The supplement industry is a multi-million pound industry and provides a huge array of products, which usually purport to provide some sort of health or fitness benefit.

However, as it is an unregulated industry many companies make false or exaggerated claims for their products or have substances in them that although they have scientific evidence backing their efficacy, may not have a large enough dose to be effective.

Supplements are a mine field and it is difficult for the lay person to plough through the scientific evidence to determine whether the supplement is actually worth taking and spending your hard earned cash on. 

This time I look at joint health supplements.

One of the many parts of the body essential to movement are joints. Joint disease is very debilitating and can cause major mobility issues in severe cases. A lack of movement can also cause a deterioration in joint health. As the saying goes “The hinges of a well-used door never rust” . Moving regularly and following a healthy lifestyle is hugely important in keeping  your joints healthy.

Research into joint disease and finding substances that may alleviate suffering from it is long established. Due to the chronic nature of the disease it best to look for substances that do not produce any further side effects. Many other people for a variety of reasons also experience joint pain from time to time The following substances are the most promising in alleviating joint pain.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is the best-selling joint health supplement and apparently the fourth most popular supplement in the world. This may seem surprising given the evidence for it. Glucosamine (in it’s sulphate form) has been widely studied and analysed, but most of the research has concerned it’s effect on knee osteoarthritis. The research suggests that it is effective at alleviating this condition, but it has little effect on joint soreness following exercise.

Glucosamine, therefore, is a very specific supplement and is only effective for osteoarthritis. For those with general joint pain, glucosamine offers no benefit.

Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme that breaks down proteins into their constituent amino acids and is found in pineapples. Unlike many other digestive enzymes, it survives through the digestion process and can enter the bloodstream after consumption as a supplement.

These types of enzymes can reduce muscle and joint soreness, but the difficulty is getting them where they need to be, to be effective. Bromelain passes this test. It acts much like NSAIDS drugs (like aspirin and celecoxib), but without the potential health risks these drugs pose when used longer term.

Cissus Quadrangularis

Cissus quadrangularis has been used by many athletes, because of it’s perceived benefits in relieving joint pain and improving joint health. It has been widely used to increase the rate of bone growth and regeneration following a fracture.

Some of the early research is promising and appears to confirm the anecdotal evidence that cissus quadrangularis appears to improve joint health. This may be worth considering for those suffering from joint pain, if other treatments have proved to be ineffective.

Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric is a spice used widely in foods from the Indian sub-continent and is a yellow powder, which contributes to the colour of curries. Curcumin is the active extract of turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to alleviate osteoarthritis pain.

It is best to source curcumin directly, although eating curries with turmeric in them will also help slightly, but it is poorly absorbed on its own, so it is recommended that it is taken in conjunction with black pepper extract or micelles, as these improve absorption.

Published by Neil Elbourne