Wellbeing in the air

BY Jo Austin

Flying isn’t always easy. Jetting in and out of time zones, messing with the sleep-wake cycle and confusing our body clocks inevitably impacts on an individual’s wellbeing. But if your airline is looking to show it cares, there is an increasingly strong portfolio of onboard products designed to help.

Perhaps the biggest concern for many passengers is jetlag. “Jetlag is the condition characterised by various physiological and psychological effects (such as irritability and fatigue), which results from a disruption of the natural circadian rhythm (or body clock)” explains naturopath and sleep expert, Dave Gibson. He claims what your passengers need most is glucose to give them an energy boost without the nasties of caffeine or energy drinks which can play havoc with their natural systems and disrupt sleep.

Giving passengers control over their sleep/eat schedule, as many airlines now do in premium cabins, can really help, he says. Passengers are advised to eat and sleep for the destination they are heading to, adjusting to the new time zone before they arrive. They should be sleeping earlier than they would normally do if they are going East (and eating earlier too). Shifting everything later if going West. On a night flight, if it’s morning in the final destination, they should be eating breakfast-type foods to help reset the stomach as well as the brain.

Gibson works with glucose-based travel brand Gluco which offers tablets and juices that can help passengers adjust to different time zones and reduce the feelings of jet lag.

Power up the vitamins

One of the best-known suppliers of anti-jetlag products is Netherlands-based FlyFit. It has energetically targeted the onboard market and offers endless research on suitable products.

FlyFit managing director, Boudewijn Van Eeghen, says: “Beyond the challenges of confused body clocks, jetlag can be caused by dehydration, lack of sleep and stress. Beyond drinking plenty of water on a long flight, we also recommend increasing the intake of minerals and vitamins. Our Q4 formula contains B-vitamins and specific minerals (micro-nutrients) which work to reduce tiredness, help maintain a proper brain function and protect our cells from oxidative stress”.  

The lack of vitamin B can compromise an entire sequence of biochemical reactions necessary for transforming food into energy, and antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and the minerals zinc, manganese and selenium all help cut fatigue.

FlyFit’s apt slogan is ‘Travel healthy, arrive fit’ and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), has scientifically evaluated FlyFit’s direct-to- mouth vitamin and mineral shots to authorise the company’s claims that its formula does just that. Airline crew are now taking the shots regularly and W-Hotels and Hilton stock it in their minibars. Trials are currently underway with the U.S. Army and U.S. travel retail giant, Hudson News.
Cabin pressure corresponds to an altitude of 2500m and combined with the desert-like dry environment of the aircraft, long-haul passengers are bound to feel tired and dehydrated.

Swedish-born Olle Markoo, began experimenting with different jetlag cures after suffering its effects first-hand. His goal was to arrive in better condition and also strengthen his immune system. “Basically, it’s about maintaining fluid balance in the air cabin’s extremely dry air,” says Olle, the founder of Uppy! a travel recovery drink that rehydrates through a solution that contains electrolytes, minerals, ginger and vitamins.

Designed in the form of an effervescent tablet which is dissolved in water, Uppy! has been evaluated by Emirates crew who admit: ”Like most people, we drink a lot of coffee and water on long-haul flights but find that Uppy! has helped to reduce tiredness and stress”. The product is currently being offered to passengers in First on Emirates.

Serve foods with function

Onboard offerings that support wellbeing play into a global consumer trend for ‘functional foods’ which Grand View Research estimates will be worth up to $255 billion by 2024. These are foods that support digestive and cognitive health, anti-inflammation, immunity, cardiovascular health and mineral fortification – all particularly key during travel.

Such foods include probiotics and prebiotics – largely offered in yoghurts but increasingly in drinks, confectionary, baked goods and even wine and beers. Often a niche product, fermented drinks made with probiotic kombucha are now part of PepsiCo’s remit with the debut of Tropicana Essentials Probiotics and the purchase of probiotics beverage manufacturer KeVita by its Naked Emerging Brands.

Herbal and botanical extracts are also increasingly viewed as supporting wellness with beverages that include cranberry extracts, tea polyphenols and turmeric topping the ‘must haves’. These are being added to vegetable drinks made with alfalfa and green leafy vegetables or to berry blends, pea and other vegetable protein blends.
Perhaps the most common functional ingredient is protein, best known in meat, eggs and tofu but increasingly finding its way into snacks and drinks.

A year in development, Go Faster Food’s new Go Bites are little energy balls made from 100% natural ingredients to deliver energy at the right time.

Says Go Faster Food’s company nutritionist, Sophie Heath: “Jetlag can play havoc on your circadian rhythms and your internal body clock. Thankfully our internal organ clocks can be adapted to different time zones, mainly via the consumption of food. Go Bites Refuel contains apricots for a slower release of energy, and plenty of seeds which are a great source of magnesium. Research suggests magnesium could help with adjusting to new time zones and can also help with the reduction of tiredness and fatigue”.

Another new product on the market that claims to have benefits for fliers is Vit Stix. Says Tom Anderson-Dixon, founder of fruit drink concentrate, Squashtix: “Our new formula is designed to fight fatigue and boost energy, maklng it perfectly pitched for weary travellers”. Vit Stix comes in single-serve sachets in tropical and berry flavours packed with vitamins B, C and D. Adds Tom: “Vitamin B helps to energise without a crash while vitamins C and D boost the immune systems that are weakened on long-haul flights”.

And, then there is chocolate! It has now been scientifically proven that dark chocolate can help jetsetters to avoid jetlag. The darker the chocolate (60% cacao and upwards) the better, while at the same time it contains less sugar. Says James Duff of Lily O’Brien’s in Ireland, a leading chocolate supplier to the airline industry: “We are seeing an increased demand for dark chocolate and there are a myriad of reasons that make this treat nearly guilt-free (in moderation, of course). It is naturally healthier than its white and milk varieties because it has more cocoa, it has less added sugar, plus, it is chock-full of antioxidants and flavanols, vitamins and nutrients. All dark chocolate can reduce levels of cortisol and catecholamine stress hormones which are related to jetlag. On the back of this, we have introduced new dark chocolate recipes including yuzu and basil, spicy coconut and turmeric and the use of sea buckthorn, which is also an antioxidant, to our inflight range”.

Personally, I go straight for a Bloody Mary which, strangely enough, I do not even think about drinking anywhere else but on a plane. But just a little bit of research has reassured me that all is not lost on me as tomatoes, if nothing else, taste better in the air! •