A recent survey based on an ageing population shows that bone health is set to become a major segment of the supplements and functional foods market. The lifetime risk for a woman to have an osteoporotic fracture is 30-40 per cent and in men the risk is about 13 per cent. Yet the main natural product targeted at bone health, calcium supplements are entering a mature category, and a new report warns that the supplements are set to see 'fierce cannibalisation' of sales from therapeutic drugs as consumers look for faster remedies. Currently calcium benefits from a substantial price difference with pharmaceutical products.
Women, at greater risk of osteoporosis after menopause, tend to stop taking bone health supplements as menopause symptoms subside, and on average only take the products for between one and two years not long enough to see the positive effects. The use of 'adjunct therapy', where doctors advise an add-on therapy of calcium supplements to drug therapies, will buoy the supplement market so that it remains at the same level of growth it has increased an average 12.5 per cent each year between 2001 and 2004 to reach around $682 million, according to the report.
But new supplement products will be needed to expand the segment significantly. Recent research has indicated that silicon helps prevent osteoporosis and can be effectively used to treat bone fractures. However, the analyst said that the absorption rate of silicon decreases with ageing and low oestrogen levels, and supplemental forms are often difficult to absorb.
Makers of fatty acids, another emerging bone health ingredient, will need to increase awareness of their product and stir up market interest, advises the report, while those marketing more mature products like the minerals could include other actives from the herbal segment to offer additional benefits.