In this interview, Inside Ageing (IA) speaks with Steve Brandt, PharmaCare Laboratories about the importance of Vitamin D for older adults, including the rise of complementary medicines.
IA: How does Vitamin D support maintaining bone health in adults aged 71 and older?
Steve: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential in maintaining strong bones. As we age our bone density decreases, so ensuring we have adequate levels is essential to prevent the risk of osteoporosis and fractured bones. While we traditionally consume Vitamin D through a balanced diet including oily fish, meat and eggs, and regular exposure to sunlight, these conditions are often harder for older consumers to attain, and so they may require support via daily supplementation.
IA: Tell us a little bit about holistic healthcare and its rise on the back of an ageing population.
Steve: There is a generational shift in thinking that has contributed to the mindset of preventative health. Particularly in the wake of COVID, Australians have become more health conscious, and in turn, more empowered to take proactive steps in maintaining their health. No longer are we looking to fix, but instead to prevent, ailments. Coupled with the wealth of information available through the internet and health care professionals working with ageing patients, it is common for older Australians to embrace a hybrid approach of traditional, holistic and complementary medicines so they are best prepared to age gracefully.
IA: Why are ageing Australians turning to complementary medicines?
Steve: As we age, our values shift and our health becomes a key priority – whether of our own accord or of the insights and recommendations shared by our children. We lean into solutions that remove the tension of complexity – and supplements provide solutions to deficiencies and health that diets or exercise may not be able to, alone. For instance, HMB is an ingredient that our body produces to assist with muscle mass (important as we age!), however, our body produces only a very small amount. The new Bioglan HMB+D3 Muscle Protect product can help ageing Australians with managing their muscle mass better, instead of trying to eat only high-protein foods.
Each year more and more research on complementary medicines is being completed and innovations released, giving us a greater understanding of how we can stay healthy for longer. According to CMA (Complementary Medicines Australia), 3-out-of-4 people regularly use a complementary medicine with 56% doing so in pharmacy. Pharmacists are true players in the health teams of ageing Australians, and so it makes sense they are increasingly turning to complementary medicines when recommended by in-the-know pharmacists and pharmacy assistants. That same research by CMA showed that the Bone category saw the fifth-highest growth out of dietary supplements and the Memory category was the seventh category relevant to that audience.
IA: Can you provide examples of Bioglan’s (produced by your company) products that provide holistic healthcare for older Australians?
Steve: Following ongoing research and innovation, Bioglan has formulated a range of products to support older Australians. For example, Bioglan Red Krill Oil is a potent source of Omega 3 with superior absorption. It has been shown to help with joint health, heart, brain and eye health as we age. In addition, the Bioglan Curcumin range assists with inflammation that many older Australians suffer from due to osteoarthritis.
Steve: Are there any concerns about using vitamins as a primary form of healthcare in ageing communities?
Steve: Vitamins are classed as “complementary” and should be used in this way. They are not a one and the only solution in managing health issues, but work most effectively when used alongside other health options including prescribed medications, diet, connection, exercise and other lifestyle choices. Of course, everyone is different, so it’s important to begin a holistic healthcare journey with guidance from a healthcare practitioner such as a doctor or pharmacist.
IA: Are there any other developments in the vitamin and supplement industry that are specifically geared towards aging populations?
Steve: One of the newer ingredients to become available in Australia is HMB (short for Beta-hydroxy- beta-methyl butyrate), a chemical produced by the body when breaking down the amino acid, leucine. Studies have shown that HMB helps reduce the rate of muscle mass decline in our bodies when we age. The body only naturally produces HMB in small amounts, making it important to take supplements to increase the level of HMB in the body – and thus, maintain muscle mass – as you age. As we get older our muscle mass reduces and taking HMB assists in reducing that decline so a great way to remain healthy and strong as we get older.
The way in which we take vitamins and supplements also changes as we age. We now put directions on the pack to reflect the fact that some consumers can’t take big medicines, such as ‘Break, cut or crush the tablet if you have swallowing concerns’.