Consumers look to supps for a healthy immune system

Consumer interest in immune products is boosting manufacturer and supplier development of new nutritional ingredients, dietary supplements and foods and drinks targeted to immune health. 


A strong and properly functioning immune system is vital to overall health and wellness—whether a person is nine months old or 90 years old. Infection, a poor diet, stress, smoking and other lifestyle-related choices can all weaken the body’s immune response. During cold and flu season, and after viral outbreaks like the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, people often turn to dietary supplements and functional foods and beverages formulated to support a healthy immune system.

Although new innovative immune ingredients hit the market all the time, key nutritional products in this area include medicinal mushrooms, beta-glucans, echinacea and other herbs, zinc, and vitamins A, C and E. The strong connection between digestive and immune health is driving the creation of immune-support products based on probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and other ingredients commonly found in gastrointestinal health products.


Fi: What are your projections for the growth of the sector for the coming year?

Paul Faganel, President, Embria Health

We have been tracking the immune category for several years with proprietary questions in NMI’s Health & Wellness Trends Database and the sector has been growing year over year. However, some of the growth is coming from products that probably aren't counted in sector retail numbers, like gut health or stress products (physical or emotional), which have a direct impact on the immune system. One example is FRS' Sports Nutrition "Healthy Defense," featuring EpiCor, which is found in stores like Vitamin Shoppe or drug stores. The overall growth of the category will continue as consumers continue to learn about immune balance; they’ll want to be proactive to help improve their overall quality of life.


Fi: What is the key market driver? Overall immune system support, or is demand for these ingredients more of a cold/flu seasonal thing?

PF:Many consumers still associate immune health with seasonal support against cold and flu. However, the medical community and consumers are becoming increasingly aware that constant boosting of the immune system is not always beneficial. It can be contraindicated for people with allergies or autoimmune disease. Additionally, products that constantly boost the immune system can also become less effective over time through a process known as immune fatigue.

The trend is changing, however. Doctors and consumers are becoming more aware that the immune system is key to critical areas of health that helps mitigate other chronic health issues. Research is showing that almost every area of health is affected by the immune system, including the brain, digestive, and cardiovascular. Because our systems are challenged every day, not just during cold & flu season we believe overall immune support will drive the market in the future and the focus will shift to year-round immune support. Fortunately, Embria has invested in multiple clinical research studies showing EpiCor acts like a multivitamin to educate and balance the immune system providing year-round benefits.


Fi: How does your EpiCor ingredient fit into the overall inflammation picture?

Dr. Larry Robinson, Vice President, Scientific Affairs, Embria Health

The cover page of Time Magazine (February 23, 2004) described inflammation as “The Silent Killer.” The American Heart Association states that, “Inflammation is common for heart disease” and “is thought to be a sign of atherogenic response.” The natural aging process, cardiovascular issues, cancer, and Alzheimer’s are in part due to chronic low levels of inflammation over many years. Some inflammation is necessary to fight infection, but when the inflammatory response continues over long periods of time, the immune response is out of balance and can cause vascular injury. EpiCor has been shown in multiple human clinical trials to balance the immune response. Additionally, well-established animal models have been published that show EpiCor has beneficial anti-inflammatory effects. Lastly, sophisticated in vitro simulators of the human gut have shown EpiCor to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.


Fi: Your ingredient is one of the better-studied nutraceutical ingredients out there. What new studies do you have underway?

LR: From the start Embria believed that supplements should be backed with the gold standard of science, i.e. double blind placebo controlled human clinicals on the actual product, not “one-offs” or extracts per se, and published in prestigious scientific journals.

Researchers are discovering how important the digestive system is in supporting the immune system and we have seen similar effects from our own research. One area of continued research for our ingredient EpiCor is the effects on gut health and the interaction on the micro flora. For example, based on some of our in vitro work, Embria is now an Industrial Partner of the European FibeBiotics Consortium. This group will look at various fibers and products to understand how they effect gut health and we hope to be an integral part of the research.


Condition Specific Directory: IMMUNITY

African Bush Products Inc.

