Healthspan asked experts Valentina Roffi from Sprint Physiotherapy and Healthspan Medical Director Dr. Sarah Brewer for their views on looking after your joints and the role of supplements
Looking after your joints is important for everyone, and not just keen runners and the elderly. This is the view of Valentina Roffi, Director at sprintphysio.co.uk: “Joint problems can affect people of all ages, from children to the elderly in our society. Very few people will have the fortune of going through life without ever experiencing a problem with at least one of their joints. From acute injuries like breaks and sprains, simple aches to more complicated underlying medical conditions, we all need to look after our joints to optimise their function and durability.
“There are common misconceptions that joints are only affected with certain types of activities or sports and therefore only a select few should invest time in caring for them. We use our joints every day, in every movement that we make.
“The requests we put on joints differ from person to person. Training for joint health therefore needs to be adapted accordingly. For example, some people may need their joints to withstand training for a marathon, some need to be able to sustain postures for long periods of time, while others need to be able to lift or carry weights as part of their job.
“Taking steps to protect our joints is something that we should all be doing. It can be as simple as undertaking regular exercises to increase the strength and shock-absorbency around our joints, as well as including flexibility exercises to maintain mobility.”
Supplements and joint health
Supplements also have a part to play. Dr. Sarah Brewer, Medical Director at Healthspan, has this to say: “When someone asks which supplements can support joint health, my first suggestion is always glucosamine. This amino sugar is needed to repair cartilage and make synovial fluid in the joints more cushioning. When the body detects glucosamine in the circulation, it acts as a biological signal to switch on joint repair processes. However, the body’s production of glucosamine naturally declines with age.
“Results from 20 clinical trials show that pharmaceutical-grade glucosamine is at least as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in improving joint mobility. The evidence is so convincing that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has classified glucosamine as a medicine when taken at doses of 1,500mg a day.
“Glucosamine also suppresses inflammation elsewhere in the body, which may explain why a UK database analysis of 466,039 people found that taking glucosamine was associated with an 18 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, an 18 per cent lower risk of stroke and a 22 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular death during the seven-year follow-up period – even after taking other known risk factors into account.”
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Many supplements combine glucosamine with another nutrient: chondroitin. This is another molecule made in the body to increase the strength, elasticity and resilience of cartilage. It also acts as a biological signal to inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down cartilage and increase the production of type-II collagen (the type found in cartilage). The age-related decline in chondroitin synthesis has been linked with reduced cartilage quality and the start of degenerative osteoarthritic changes in ageing joints. This is one of the reasons that chondroitin is often taken together with glucosamine.