Delivering Healthier Products For APAC's Ageing Population

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Food manufacturers can play a pivotal role in promoting good health across ageing societies by including ingredients that can boost health and nutritional value of foods. Article by Christian Philippsen, the managing director of BENEO in Asia Pacific. 

The Asia Pacific Region Is Rapidly Ageing.

58 percent of the global population who are over 60 years old live in the region — which translates to about 614 million people[1]. This trend is set to exert strain on healthcare systems as the chances of suffering from illnesses are higher as we age.

It is little wonder then that governments around the region are paying extra attention to healthcare for the elderly. The Singapore government, for example, has launched several schemes for citizens above the age of 70, which includes subsidies at outpatient clinics, and other policies that are aimed at easing the burden of healthcare costs and medical expenses.

Obesity, diabetes mellitus, gut-related disorders, osteoporosis, dental disorders, and cardiovascular diseases are examples of key nutrition-related burdens that people become increasingly susceptible to as they age. An increasing amount of research is showing that these noncommunicable diseases can be delayed, or prevented in most cases, when key ingredients are incorporated into a balanced diet.

Food manufacturers can play a pivotal role in promoting good health across ageing societies by including macronutrient ingredients, such as prebiotic fibres as well as low glycaemic carbohydrates. These ingredients can boost the health and nutritional value of foods, which is key to helping consumers prevent or delay health issues.


Stronger Bones For The Golden Years

An example of a medical condition that elders grow vulnerable to as they age is osteoporosis. In Australia, two out of three adults aged 50 and older have osteoporosis or osteopenia[1]. As the body itself does not produce sufficient calcium, it is important to consume ingredients that maximise calcium absorption to boost bone health.

BENEO’s functional prebiotic chicory fibres, Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose, can enhance bioavailability of calcium in the diet and increase bone mineral density. This will help consumers absorb calcium better and effectively boost bone health.  Due to their short and long chain components, these fibres help to ensure that the fermentation process of the gut microflora is occurring throughout the length of the large intestine and not only in the proximal part. This creates an additional absorption surface together with an acidic environment due to the fermentation by the microbiota which makes more calcium available for absorption.

A long-term study by BENEO has proven that Oligofructose-enriched Inulin Orafti Synergy1 increases calcium absorption, and that it translates into tangible improvements in bone health, such as a marked increase in bone mineral density[2]. This can potentially prevent osteoporosis and improve conditions of patients suffering from the condition.


Improving digestive health

As people grow older, the amount of beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the intestine tend to decline, exposing the elderly to gastrointestinal discomfort and diseases[3].

BENEO’s prebiotic chicory root fibres, Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose, promote a healthy gut by feeding the beneficial bacteria. In addition, these prebiotic fibres improve intestinal functions such as stool regularity, and prevent digestive issues such as intestinal infections and metabolic endotoxemia[4].

The benefits of increasing the lactobacilli and bifidobacterial in the gut also extends beyond the digestive system. These beneficial bacteria produce substrates such as short-chain fatty acids that can reach the brain and other organs through blood circulation or through the stimulation of immune cells and the hormonal and nerve system.


Preventing prevalent health conditions such as diabetes

In addition to osteoporosis and digestive issues, consumers must also be wary of prevalent health conditions such as diabetes. Rampant throughout Asia Pacific, diabetes is a lethal precursor to serious health issues that can develop during old age such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.

An effective way for food manufacturers to help fight diabetes is to produce healthier foods that contain carbohydrates with low glycaemic properties. This means they help to reduce the glycaemic response of food and drink products. The glycaemic index measures how a particular food raises one’s blood glucose. Eating foods with a low glycaemic response prevents large fluctuations in blood glucose levels, hence delaying or preventing the onset of diabetes.

BENEO’s low glycaemic carbohydrate Palatinose supplies the body with the same amount of energy as other common, fully digestible carbohydrates such as sucrose or maltodextrin, but in a more balanced way. This is due to Palatinose being digested by the enzymes in the small intestine four to five times more slowly, which leads to a slow release of glucose into the blood, resulting in an overall low glycaemic response.

Derived from beet sugar, Palatinose has a natural, sweet taste. It can be used to replace sucrose and other high glycaemic carbohydrates in many food and drink applications to help consumers enjoy their meals without worrying about their blood glucose levels.


Ageing healthily by consuming healthier ingredients

The need to maintain good health is magnified today as we lead longer lives. To ensure that elderly citizens make the best out of their golden years, it is important to start good dietary habits at an early age while staying active, fit and happy. Food manufacturers have a key role to play in achieving this, as a healthy diet goes a long way to help consumers proactively maintain good health.


[1] Asian Development Bank –

[1] Osteoporosis Australia – Osteoporosis costing all Australians A new burden of disease analysis – 2012 to 2022 –

[2] BENEO – Matching today’s expectations. Prebiotic fibres for better nutrition

[3] Journal of Food Engineering – EU project Crownalife: functional foods, gut microflora and healthy ageing Isolation and identification of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains from faecal samples of elderly subjects for a possible probiotic use in functional foods

[4] BENEO – Matching today’s expectations. Digestive health and prebiotic fibers


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