Baobab, Pelargonium sidoides (Umckaloabo)


Afrinatural US

Baobab, Pelargonium sidoides (Umckaloabo)


Albion, Human Nutrition Division

Zinc Glycinate Chelate


BI Nutraceuticals

RoseOx lipid-soluble rosemary extract


BioCell Technology LLC


i-Sabi, derived from Wasabia japonica, provides a high amount of 6-HITC, which induces Nrf-2, a master switch for cytoprotective genes. i-Sabi inhibits Cox-2 selectively while leaving Cox-1 intact, suggesting that it is safe for the mucous lining of the GI tract and effective in alleviating chronic inflammatory stress throughout the body.


[email protected]

Newport Beach, California



Wellmune WGP

Wellmune WGP is a natural immune health ingredient clinically proven to safely prime immune cells that help keep the body healthy. Wellmune WGP enhances immune function without over-stimulating the immune system, making it ideal for delivering year-round, not merely seasonal, benefits.


[email protected]

Eagan, Minnesota


Comvita New Zealand

Manuka honey


Cyanotech Corp.

Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica


Embria Health Sciences


Unlike many other immune health supplements on the market, EpiCor does not stimulate or "boost" the body's immune system; it balances it. EpiCor works in a unique way to "educate" the immune system so that it works efficiently to provide the proper immune response at the right time.


[email protected]

Ankeny, Iowa



Fluxome Beta Glucan


Ganeden Biotech Inc.

GanedenBC30 spore-forming probiotic

GanedenBC30 survives most manufacturing and gastric processes, is shelf stable, and is self-affirmed GRAS. The strain has been examined in human, animal and lab tests, with hundreds of millions of doses consumed.


Mayfield Heights, Ohio


Heartland Flax

Flax seed


Improve USA Inc.



Indena USA Inc.


Polinacea is a highly standardized extract from the roots of Echinacea angustifolia with a specific phytochemical profile (presence of the complex polysaccharide IDN5405). Polinacea is cultivated in Indena's plantations assuring a high molecular weight of polysaccharide as well as no cross contamination between echinacea species. 


[email protected]

Seattle, Washington





Lonza Inc.


A natural immune-support ingredient manufactured by Lonza. ResistAid consists of the soluble polysaccharide arabinogalactan and bioactive flavonoids, and thus has antioxidant capacity. ResistAid is formulation-friendly, and can be easily incorporated into dietary supplements and functional foods.

[email protected]


Allendale, New Jersey


Maypro Industries LLC


AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) is a fermented extract of the mycelia (roots) of Japanese medicinal mushrooms, rich in immune-modulating alpha-glucans and highly absorbable due to its low molecular weight. AHCC has been shown in 20 human clinical studies to support cellular health, liver health, and daily immunity. AHCC works by increasing the number and activity of white blood cells (including Natural Killer "NK" cells and dendritic cells), as well as cytokines.


[email protected]

Purchase, New York


Mushroom Wisdom

Maitake D-Fraction


National Enzyme Co.

BioCore Optimum Complete


NutraGenesis LLC


WellBody365 is a next generation, broad spectrum nutraceutical ingredient that contains multi-patented MaitakeGold 404 for superior immune modulation as well as multi-patented Sensoril, a standardized extract of ashwagandha that provides resistance to stress that can impair immune function.


[email protected]

Brattleboro, Vermont


NP Nutra



Nutraceutix Inc.

Probiotics, Bulk Powder


Nutraceuticals International Group

Cat’s Claw OSS





Scientific Food Solutions

Fast-C Premium Vitamin C


Stratum Nutrition


BLIS K12 is an oral probiotic supporting upper respiratory tract immunity. It is a specific strain of Streptococcus salivarius — one of the most numerous and beneficial bacteria found in the mouth of healthy individuals. K12 secretes powerful antimicrobial molecules, with the ability to resist harmful bacteria like S. pyogenes, one of the primary causes of upper respiratory tract infections.

888 402 5039

[email protected]


Telos Ceuticals LLC



UAS Laboratories Inc.

DDS Probiotic Blend 003


Valensa International

Parry Organic Spirulina

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