Finding an Emotional Balance: The Growth of Mood Support Supplements

by Cassandra R. June 09, 2016

Consumers are seeing the importance of how mood affects their physical health, providing mood support supplement manufacturers opportunities within the market.The market for mood support supplements has become a growing sector for health and wellness, especially so as emotional health has been linked with physical well-being. Back in 2007, sales for mood health supplements were at $430 million with their growth rising by 7% into 2008, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Last year in 2015, the global nutrition insights firm, New Nutrition Business, reported that sales for mood support supplements reached around $500 million–$550 million. On a global scale, Euromonitor detailed that supplements with mood/relaxation claims make up around US$2.7 billion in retail sales. Though the growth is steady, consumers' interest for natural mood support is undeniable, whether for anxiety, stress-related issues, or seasonal affective disorders.

An Emotional Imbalance

Mood disorders can affect nearly every part of an individual's life. The American Psychological Association estimated that such specific disorders, ranging from anxiety to depression, cost the United States around $50 billion a year in lost productivity. The Association has also reported that, as of 2012, many Americans continue to have high levels of stress during daily living.

Depression is another leading cause for emotional upheaval, and is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) details how depression affects one in 10 adults, resulting in 30 million individuals in the United States alone, with even more unreported. IMS Health's data showed sales for antidepressants surpassed $11 billion back in 2010, making antidepressants among the most-commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S, next to drugs for blood pressure and pain relief. Despite the effectiveness of anti-depressants, some consumers worry about side-effects and addiction. There are also cases where anti-depressants simply do not take effect for some individuals.

Mood Support for Different Demographics

The emotional health of certain demographics can differ greatly from one another. Women are deemed to be at a significantly greater risk for possessing some type of anxiety disorder, as well as a mood disorder. Statistics for depression are rated high for women, doubling that of men's, who are more at risk for impulse-control disorders such as substance abuse.

Mood supplements show promise for appeal in global regions. Around 27% of the European population currently experience affective disorders, with depression ranking high among the most prevalent for mental health issues. The Asia-Pacific region is another area where affective disorders are increasing among people. A CAGR of more than 5% has risen between 2009 and 2017. As individuals become affected by stress, it can affect their emotional balance, triggering other disorders such as anxiety and insomnia.

A Link between Mind and Body

Consumers are beginning to realize the great effects that proper mental and emotional balance can have on their overall physical well-being. Depression and anxiety can manifest in the body as physical symptoms. Chronic headaches can occur frequently in people prone to depression, caused by muscle contractions in the neck, a physical reaction when the individual is undergoing stress. Heart-related issues can also be induced by regular bouts of anxiety; the body can deduce an anxious reaction as an attack on the body, leading to nervous system dysfunction and chronic inflammation, overall weakening the immune system. This can increase blood pressure, and in turn, increases the risk of having a stroke.

Depression has also been linked to lower bone mineral density when compared to individuals with no mood disorders; such conditions can lead to osteoporosis or other bone-related issues. Insomnia itself can be a strong precursor toward deeper emotional burdens. When undergoing stress, the body triggers a release of stress hormones, including norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol into the bloodstream. Not only can this lead to cardiovascular issues, but this can influence the neurotransmitters that regulate a normal sleep cycle.

Individuals that are anxious, stressed, or depressed may be less likely to engage in healthy behavioral routines such as daily exercising and a proper diet, leading to a cycle of bad health and emotional difficulties. This in turn can lead to unhealthy habits such as overeating, food deprivation, alcohol consumption, and smoking. This correlation between emotional and physical health has a great effect on the human body. Putting an equal amount of priority on mental balance as well as physical is a concept that consumers today are beginning to understand and experience. This strong interest in mood support supplements has been evidenced most strongly in baby boomers, who opt for more preventative products, especially concerning mental acuity and cognitive health.

