This article provides a basic overview of human joint health and how this relates to nutrition and relevant food supplements. At a later date we will be providing a health practitioner based article on this topic that will cover relevant issues such as inflammatory mediators; how generalised low grade inflammation decreases pain threshold; trigger foodstuffs and more complex explanations of the mechanisms by which supplements such as glucosamine. Omega 3 and Celadrin may support joint health and relieve pain.
The Popularity Of ‘Joint Aid’ Supplements
Of all the vitamin, mineral and natural nutrient food supplements that are sold each year in the UK a good proportion are purchased by people seeking support for joint health. This ranges from those experiencing joint problems and/or pain, to older people wishing to help maintain joint health or to ease stiff joints – a common ailment for many as we get older. Such supplements are also popular for those carrying out lots of physical activity and athletes or those undergoing regular ‘rigorous’ exercise (from teenagers upward).
Joints, Wear and Tear
Joints are the place where two bones meet and allow our freedom of movement. The cartilage tissue acts as a ‘cushion’ between each bone end. When we are very young the acts of walking, running, skipping etc all seem effortless. However as we age the constant movement on each joints leads to ‘wear and tear’. This can be exacerbated by injury, illness or lots of physical activity (such as sports or work that impact heavily on joints).
The constant wear is typically the factor to start a process of joint pain. In addition as we age our ability to naturally ‘regenerate’ appropriate materials for joint health declines – for example tissue regeneration. There are also the risks of inflammatory conditions affecting the joints (such as arthritis).
Like all parts of our body good nutrition is essential for joint health at all stages of life; and this needs to be provided through our diet or with the support of the appropriate supplements. Poor diet is another factor that can affect the quality and mobility of joints over the long-term.
The knees, hips, elbows, wrists, ankles, and smaller joints such as those within our hands and feet – these are all areas where joint pain frequently occurs. And joints and their nutritional requirements differ from those relating to the bones and muscles in our body.
Supplements for Joint Health
Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Omega 3 oils such as fish and krill, Celadrin, ‘MSM’ – these are probably the most recognised and popular supplements for joint health. In addition there are a number of supplements such as green lipped mussel shell extract and ginger that are sold for joint ‘support’. For this article we are going to focus on three of the most popular joint health supplements in Glucosamine, Omega 3, and Celadrin.
When choosing a supplement for joint health always do so based on your age, gender and any pre-existing medical conditions. You should also bear in mind any current supplements you take so that you do not unnecessarily ‘double up’ excessively on certain nutrients. Always seek professional advice if you are unsure, for example from a health professional or by consulting with a reputable supplement company. This advice also relates to the dosages you intend to take.
If you are seeking support for joint pain from supplements such as Omega 3 or Glucosamine then the general rule is that they can take four to six weeks from inception to start having a beneficial effect. This makes sense as the body takes time to build up levels of the appropriate nutrients from the supplements. However ultimately not everyone reports improvements.
You should always seek to maximise nutrients from a healthy and balanced diet. However dietary deficiencies, illness, injury, stress, alcohol and tobacco abuse, high physical activity, plus any existing medical conditions that may inhibit selective nutrient uptake by your body – these are all scenarios where supplementation may support your nutritional intake.
Permitted Health Claims
Many positive research studies have been carried out in regards to nutritional supplements intended for joint health, particularly (for example) Omega 3 and Glucosamine. However we would make it clear that there are currently no permitted health claims for any nutrients and supplements in respect of joint health from the regulatory authority EFSA (The European Food Safety Authority).
Through an evaluation process EFSA grant or decline health claims and thus what may be said in respect of advertising for a supplement based product (for example). Many applications for proven joint health claims have been submitted, including a number of Amino Acids. So there may be positive changes in the near future. In the meantime people may wish to carry out their own independent reviews of relevant research (the internet is of course marvellous for this).
