In fact, maintaining normal activities as they age was the top health issue for Americans over age 40, according to a HealthFocus report from 2013. Mobility/aging concerns ranked fourth among those aged 18-29 and third for those 30-39.
Growing emphasis on maintaining active lifestyles among all age groups is also evident by the proliferation of fitness trackers and smart watches that help consumers monitor their movement and reach their health goals. Throughout life, many active consumers may experience joint health issues, and they are increasingly searching for natural products to address their concerns.
There are over 100 types of arthritis, which is an inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints, according to the Arthritis Foundation. It occurs when the cartilage between joints breaks down and leads to pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of mobility.
Once considered an unavoidable result of a long and active life, research has shown that OA is a complex process with many causes. It is not an inevitable part of aging, but rather the result of a combination of factors, many of which can be modified or prevented. Preventive health measures include maintaining a healthy weight and controlling blood sugar, as well as a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and dietary supplements. Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of joints, causing painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
According to data from the 2015 Natural Marketing Institute’s Supplements/OTC/Rx Database, two-thirds (67%) of heavy supplement users (average age of 55) indicated they were very likely to use a supplement to help manage or prevent joint/arthritis issues, compared to 42% of light users (average age of 44). Additionally, 47% of heavy supplement users said they were very likely use supplements to manage inflammation in the body.
“As consumers become more keenly aware that inflammation is a key cause of many maladies—and that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause irreparable damage—the desire for natural solutions continues to grow,” said Dean Mosca, president, Proprietary Nutritionals Inc., a division of Pharmachem Laboratories, Kearny, NJ. “Lives are more packed with responsibilities than ever, and the idea of chronic discomfort curtailing productivity and quality of life is one met with defiance. The combination of healthy lifestyle, moderate exercise and natural supplement solutions can help keep people moving in the right direction.”
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improving inflammation and chronic pain in RA patients, and reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals required to treat the condition.
In clinical trials, fish oils rich in omega-3s significantly reduced the number of tender joints, the duration of morning stiffness and delayed the onset of fatigue; these improvements deteriorated after the fish oil treatment ceased. A meta-analysis evaluated results from 16 clinical studies and found significant reductions in pain measures after 3-4 months of treatment (Pain 2007;129:210-223). The review noted that outcomes improved with omega-3 consumption for 5 months or longer. Investigators noted, however, that relatively large doses of EPA and DHA omega-3s (3 to 6 g/day) are necessary to achieve clinical improvements, which may require 2-3 months to achieve. Omega-3s may also help eliminate or reduce the need for NSAIDs and other medications.
Omega-3s also help to reduce cardiovascular risk, which is doubled in RA patients. Other cardiovascular risk factors are also affected by the consumption of omega-3s, including the reduction of blood triglycerides, increased arterial compliance, attenuated vascular inflammation and others.
As a top-trending antioxidant and ant-inflammatory, Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has a long history of safe use and treatment in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
Turmeric contains a yellow-pigmented fraction that mainly consists of curcuminoids. The principal ingredient of curcuminoids is curcumin, which is reported to have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia. However, the systemic bioavailability of curcumin is known to be poor.
Scientific evidence supports the efficacy of turmeric extract (about 1,000 mg/day of curcumin) in the treatment of arthritis, according to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2016).
Glucosamine and chondroitin have been among the most recognized condition-specific dietary supplement pairings for joint health. According to NMI SORD data for 2015, 9% of supplement users indicated they have used glucosamine/chondroitin; this has remained flat since 2005, however. In many cases, research has been mixed or inconclusive regarding the ability of glucosamine and chondroitin to treat OA of the knees and hips, perhaps limiting more widespread consumer acceptance.
A study published in the Journal of Aging Research & Clinical Practice showed that short-term treatment with glucosamine and chondroitin could be efficacious if used in combination with calcium fructoborate (CFB), branded as FruiteX-B from FutureCeuticals, Momence, IL.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, comprising about 30% of the body’s total protein content. “All connective tissue is comprised of some collagen,” noted Lara Niemann, marketing director, GELITA, Sioux City, IA, “so protein supplementation with collagen protein (generally in the form of collagen peptides—short chain protein building blocks produced by hydrolysis of native collagen) helps us stay mobile, strong, flexible and beautiful.” The company’s FORTIGEL Bioactive Collagen Peptides are designed to support joint health and mobility, she added.
UC-II, from Lonza/InterHealth, delivers undenatured type 2 collagen for joint health support. Manufactured in the U.S. through a patented, low-temperature, non-enzymatic process, research has indicated 40 mg once-a-day supports joint health, flexibility and mobility, according to the company.
Research has shown MSM decreases joint pain, improves stiffness and swelling, and increases the range of motion and physical function in individuals with OA. Studies performed on healthy athletes also suggest a reduction in joint pain. MSM’s likely mechanism stems from its ability to decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines and supply a rich source of sulfur, said Tim Hammond, vice president of sales & marketing, Bergstrom Nutrition, Vancouver, WA.
“Research demonstrates MSM is not only broadly effective, but has synergistic effects when combined with other ingredients like glucosamine, Boswellic acid, and collagen. MSM’s ability to work synergistically with other ingredients is key for people who need individualized approaches to joint health.”
Human and animal studies using OptiMSM, a pure branded form of MSM manufactured in the U.S. by Bergstrom Nutrition, suggests OptiMSM supports healthy joints, protects cartilage, and also improves joint function and mobility, said Mr. Hammond. “Supplements like OptiMSM are crucial in addressing joint health because long-term use of the alternatives (NSAID) comes with extensive health issues.”