May is National Arthritis Month. Spearheaded by the Arthritis Foundation, it’s a time to increase awareness of this leading cause of disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. By the year 2030, 67 million (25%) adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
The word arthritisactually means joint inflammation. Arthritis comprises more than 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions, the most common of which is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions the joints. Other frequently occurring forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia and gout. Although arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, people of all ages (including children) can be affected.
Joint supporting nutrients such as glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and devil’s claw help support optimal structural health. Joint support products.
Glucosamineis an amino sugar required for the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, carbohydrate-containing compounds that are the major structural components of cartilage.1 Studies demonstrate that glucosamine is also capable of protecting connective tissues, relieving pain and reversing the progression of joint degeneration.1,2
MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound. Sulfur is required for the production and repair of cartilage.3 MSM is also thought to have soothing and pain-reducing properties.4 Although MSM is found in many fresh foods, it is easily destroyed in cooking and processing. Thus, it makes sense to supplement the diet with MSM to ensure an adequate supply in the body.
Chondroitin is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan that is important in maintaining the structural integrity of connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate is produced by chondrocytes and performs the important function of attracting fluid into the cartilage.1 This gives cartilage its spongy-like form, making it a good shock absorber. Evidence suggests that chondroitin sulfate protects cartilage and helps prevent cartilage breakdown.1,5
Hyaluronic acid (also known as HA or hyaluronan) is a non-sulfated glycosaminoglycan that occurs naturally throughout the body.6 It is found most abundantly in the skin, cartilage, synovial fluid, and eyes.1 Hyaluronic acid plays a major role in joint lubrication and is critical in maintaining joint health. Research indicates that hyaluronic acid may prevent joint inflammation and the breakdown of cartilage.7,8
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is named for the tiny hooks that cover its fruit. Devil’s claw root has been used for thousands of years in Africa for pain reduction.9 Devils claw root contains phytochemicals known as iridoid glycosides, including harpagoside, that have soothing and anti-inflammatory effects.1 Studies show that taking devil’s claw root significantly reduces pain and improves physical functioning in people with joint pain.9
- Jellin JM, Gregory PJ, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 9th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2007.
- Reginster JY, Deroisy R, Rovati LC, Lee RL, Lejeune E, Bruyere O, Giacovelli G, Henrotin Y, Dacre JE, Gossett C. Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lancet. 2001 Jan 27;357(9252):251-6.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Sulfur. 2007. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/sulfur-000328.htm Accessed April 20, 2010.
- Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, Buratovich N, Waters RF. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 Mar;14(3):286-94. Epub 2005 Nov 23.
- Baici A, Bradamante P. Interaction between human leukocyte elastase and chondroitin sulfate. Chem Biol Interact. 1984 Sep 1;51(1):1-11.
- Laurent TC, Laurent UB, and Fraser JR. The structure and function of hyaluronan: an overview. Immunol Cell Biol 74:A1-A7, 1996.
- Balazs E: The physical properties of synovial fluid and the specific role of hyaluronic acid. Disorders of the Knee. Edited by Helfet AJ. Philadelphia: J B Lippincott; 61-74, 1982.
- Dougados M. Sodium hyaluronate therapy in osteoarthritis: arguments for a potential beneficial structural effect. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Oct;30(2 Suppl 1):19-25.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Devil’s Claw. 2007. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/devils-claw-000237.htm Accessed April 20, 2010