Problems in the bedroom and bathroom dominate the men's-health market. Tune in to any medium aimed at men older than, say, 40, and you're treated to an endless string of ads for products that purport to help with prostate trouble and for erectile-dysfunction remedies.
The dietary-supplements marketplace mirrors this trend, though pharmaceuticals such as ED drugs cast unusually long shadows in this market sector.
One ingredient that is breaking out into the sunshine in this sector is an old standby in women's health: cranberries. Cranberry ingredients have strong science behind them for use in suppressing urinary-tract infections in women. But PACran, a whole-berry product standardized for proanthocyanidins from Decas Botanical Synergies, recently made men's health waves when a study published in a British journal returned an important result: Men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) benefited significantly from a daily 500mg dose.
"We're the only cranberry ingredient that's ever been studied for prostate health. We found that we basically had significant improvement in all the measurement categories," said Dan Souza, marketing director for Decas. That improvement included a 50 percent boost in a quality-of-life score.
It's a potentially lucrative opportunity. According to Souza, 40 percent of men in their 50s and 90 percent of men in their 80s are susceptible to LUTS. And men seeking treatment for LUTS account for 1.7 million physician office visits annually.
So PACran is poised to join the mainstay ingredients of this market: selenium, saw palmetto and lycopene.
Just how big is the prostate?
Saw palmetto has a robust track record of use in supplements aimed at treating prostate difficulties, which increase with age. This track record, and an aging pool of men, has given rise to a market that Dr. Rudi E. Moerck, president and CEO of saw-palmetto supplier Valensa International, estimates at $200 in the U.S. and $700 million globally.
"Valensa holds a unique patent for its USPlus saw palmetto extract, which has been bolstered by recent science. Clinical-trial results show that 320 mg saw palmetto extract was as effective as Finasteride, Dutasteride and Tamsulosin in avoiding the most common urinary tract complaints in older men," Moerck said, in referring to a study that was released in July. It's difficult to get that level of effective dose with a powdered product, he said, which has proved a boon for his company's ingredient.
"Valensa is seeing exceptionally strong growth for our USPlus and organic USPlus saw palmetto extracts," he said.
The elephant in the room of men's health is prostate cancer. Incidence rates have held fairly steady in the U.S. in recent years with about 250 black men per 100,000 developing the disease compared with about 150 in 100,000 for whites, with other groups trending lower. Currently, the only supplement ingredient that can make an outright prostate cancer risk-reducing claim is selenium. A court ruling in June prevented FDA from mandating Byzantine new language that would have qualified that claim to near irrelevance.
Another dog in the cancer fight is lycopene, which is derived from tomatoes that have been cooked to active the substance's bioavailabilty. Lycopene benefits from strong consumer acceptance. The awareness is such that any formulation marketed from a "men's health" standpoint will contain lycopene has now become almost a given. And mention of the ingredient has popped up on food labels, too.
A 2007 study sponsored by the Dutch Cancer Society suggested that lycopene may interfere with the insulinlike growth factor (IGF) system and thereby possibly decrease cancer risk. "Thus, it may provide a means of ultimately reducing colorectal cancer risk, and potentially the risks of other major cancers such as prostate and premenopausal breast cancer," said Alina Vrieling, a researcher at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.