Glucosamine is a natural chemical compound found in the body where it helps keep the cartilage in joints healthy. As we age the glucosamine levels we naturally produce decrease. Good glucosamine levels are important for joint health and ongoing reduced levels can lead to gradual deterioration of the joint. There are no edible sources of Glucosamine – bound forms do occur in cartilage, but in meat this is gristle and we tend not to eat it.
Glucosamine speeds regeneration – as long as your rate of repair keeps up with the rate of tissue loss, your bones and tissues will stay healthy. Glucosamine supplements bear a strong resemblance to the closely related materials naturally occurring in the body. If you are experiencing joint pain whether it is a result of age, exertion, or injury (etc.) then a glucosamine supplement to maximise you natural levels may help. Glucosamine supplements come in two forms – as ‘Sulphate’ or ‘HCL’.
Those engaged in regular physical exercise of a demanding nature on the joints e.g. athletes, martial arts enthusiasts, joggers or those engaged in physical games such as rugby, hockey, tennis (etc.) may need to supplement the naturally occurring amino sugar glucosamine in their body with a nutritional supplement of glucosamine. Excess ‘wear’ on the joints means a greater need for amino sugars such as glucosamine to repair the joints and surrounding structures.
So what are amino sugars and how does this relate to glucosamine? The extra-cellular connective tissue matrix is a mesh of microfibres that give your skin firmness and supports muscles, ligaments, blood vessels and other organs. Although it is constantly being broken down, it is also constantly being repaired. A problem arises if the rate of breakdown exceeds the rate of repair. Then skin and other connective tissues such as cartilage lose their structure. This shows up as aging skin and thinning cartilage, as in osteoarthritis. To prevent this deterioration, you must increase the rate at which the matrix is repaired, and that largely depends on the rate at which your body can produce the amino sugar glucosamine.
The entire human skeleton is renewed every 10 years or so. This means we all need good tissue regeneration rates to keep us healthy. Glucosamine speeds regeneration. As long as your rate of repair keeps up with the rate of tissue loss, your bones and tissues will stay healthy.
Can we be short of Glucosamine? When there is excess wear, more raw ‘material’ is needed for repair of the joints and surrounding structures. Similarly if body chemistry is unbalanced, it may be that insufficient glucosamine is formed, which limits our ability to repair wear and damage. Equally, as we age the enzyme glucosamine synthetase becomes less effective, which slows the rate of matrix repair. This is why healing is slower in the elderly.
In a supplement form glucosamine has been available for some time in the form of ‘Glucosamine Sulphate’, which has been very popular. More recently it has become available as ‘Glucosamine Hydrochloride’ (the chloride form of N-acetyl Glucosamine). Many professionals consider that this is the purest form of glucosamine, and the form now preferred by many in the medical profession for long-term use. It can be found in a form suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans too.
Omega 3 are ‘fatty acids’ and are considered ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFAs); i.e. they are necessary for human health but the body can’t make them – you have to get them through food, or supplements. The best natural sources of Omega 3 are fish and shellfish, and in particular oily fish such as mackerel. The health benefits of oily fish can be mainly attributed to its fatty acid content. When we ingest Omega 3 our body breaks the fatty acids down to 2 other fatty acids – Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and these are the components our body uses for many essential activities such as the maintenance of vision and supporting the normal function of the heart.
Consumption of fish has declined dramatically, particularly in countries such as the UK. Omega 3 supplements such as fish and krill oils have proven to be particularly popular to support Omega 3 levels. The EPA and DHA content of Omega 3 have a number of permitted health claims such as supporting good heart, brain and vision functions.
There are no permitted claims for Omega 3 in respect of joint health yet many people buy such supplements for that very reason. It is commonly considered that Omega 3 supplements such as fish and krill oils are associated with joint support as the fatty acid content of the Omega 3 (EPA/DHA) acts as a cell membrane stabiliser & anti-inflammatory.
