Health food refers to food that claims to have health functions or is intended to supplement vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. That is, food that is suitable for specific people, has the function of regulating the body, is not for the purpose of treating diseases, and does not cause any acute, subacute or chronic harm to the human body. From the above definition of health food and the description of sub-health population, the relationship between food, health food and medicine is shown in the figure below.
From the product itself, health food includes three basic elements: raw materials, dosage form (product form) and health function. Next, we will elaborate the innovation of health food from these three aspects.
As the core of health food, raw materials determine the health function of health food. The innovation of raw materials is one of the bases of research and development innovation of health food. From the supply side, China is one of the most complete countries in the global dietary supplement industry chain, the largest raw material supplier in the world, and also the largest producer in the world, with the largest number of health food manufacturers (2317) in the world.
There are many kinds of raw materials for dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, extracts (plants, animals), probiotics, etc. Among them, China has great advantages in the production and export of raw materials for dietary supplements such as vitamins, amino acids, plant extracts, etc. The raw materials for export growth in 2020 are mainly: sodium glutamate, lysine, vitamin E, active yeast, and vitamin B12.
But in terms of raw materials, China is a conventional basic raw material, and there is no high value-added raw material export. The top 25 raw materials sold by the United States for dietary supplement ingredients in 2021 are as follows:
It can be seen from the above that Elderberry and Fish Oil Concentrate are not approved health food for sale in China at present.
Among the health food raw materials counted in the Blue Book of the Development of China's Special Food Industry, there are 87 kinds of raw materials with the same origin of medicine and food, 114 kinds of raw materials only used for health food, and 201 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine in total. In the treasure house of traditional Chinese medicine deposited for thousands of years, there are many classic famous recipes. We can conduct in-depth research by selecting the dietary raw materials in the classic famous recipes, This is of great significance to the establishment of health food raw materials with Chinese characteristics.
Dosage form (product form)
As the product form of health food presented to consumers, the dosage form can not only make consumers feel the efficacy of health food, but also bear the embodiment of the efficacy of health food. According to the Blue Book on the Development of China's Special Food Industry, there are 527 products in the form of food among the 12389 domestic health foods approved in China, accounting for 4.25% of the total; There are 11862 products in the form of drugs, accounting for 95.75% of the total.
Statistics show that hard capsules, tablets, oral liquid and soft capsules are the most common. The specific number of products and their proportion in the total are shown in the figure below. Other items in the picture include granules, powder, wine, pills, tea, paste and syrup.
It can be seen that our health food is still the traditional drug dosage form of capsules and tablets, which may not only imply the therapeutic effect of health food for consumers, but also not convenient for consumers to eat. At the same time, due to the fat-solubility of many raw materials, it is possible that the traditional dosage forms such as tablets and capsules cannot guarantee the bioavailability of their effective ingredients, such as curcumin, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D and other fat-soluble raw materials. This may also be one of the reasons for the significant individual differences in health food.
YOKO SHOJI mentioned in Nutraceutics and Delivery Systems that it strongly advocates considering the bioavailability of dietary supplements (as shown in the figure below), so as to optimize the use of dietary supplements.
At the same time, there are several ways to improve the bioavailability of dietary supplements, mainly as follows
(1) Enhance biological stability including solubility;
(2) Improve cell transportation;
(3) Release the active ingredients in cells.
The article also summarizes the delivery mode of dietary supplements as follows:
Liposome technology is used in the dietary supplements listed in NIH in the United States. At present, there are a total of 30 products on the market. The corresponding raw materials are quercetin, trans resveratrol, vitamin A/D/K, vitamin C, glutathione γ- Aminobutyric acid, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D3 and other products.
Tomson Bejian's overseas flagship store has melatonin flash sleeping tablets for sale. This dosage form is the design of an oral film. The store introduced that compared with traditional tablet, capsule and other dosage forms, the oral film of melatonin is absorbed through the oral mucosa, reducing the first-pass metabolism of gastrointestinal tract and liver, thus improving the corresponding bioavailability.
