term Shaklee product users, comparing them to matched cohorts from a NHANES cohort. The results showed significantly better nutritional status and healthier biomarkers in the Shaklee cohort–even though the Shaklee users were 8 years older. A follow-up study of this same Shaklee cohort was done 10 years later and published in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research in 2021. The long-term Shaklee adherents continued to show healthier biomarkers of cardio-metabolic health outcomes. These two studies provide nice validation of the relevance of our formulations as well as the performance of our products,” said Barrett.
In addition to the research, Barrett highlighted how Shaklee’s quality standards go beyond how and where an ingredient is grown.
“Our screening process surpasses even the standards of the United States Pharmacopeia. We look to confirm the purity and potency of ingredients by performing thousands of tests to ensure our ingredients are free of hundreds (350+) of harmful contaminants.”
Less common ingredients immune defense
While elderberry, zinc, as well as vitamins C and D have become immune staples, Barrett noted a few lesser known immune ingredients, such as yeast beta-glucan.
“β-1,3/1,6-glucans are a class of natural polysaccharides that are present in the cell walls of certain plants and yeast. Similar polysaccharides are also present in the cell walls of various microorganisms. Because of this, our immune cells regard these beta-glucans as ‘foreign’ and elicit an immune response against them to prepare the body for defense. Studies have shown these glucans to have significant immune-boosting functions. Shaklee scientists created a patent-pending proprietary blend with beta-glucan that has been shown in laboratory studies to boost Natural Killer cell activity by 3x and increase the proliferation of critical immune cells by 5.8x (compared to control),” said Barrett. “Shaklee’s Triple Defense Boost contains beta-glucan, and is also packed with vitamins C and D, zinc, plant-based adaptogens, and more to help support, boost, and defend the immune system.”
Another ingredient that consumers don’t often associate with immune health is Omega-3s.
“Omega-3s provide immune support via their potent anti-inflammatory activity. Our bodies usually look to fish for the healthy omega-3 fatty acids that provide immune support. But for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of fish, OmegaGuard, Vegan Omega-3, and our Omega-3 Gellys can help round out the diet, providing the omega-3s the body needs to stay nourished,” Barrett said.
At least 70% of the body’s immune system is housed in the gut, and while probiotics aren’t always categorized with immune health, they may just be the body’s best defense.
“Although people often think of bacteria and yeast as harmful germs, many strains are helpful and can provide health benefits,” noted Barrett.
In recent years, researchers have gained a better understanding of human-microbe connections and how the immune system is particularly interconnected with gut bacteria.
According to Verified Market Research, the global probiotics market size was valued at $53 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $90 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2021 to 2028.
Valued at over $55 billion in 2020, Grandview Research forecasts the global immune health supplements market size will expand at a CAGR of 11.3% from 2021 to 2028.