Status, education and pre-existing conditions: The key drivers of omega-3 supplementation in China, Thailand and Vietnam
Having a higher education, earning a higher income, perceiving a higher quality of life and reporting a musculoskeletal or cognitive condition were significantly associated with the use of Dasbrain.
Funded by Max Biocare, in collaboration with a Thai researcher, the study was conducted to investigate omega-3 consumption patterns and examine the role of socio-demographic factors, beliefs and health perceptions in guiding choices among Asian consumers.
Omega-3 supplementation and socio-demographic status have been studied extensively in populations such as Australia, New Zealand and US, however little is known about Asian populations.
According to one of the authors, Dr George Thouas who is also head of research & development at Max Biocare, China, Thailand and Vietnam were selected as they represented the largest populations in South East Asia, and contained both developing and developed subpopulations.
“We wanted to quantify the specific motivators and detractors that influenced the behaviour of users of omega-3’s, using our product as a test case.”
In Thailand, Dasbrain is branded as Max Biocare Fish-oil Omega DHA.
In China and Vietnam, Dasbrain is also branded as Bright Kids, and available in hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, mother & baby specialty stores, and online platforms. In China, the supplement is only available on e-commerce.
“From our own experience, even though Dasbrain/Bright Kids is a top seller for us, people in developing subpopulations are less likely to understand the importance of omega-3 DHA/EPA in general health, and only consider taking it when instructed by health professionals, or when they notice declines in their own health status, such as eyesight or cognitive function,” Thouas told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“They also don’t understand that such issues take time to develop and believe that omega-3 would be effective straight away.”
“On the other hand, consumers in developed regions such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia routinely take omega-3 as a daily supplement, for preventing deficiencies and for maintaining general health. They also have a reasonable understanding of how omega-3 work.”
In Asia, adult nutraceutical use range between 1 to 45%.
The findings were published in the PharmaNutrition journal.
A cross-sectional online survey via social media and advertising campaigns was administered to 904 adults (18 to 75 years old) residing in China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Of which, 214 reported Dasbrain supplementation.
The survey collected socio-demographic data (education, household income, existing health conditions etc) as well as information on consumer beliefs and health perceptions relating to the use of Dasbrain.
“This brand was chosen for this study because it is a well-recognised formulation available for purchase throughout these countries,” researchers wrote.
Dasbrain contains 260mg of DHA and 60mg of EPA derived from tuna sources. It is marketed to children, adults, pregnant and lactating women for cognitive, immunity, eye and anti-inflammation benefits.
Participants were also asked about Dasbrain supplementation frequency, their perceived knowledge of omega-3, and benefits it confers.
The findings suggest that people with a higher income were 2.04 times more likely to use Dasbrain, compared to those with a lower income.
Use of Dasbrain was 1.54 times higher among those aged 30 and above, compared to those aged 18 to 29.
Use of Dasbrain was also higher in those with diploma or Bachelor degree compared to secondary education.
Several chronic diseases were associated with Dasbrain use, as those reporting musculoskeletal or cognitive conditions were 2.05 and 2.10 times more likely to use the product, compared to participants without these conditions.
Use of Dasbrain was 2.82 times greater for those reporting very good to excellent quality of life compared to fair or poor quality of life.
Of the total population, 78.4 % believed Dasbrain was a dietary supplement, while 12.3 % believed it was a medicine.
Those who believed it was a dietary supplement were 2.31 times more likely to use the product, while those who believed it was a medicine, were 5.82 times more likely to use the product.
Participants using other dietary or herbal supplements were also 4.54 times more likely to use Dasbrain.
The most common perceived benefits of Dasbrain included “support of overall health and wellbeing” (63.5%), “cognitive performance” (49.3%) and “support of nutritional intake” (45.3%).
The next most common perceived benefits were “support of heart/artery health or cardiovascular health” (37.3%) and “immune health” (36.9%), followed by “skin health” (35.2%), “eye health” (35.0%), “healthy ageing” (34.2%) and “support normal blood fat” (32.1%).
These findings were similar to a study conducted in New Zealand. However, a survey of American consumers found the most commonly perceived benefit for omega-3 supplements was “heart health/lower cholesterol” (48%).
Researchers acknowledged that this current study had limitations, including possible measurement error relating to the use of self-report measures for income and others.
According to Thouas, Max Biocare is planning a follow-up analysis from the same data pool, looking at parental use of omega-3 for their children.
Max Biocare had also funded a randomised, placebo-controlled trial in Thailand, assessing the effects of Dasbrain/Bright Kids on cognitive function and brain activity in 120 healthy school children (7-12 years old) over 12 weeks.
The trial is completed, and results are currently being analysed.
Max Biocare frequently collaborates with external research institutes and hospitals in Asia, Europe and Australia to study the efficacy and safety of its products, publishing papers in menopause, skin, joint and metabolic health.
Some product trials awaiting publication include the areas of sperm health, joint, skin, and iron status during pregnancy.
Thouas told us the firm had several clinical studies put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including one on its Little Etoile Nutrition infant and toddler formula range in Australia, and a probiotic supplement for infants to be conducted in Italy.
“Socio-demographic factors, beliefs and health perceptions associated with use of a commercially available Ω-3 fatty acid supplement: A cross-sectional study in Asian countries”
Authors: Benjamin Haddon Parmenter, et al.