The Appeal of a More Natural Solution

Consumers perceive dietary supplements as an alternative to healthcare prescriptions and medicines, containing more natural ingredients, and widely regarded as safer.Due to many concerns over the safety of mood and stress-related medication, around 20-45% of doctors and patients are currently exploring alternative avenues to treat mood disorders. Dietary supplements are the largest category among products that are marketed for emotional and cognitive health. There also still remains a stigma in most of society regarding individuals and their mental health stability. This makes diagnosis more difficult, and can even prevent consumers from seeking out solutions and receiving treatment. Thus, individuals seeking emotional support may explore other options available to them in the natural products category.

This appeal is partly spurred by the variety of well-trusted ingredients that dietary supplements can offer. For mood and relaxation dietary supplements, the most commonly used ingredients include 5-HTP, curcumin, omega-3, and magnesium. Lutein, a nutrient best known for eye health, has also shown benefits for cognitive ability, and may be an active ingredient for up-and-coming mood support supplements.

Mood support has also expanded into other products. Companies have launched food and beverage products with claims for emotional well-being, or including ingredients known for their cognitive support. South Korea is a market where such functional foods for mental support are becoming more popular, with most products targeting the healthy brain development of children. Even so, dietary supplements are expected to outperform foods and beverages in the coming years, as consumers inherently view supplements as more medicinal. With cognition regarded as a high health concern, supplements will rise to the occasion for mood support.

Potential Ingredients for Mood Support

There is a very wide spectrum of ingredients that have positive benefits for cognitive health and emotional support. Mood supplement manufacturers typically focus on ingredients that help boost serotonin levels in the brain. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin has a major role in cognition and mental ability, including learning acuity, appetite control, general mood, and ease of sleep. Serotonin-boosting supplements usually contain active ingredients in the form of amino acids, followed by herbal ingredients, and then other vitamins and minerals.

Possibly the most popular and well-known nutrients are omega-3 fatty acids. This compound is important for overall brain health, promoting new brain cell formation. These fatty acids contain both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which affect serotonin levels. DHA makes serotonin receptors more active, while EPA increases the release of serotonin from neurotransmitters. Previous studies have linked low levels of DHA to bipolar disorder, depression, as well as memory loss.

Reliable Amino Acids

Amino acids are nutrients that are widely used in most serotonin supplements. One such ingredient is tryptophan, a nutrient found in most protein-rich foods. However, eating protein can block serotonin synthesis, and can actually cause tryptophan levels to drop. Supplements containing tryptophan have the advantage, increasing brain serotonin where foods cannot. After many decades, this ingredient is slowly climbing out of obscurity, and tryptophan supplement manufacturers are gaining the marketing confidence in selling this supplement and demonstrating its safety.

5-HTP is a popular mood support ingredient which can be categorized as either an amino acid or herbal ingredient. Derived from the Griffonia simplicifolia, a shrub native to West Africa, its seeds contain around 20% of 5-HTP. It is routinely used in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for supplement products. Along with mood support such as helping maintain depression and anxiety, 5-HTP is also utilized in products marketed for ADHD, improving migraines, sleep, and weight loss.

These two major amino acid nutrients have mental ability potential. Tryptophan can readily enter the brain to utilize its serotonin boosting properties, but 5-HTP requires less steps to activate the conversion process of the nutrient to serotonin. Tryptophan supplements still have their own advantage, with more clinical studies supporting tryptophan's mood-supporting effectiveness, and that 5-HTP is not intended for long-term use. However, for optimal serotonin synthesis, both amino acids require other vitamins, such as vitamin B6, B12, magnesium, and folic acid.

Lastly, SAM-e, or S-Adenosyl methionine, is an amino acid that naturally occurs within all cells, and stimulates over 100 metabolic reactions. SAM-e supplements are synthetically made, sold commonly in the United States, and are prescribed as medication in Europe. Studies support SAM-e in maintaining depression by increasing serotonin within the brain, along with compounds such as dopamine and other brain chemicals.

