Health studies boost demand for lutein

Published: 2-Jul-2007

Reports highlighting the beneficial effects of eating a diet rich in the nutraceutical lutein are driving growth for lutein supplements in the global nutraceutical market.

The fact that studies suggest that lutein has eye health benefits, such as reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract and even slowing the progression of the disease, augurs well for the nutraceutical, given that eye health ranks among the top five health concerns in the US, as well as in various countries across the European Union (EU).

"One of the more important studies currently being carried out in this regard is the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), which specifically examines the effect of oral supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on the prevention of advanced AMD and cataract," says Ashwin Sukumaran of Frost & Sullivan. "Industry participants believe that this study will provide definitive proof, if further is needed, of lutein's benefits in eye health."

According to the latest Frost & Sullivan report - Strategic Analysis of the Global Markets for Lutein in Human Nutrition - this market earned revenues of US$105.1m in 2006 and it is estimated to reach $124.5m in 2013.

However, the market now faces a considerable challenge in the growing maturity of dietary supplements, its key end-user application segment. This application accounts for more than 90% of lutein volumes, but its major markets, Europe and the US, are exhibiting growth rates of only 2-3% a year.

Manufacturers need to address this growing maturity in dietary supplements by identifying new applications for lutein. A solid body of research supporting lutein's benefits in other emerging areas such as skin health, could allow manufacturers to penetrate new markets.

Compliance with legislation is another major challenge, perhaps the most significant, across the supplement ingredients markets, and this invariably varies between countries and regions. The EU and the US have clear directives governing the use of lutein in dietary supplements and functional foods. However, this is not the case in Asia where nutraceuticals and functional foods are largely unregulated while dietary supplements are regulated either as drugs or food, depending on the legislation in individual countries.

The situation becomes more complex when the manufacturer has a worldwide presence and launches the product in different geographical markets.

"Currently, countries such as India, China and Vietnam are tightening their regulations, and with more national markets introducing regulations, the implications for lutein manufacturers are severe," says Sukumaran. "The technology, knowledge and certification process required to meet the demands of the European and US pharmacopoeia, as well as the new Asian markets, are expected to be a considerable challenge to this industry, having a medium impact throughout the forecast period."

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