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Tapping demand for senior nutrition: follow the science [Interview]

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The rapid ageing of populations is creating demand for optimised nutritional products targeted specifically at seniors, which offer clinically substantiated health benefits. To be successful, however, food product and ingredient manufacturers must follow the science closely and achieve clear communication channels with their target audience. Sandra Einerhand, founder and owner of Einerhand Science & Innovation, discusses the importance of protein quantity and quality in the diet of senior adults, and touches on some recent scientific insights.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

"Sandra: “I am the founder and owner of Einerhand Science & Innovation, a consultancy that provides tailored nutritional solutions to the food and dietary supplements industry. I also chair the Nutrition Consultants Cooperative (NCC) and work as a Fellow for Presans, a Paris-based service provider in high-end open innovation."

What was the motivation behind your recent research paper on nutrition, ageing and COVID-19?

“I see plenty of opportunities for research and for the food industry in the area of prevention. The population is ageing rapidly, and senior people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Finding out which food ingredients work best in protecting against COVID-19 infection is key, and it should be based on solid science.”

What would you say are the headline findings from this work?

“This paper highlights seniors’ increased vulnerability to COVID-19 in terms of the function of their aged immune system and their gut microbiota imbalance, and suggests a few ways to intervene in order to lower the risk of coronavirus infection in seniors with or without underlying disease. The latest science suggests that interventions with Vitamin D, but also a few ingredients that target these mechanisms, might be successful. Research in this area evolves fast, which will also help in setting up effective strategies for prevention.”

What are the key knowledge gaps that still exist when it comes to healthy ageing?

“The mechanisms underlying ageing are not yet fully understood. Ageing is characterised by a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and increased vulnerability. This deterioration is the primary risk factor for disease. Ageing usually comes with loss of quality of life and frailty. “

“Recently, an expert group identified seven common mechanisms of ageing. These seven pillars are interconnected, largely converging on inflammation. However, in this model, the role of the microbiome is not at all or incompletely considered. In addition, the respective impact of lifestyle, environment and genes are not clear. Understanding the mechanisms behind ageing will help to identify targets for nutritional intervention. This creates opportunities for food companies to efficiently and effectively develop targeted healthy ageing products for seniors.”

What will your upcoming Fi Global CONNECT presentation focus on?

“The importance of protein quantity and quality in the diet of senior adults. Normal ageing is associated with a loss of muscle and bone mass, with concomitant loss of muscle function, increased frailty, and reduced ability to perform daily tasks. Optimising nutrition, with adequate protein intake, is a key determinant of healthy ageing. Besides protein intake, protein quality is also important. Not all proteins are equal, and here the latest scientific evidence will be presented, giving insights into the effects of different proteins on muscle and bone health, and beyond.”
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