Uplifting Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin C is a potential ingredient for mood support, acting as a natural serotonin-booster for positive effects.B vitamins are an essential family of nutrients for a healthy nutritional profile, with a majority of them needed to synthesize serotonin properly. Vitamin B6, for example, is needed by both 5-HTP and tryptophan to help convert into serotonin for the brain. It has been studied that individuals with low levels of vitamin B6 and B12 typically suffer from depression. Folic acid, or vitamin B9, deficiency may also lower serotonin levels and can act as an antidepressant. It has potential to be utilized in SAM-e supplements, as it can enhance the effects of the SAM-e nutrient.

Vitamin C is another potential ingredient that acts as a natural antidepressant by increasing serotonin levels. A double-blind clinical trial tested the effects of vitamin C supplementation on hospitalized patients, with results showing that Vitamin C helped to improve the mood of said patients. Vitamin D is a similar vitamin that is essential for brain health. Vitamin D deficiency is common among many Americans, with nearly 75% of consumers not getting adequate levels of the sunshine vitamin. Appropriate marketing efforts for vitamin D's benefits, and its role in mental health, can help advance appeal to those seeking mood support.

On the mineral side, magnesium is necessary for around 300 different metabolic processes, and has a direct influence on serotonin balance. Magnesium deficiency is also very widespread in the United States, affecting as many as 80% of Americans. Previous studies have demonstrated that consumers taking magnesium supplements experience increased concentration, focus, and more energy, leading to lower stress levels.

Zinc is a trace mineral, which the body requires little amounts of. It also has antidepressant properties, and is normally residing in the brain to assist with everyday functions. Zinc's benefits include increasing serotonin levels into certain areas of the brain, showing potential for treating individuals with depression. Like magnesium and vitamin C, many consumers are also deficient in zinc, as many as 2 billion people worldwide. Zinc deficiency is more common among children, seniors, and vegetarians, making them viable demographics for marketing zinc supplements.

Herbal Alternatives for Happiness

A major appeal that dietary supplements have over medications is the presence of natural ingredients in mood supplement formulations. Herbal and botanical nutrients have potential in marketing efforts for brain health. One example is curcumin, a relatively new ingredient that is fast gaining popularity within the health sphere for its anti-inflammatory properties. The compound also has brain boosting effects, helping increase both serotonin and dopamine levels. A curcumin supplement manufacturer must be aware about bioavailability issues with the ingredient, which remains curcumin's current difficulty.

Other herbal ingredients include St. John's Wort, a popular herb that is known for its effect on mood disorders. A standard dose for adults is around 300 milligrams, or 0.3% of the hypericin extract, an active ingredient in the herb. Its history as a medicinal herb is long, and has been used extensively around the world. This herbal ingredient is well-known for its mood boosting properties, with studies linking it to aiding with depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder.

There are also ingredients that show potential despite a main appeal for other health areas. Garcinia cambogia, also a popular herb for weight loss, has potential for overall mood improvement. The hydroxycitric acid active within the herb can manage the stress hormones called cortisol, restricting their production while also promoting healthful sleep.

Upcoming Nutraceuticals for the Emotionally Deprived

Consumers are becoming more health-conscious, looking through all avenues to improve physical health and nutrition, including mood-supporting supplements.The wealth of possible combinations for a potent mood support supplement is varied. In connection with the mood's effect on physical health, this niche category is steadily increasing its way to the forefront. Consumers continue to seek out alternative therapies, whether due to high cost of medications, the social stigma surrounding mental disorders, or fear of side-effects from prescriptions. Dietary supplements present a sense of safety for the consumer, with confidence in carefully researched ingredients. With stronger evidence supporting many of these ingredients, it lends greater credibility to supplement companies and manufacturers, while instilling confidence in the consumer. Supplement companies must gain knowledge of which ingredients can affect mood positively, and help push the mood supporting supplement category even further into the spotlight.

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