January 22, 2021

This review covers emerging science and where the interest lies within the heart-health category, plus three strategies to merchandising success.

While weight is often cited as a risk factor, Holtby says that the issue is more nuanced. “It is not just the amount of fat that is important but also the type of fat. In fact, reducing the fat you can’t see, called visceral fat, may be more important than overall lean body mass for reducing the risk of certain chronic health conditions.”

SGTI’s Steve Holtby points to an important gap in knowledge: Women have different risk factors for CVD. “Most of our ideas about heart disease in women used to come from studying it in men,” Holtby explains. “Research is identifying gender differences in heart disease that may help fine-tune prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in women, by uncovering the biological, medical, and social bases of these differences. For example, many women don’t experience the crushing chest pain that is a classic symptom of a heart attack in men. Also, women have smaller and lighter coronary arteries than men do.”

Holtby seconds this. “The more you can differentiate heart-health claims, the easier it is to communicate the benefits to consumers. ‘Supports heart health’ is a broad claim that still is functional in the marketplace, but ‘promotes healthy cholesterol levels’ or ‘supports healthy blood pressure’ are more specific claims that send a powerful message.” Manufacturers invest in education and clinical trials in order to get these claims across, Holtby says, recommending that retailers use those claims to help products stand out.

Steve Holtby, President and CEO of Soft Gel Technologies, Inc. (SGTI), which offers a lycopene ingredient, explains: “Lycopene has been the subject of a number of epidemiological studies that indicate there is an inverse relationship between blood lycopene level and cancer risk. Another study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease has demonstrated that not only is lycopene a potent antioxidant, but that a synergistic mix of tomato phytonutrients in a similar ratio to that found in nature, renders LDL-C 90% more resistant to oxidation than LDL-C alone. Moreover, research conducted at the Soroka University Medical Center in Ben Gurion, Israel, found that a whole-tomato extract has a beneficial effect on blood lipids, lipoproteins, oxidative stress markers, in addition to lowering blood pressure at levels comparable to conventional treatment.”

Holtby recommends, if possible, a dietary overhaul incorporating the above suggestions. Noting that people have been consuming pro-inflammatory foods for years, he recommends unprocessed foods, coldwater fish, vegetables, and fruits. “A Mediterranean diet, exercise, marine lipids (a source of essential fatty acids), CoQ10 and other dietary supplements can impact oxidative stress and inflammation. Simple lifestyle factors—such as daily movement or exercise, sound dietary choices that include fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water every day, managing stress through meditation or focused breathing, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking—are some of the most powerful tools available for optimizing heart health.”