At present, there are 27 functions of health food approved in China. We have inquired the corresponding distribution of health functions, and the total number of products is 12141, including one product with two functions, so the number of products should be a little higher, as shown in the following table:
It can be seen that enhancing immunity, relieving physical fatigue and increasing bone density are the top three health care functions, accounting for 49.9% in total, accounting for almost 50% of the whole health care function. However, according to the previous Specification for Evaluation Procedures and Test Methods of Health Food Functionality (2003 Edition), these three health care functions do not require human food test, This reflects from one side that Chinese health food enterprises do not carry out research and development of health food in accordance with the market demand, and often pursue rapid listing, which also leads to certain differences between the publicized health function and the approved health function in the subsequent marketing process, resulting in exaggerated publicity.
Nutritional OUTLOOK of the United States ranked the dietary supplements in 2021 according to their different functions, and the results are as follows:
It can be seen that cognitive health, sleep health, hair/skin health, energy support and state health are several health functions with a growth rate of more than 10%. In particular, cognitive health is of great significance for China to enter an aging society. However, we can't find suitable health care functions to apply for from the 27 health care functions we have approved. The corresponding components of cognitive health are as follows:
From the list of ingredients, except for caprylic acid, which decreased year on year, other ingredients increased, even phosphatidylserine increased by 90.4%, pseudopurslane increased by 116.6%, concentrated fish oil increased by 106.1%, male multivitamin increased by 185.7%, and female multivitamin increased by 98.7%.
According to the people's health problems in the last year in the 2021 National Health Insight Report by Dr. Ding Xiang, it can be seen that the health problems of men and women are different, as shown in the figure below.
It can be seen from this that we have no corresponding health care function to match the health problems such as bad skin condition, bad figure, oral problems, hair loss, heart problems and gout. However, the needs of consumers are objective. When health food cannot meet the needs of consumers, consumers will inevitably turn to ordinary food or cross-border e-commerce products. According to the analysis data of the attributes of overseas food and tonic of Beauty in August 2021 in the Health Product Market Overview, brightening skin color, delaying aging, weakening fine lines, and growing hair and nourishing hair have become the effects with large turnover in the month, while ceramide, amino acid, and L-glutathione have become the components with large turnover.
For example, for example, the sales of water locking, fine line thinning and muscle tightening in the overseas flagship store of Swisse for women reached 27.377 million yuan, while for the category of probiotics, the sales of balanced probiotics dominated by the overseas flagship store of Xiaoyueshen reached 52.452 million yuan. These data once again show that consumer demand is objective. When our health food cannot meet consumer demand, consumers will inevitably turn to ordinary food and cross-border e-commerce products.
In 2019, the State Administration of Market Supervision and Administration promulgated the Measures for the Administration of the Catalogue of Health Food Raw Materials and the Catalogue of Health Functions, in which Article 16 of the health functions included in the catalogue of health functions should meet the following requirements:
（1） The purpose is to supplement dietary nutrients, maintain and improve the health of the body or reduce the risk factors of disease;
（2） It has a clear demand for health consumption and can be correctly understood and recognized;
（3） It has sufficient scientific basis and scientific evaluation methods and criteria;
（4） The health care function guided by the traditional health care theory conforms to the traditional Chinese health care theory;
（5） There are clear suitable and unsuitable groups.
Article 18 Any unit or individual may, on the basis of carrying out relevant research, put forward suggestions to the review institution for inclusion or adjustment of the health care function catalogue.
This lays a legal foundation for the application of new functions of health food. At present, there is a lack of specific implementation rules, so for health food enterprises, they can apply for new functions of health food in accordance with the requirements of the corresponding regulations and administrative licensing.
At the same time, as a raw material for health food, we currently lack the application path for new raw materials. For example, the United States has FDA's New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) that can apply for new raw materials, and the EU can apply for new food. At present, China has not established an application channel for new raw materials of health food.
When we solve the application ways of new raw materials and new functions from the regulatory level, we believe that Chinese health food enterprises are also willing to invest more in the research and development and innovation of health food, so as to better meet the health needs of consumers.
Source | Author of Health Food Research and Development Professional Committee of China Nutrition and Health Food Association | Su Long, Lu Youfeng