The top 5 joint supplements, in terms of the ones that are most effective according to researchers, are glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, SAM-e and Green Lipped Mussel.
Here, you can learn a little more about each of these supplements.
Glucosamine is one of the top-selling dietary supplements in the U.S. In Europe, glucosamine sulfate is sold as a prescription medication for osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, worldwide.
Research indicates that glucosamine may have some preventative and some curative effects for osteoarthritis. The nutrient is a component of bones, joints and cartilage. The goal of supplementation is to support or stimulate the growth of lost cartilage.
Glucosamine supplements are typically made from the cartilage of shellfish. There are some non-shellfish derived supplements that may be safer for people with shellfish allergies, although the shellfish allergen is located in the tissue, not the shells of the fish. There is concern that some residues of the allergen may remain on the shells and possibly in the supplements.
Several forms of glucosamine are available. Research indicates that glucosamine sulfate is the most effective. It is the only form rated “likely effective” for osteoarthritis by physicians and researchers.
Chondroitin is similar to glucosamine, in that it is a component of healthy joints and cartilage. It is typically derived from shellfish, as well. Some combination supplements contain both glucosamine and chondroitin.
Chondroitin is also a component of connective tissue. It is often a loss of connective tissue that causes or contributes to the pain of arthritis. Strong connective tissues support cartilage and bony joints. Chondroitin is largely responsible for compression resistance (pressure from activities like walking or running) in the joints.
Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are essential for many of the body's systems, including the heart and brain.
There are historical records of fishermen consuming fish oil to relieve achy joints for over 200 years. In recent years, researchers were able to explain why fish oil helped. Increased intake of omega-3s helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Inflammation leads to swelling in the connective tissues, which puts more pressure on the joints, causing them to ache and feel stiff. The pain relievers that work best for arthritis have anti-inflammatory activity. Research has shown that all fish oils have some natural anti-inflammatory activity. Some seem to have more anti-inflammatory activity than others.
Because fish oil is beneficial for many of the body's systems, it should be your first choice when choosing supplements. Studies show that the biggest benefits to the joints are seen when a combination of glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fish oil are taken on a regular basis.
SAM-e is a natural compound produced by the body to perform a variety of metabolic functions. The natural production of SAM-e may decline with age or the body may produce insufficient amounts for reasons not related to age.
Research has shown that SAM-e helps with the pain of arthritis. Although the mechanism of action is not clear, SAM-e seems to have some anti-inflammatory properties. The benefits seen in studies are similar to those of common anti-inflammatory drugs.
SAM-e may be beneficial for other systems of the body, as well. Some studies show an improvement in liver function with regular use. Increased energy is another possible benefit.
SAM-e must have an enteric coating and be protected from excessive light. Otherwise, it degrades quickly.
Green Lipped Mussel
Green lipped mussel is a type of seafood consumed regularly in some parts of the world. As a supplement, it is considered a “whole food”. As opposed to many supplements consisting of a single concentrated nutrient, powdered green lipped mussel contains all of the nutrients found in the food, along with those present in the shell. This means that green lipped mussel powder provides some glucosamine and chondroitin.
The benefits of green lipped mussel are believed to be greater than those that would be gained from glucosamine and chondroitin alone. Some experts believe that whole foods provide benefits above and beyond those of the individual nutrients. They explain this as a synergistic effect. The nutrients work together in synergy to nourish and heal the body.
Conclusion: Which One is Best?
If you could only take one supplement, the consensus is that fish oil would be the best choice, as long as you choose a good brand. Cheap fish oils are low quality because they are low in the omega-3 fatty acids that provide the anti-inflammatory benefits.
You can take all five of these supplements, as there are no adverse effects or interactions. If you are currently taking a prescription medication, you should check with your doctor before taking any of these supplements. While they are generally safe, they can sometimes interact with prescription drugs. Fish oil, for example, is not usually recommended for people taking blood thinners like warfarin.
If you are not taking a prescription medication, give one or all of these supplements a try. They can help to protect your joints, may help to relieve pain you are currently experiencing and could help to improve the health of your whole body.
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Read more on our nutritional supplements page or return to the HSG home
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