Much of the research conducted on Omega 3 and joint health has centered on its potentially beneficial effect in reducing the risks and symptoms of inflammatory joint conditions such as Arthritis. This would tie-in with the anti-inflammatory properties many consider good levels of Omega 3 provides. The UK Charity ‘Arthritis Research UK’ for example has some information on this topic on their website.
The other ‘group’ of fatty acids are termed Omega 6 and are now commonly found in the diets of many, particularly in the Western World. Too much Omega 6 consumption and too little Omega 3 is considered to be a bad balance for good health. It is also not considered helpful in minimising inflammation in the body.
Fish and Krill oil supplements are available in a capsule or liquid form. It is important to check the all important levels of EPA and DHA in a supplement between different suppliers. The krill or fish oils will come in a liquid or capsule form yet only a proportion of each mg will contain EPA and DHA – and this will differ between products. So don’t focus, for example, on the amount of liquid in a krill capsule but the amount of beneficial EPA and DHA.
Fish Oils are either made from fish livers, the body of the fish, or a combination of both. Fish liver oils are high in vitamins A and D as these are stored in the livers of oily fish. Whole body fish oils only contain a small part of the livers in total and hence a much lower level of vitamins A and D. Cod liver oil for example is high in vitamins A and D. This is an important point for certain groups of people, primarily pregnant women and also older men. Pregnant women are advised by the NHS not to have much vitamin A (Retinol) in either food (e.g. fish) or supplement forms.
Krill Oil supplements are also high in EPA and DHA. However unlike fish oils the Omega 3 fatty acids in krill are more efficiently absorbed by our body as they are carried to our body cells in a ‘phospholipid’ form. Suitable krill supplements also contain good levels of the naturally occurring nutrients ‘Astaxanthin’ and ‘Choline’.
For vegetarians and vegans who do not eat fish a good supplement option for rich Omega 3 is flaxseed oil. For flaxseed oil supplements you will look for a pure oil rich in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), organic so it is free from herbicides, and cold-pressed, which means that it is unprocessed and that the fatty acid content will remain unharmed in the extraction.
A product called Celadrin® has more recently emerged as a new and exciting natural food supplement that may aid joint mobility and flexibility, subdue the inflammatory process and reduce pain.
Celadrin® supplements have actually been available for several years, however initially such products were obtained from bovine sources which restricted its popularity. Fortunately Celadrin® is now available from a plant-based source, with oils including palm, palm kernel, olive, nutmeg, coconut and unsaturated vegetable oils. Additionally these new supplements are Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.
Celadrin® is a unique, natural and patented combination of fatty acids which seem to work in a similar way to the ‘essential fatty acids’ in fish and krill oils to provide support during the inflammatory process. Research would indicate that Celadrin® induces changes at a cellular level and thus may positively affect the responsiveness of the cell membranes in our body, thus potentially subduing the inflammatory process and reducing pain.
By positively affecting the cell membranes in our body Celadrin® may protect them from the action of the inflammatory immune messengers. Inflammation is most commonly the cause of joint pain, swelling and mobility issues.
Modifying ‘inflammatory mediators’ is a key protective factor for joints – thereby reducing the destructive tendencies of inflammation to bone and cartilage and helping to maintain healthy flexible joints.
Krill and Fish Oil are not suitable for those who are allergic to shellfish, fish or fish-related products.
If you are considering taking Fish, Krill or Flaxseed Oil and you have a deficiency of the liver, or if you are on antithrombotic drugs (e.g. Warfarin or Heparin), consult your doctor first.
If you are pregnant it is advisable to stop taking fish, krill or flax oil about 10 days before the birth due date and to resume about 10 days after. This is simply because omega-3 thins the blood and in the event of surgical intervention during the birth it might serve to increase the risk of excessive bleeding.
We reiterate that fish liver oils that contain vitamin A are not to be taken by pregnant women, or women planning pregnancy, unless advised to do so by a Doctor.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
Amanda Williams, Cytoplan
firstname.lastname@example.org, 01684 310099
Cytoplan Blog: Celadrin Supplement for joints