More people than ever are suffering from painful bone and joint conditions, often putting it down to ‘getting old’. But it needn’t be like that, says Kate Miller
My grandma used to say that she only ever felt old when she looked in the mirror or ran for the bus – the latter coming with the realization that she couldn’t get up to the speeds she used to. For many of us the evidence of aging on our faces comes hand in hand with the increased amount of noise we make getting up out of a chair when
our joints unexpectedly start to complain.
Therefore few of us expect to be as sprightly in our 70s as we were in our 30s, but are we right in this presumption? It’s this expectation of diminishing mobility that could be behind some shocking statistics published by Arthritis Care earlier this year which showed that people with serious arthritic conditions are suffering in silence before diagnosis because they put their increased pains down to ‘getting old’.
Calling for the condition to be made a health priority, the charity reported that three-quarters of people surveyed with arthritis had delayed visiting their GP until their pain was unbearable, with 61% delaying until mobility was limited. More than 49% said that they sought medical help only when the pain was impacting their everyday life.
Official figures for arthritis show that there are ten million people with the condition in the UK (predicted to rise by 50% to 2030) with a cost to the NHS of around £5 billion. However, if the Arthritis Care report is correct, then this is prob-ably only the tip of the iceberg, with who knows how many more continuing to suffer in silence.
Presumably many sufferers are self-managing pain, but the options open to them can be limited. A meta analysis of randomized controlled trials into pain management of osteoarthritis published earlier this year reported that paracetamol was ‘useless’ at treating pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of joint pain in older people. A NICE report in 2013 warned GPs not to prescribe painkillers for the condition because of the worrying link to various conditions caused by long-term use. On the other hand, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have shown good results with pain management, but there are concerns with the side-effects caused by long-term use.
Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville says that both joint and bone health are active areas of research because they are problems that are on the increase. “As well as the research into medication for osteoarthritis, there is also active research into natural substances that can help damaged cartilage, such as glucosamine and MSM, as well as other nutrients that could help with inflammatory arthritis such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and turmeric.”
Research into green-lipped mussels and joint health is something that John Croft, New Zealand marine scientist and author of the review Arthritis and Aging, Solutions from the Sea, is particularly interested in. He says that the specific nature of Biolane’s green-lipped mussel extract GLME (known in the UK as Seatone) may help to
inhibit age-related join degeneration and reduce inflammation, pain and joint immobility caused by arthritic disorders.
“Given our ageing pop-ulation, osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder affecting the greatest number of people in the UK,” explains Croft. “Studies have shown that GLME has significant anti-inflammatory properties in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and age-related degenerative joint disease (arthrosis).
He explains that Biolane’s natural bioactive substance also reduces the decline in ageing joints by inhibiting the four main enzymes responsible for the degeneration of bone and cartilage. It is also more gastro-friendly than the NSAIDs often used for joint disorders.
The dietary link
When it comes to bone health, osteopath and nutritionist Marcus Webb from Hadley Wood Healthcare says that an area of consistent research interest is osteoporosis and the influence of diet, nutrition and vitamins. “We have come a long way from the idea that bone strength is all about calcium, but the message is slow to leak through to the conventional medical community and general public alike.”
He says that many people view bone as a hard, inert and brittle substance, similar to the skeleton that used to hang in the corner of the school biology lab. In reality, living bone is very different.
“Growing old should
not mean having to stop
enjoying physical activities, provided that the body
“Our skeleton is a highly active metabolic tissue and undergoes a regular process of renewal known as ‘bone turnover’. This process changes with age and
is influenced by many lifestyle factors.”
Webb says that aside from calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D and micronutrients, it is the developing work on vitamin K and its role in bone health that is really of interest at the moment. “Once considered important simply for healthy clotting and blood coagulation, this nutrient may form a vital corner in the calcium-vitamin D-vitamin K triangle that is so important to optimal bone health and strength. If one of these three key components are missing or deficient, then bones are
“Vitamin K comes in many forms, but it is the MK-7 form that appears to offer the best support for bone because it forms a vital ingredient in the synthesis of a bone protein called osteocalcin. It is produced exclusively by the bone cells that make bone (known as osteoblasts) and is necessary for the normal mineralization of bone.
A lack of osteocalcin, despite the presence of adequate calcium and vitamin D, means bone will not form correctly. So, vitamin K is absolutely key to a healthy skeleton and should be high up on the ‘must have’ nutrients in any bone support formula; the data is out there!”
Andrew Thomas, founder of BetterYou, says that the adage ‘use it or lose it’ is very apt when it comes to joint health. “Exercise is important from a young
age. The greater use of a joint will ease stiffness and also helps encourage maintenance,” he explains.
So what does this mean for health food retailers? What can be said for sure is that an ageing population means, inevitably, that health food retailers will see an increasing amount of customers through their doors with bone and joint problems. Webb says that, since the GP clinic may not be the best place to get information on bone health, the health store may be very well placed to promote the healthy bone message.
“Posters asking the question ‘how healthy are your bones’, and staff educated on bone nutrition and lifestyle factors known to benefit a healthy skeleton can only help spread the message. It is easy for people to get reliable vitamin D tests performed these days – we routinely perform them in the clinic – and they form a great starting point to promoting optimal dosing rather than overshooting the vitamin D requirements.”
Webb says that there is plenty of data about the adverse effects of a low vitamin D intake and good data on optimal vitamin D, but not much data on the
effects of excessive vitamin D. The data that is around, he says, may suggest that there is no real benefit of over-shooting the optimal level, and there may actually be some adverse effects. “So, checking the D levels and dose adjusting is a good topic for the health store to run with.”
Quality of life
The biggest markets worldwide, says Croft, are now those for the maintenance of quality of life for ageing people, and retailers should be prepared for this.
“People are living much longer now, and the importance of having pain-free mobility cannot be over emphasized. Retailers should be in a position to offer genuine products with proven efficacy and safety (natural does not always mean safe) to help reduce the perfectly natural changes in the body that occur with ageing. They should also have full confidence in the products they offer.
“Offering advice on possible lifestyle changes, which can include attitude, will also be helpful to some customers and bring repeat business to the shop. Growing old should not mean having to stop enjoying physical activities, provided that the body remains healthy.”
Weighing up the problem
Age isn’t the only strain on our bone and joints – unhealthy lifestyles and our growing waistlines are also taking their toll.
According to Marilyn Glenville, just being overweight can cause osteoarthritis because of the extra pressure on the joints, especially the knees. Research by Arthritis UK reports that very overweight people are 14 times more likely to get osteoarthritis of the knee than those within a healthy weight range. To put this problem into context, in England alone the prevalence of obesity among adults rose from 14.9% in 1993 to 25.6% in 2014.
Marcus Webb says that many obese people are actually malnourished, with diets comprising high energy, low-nutrient foods, that build fat but not much else. “Protein, macro and micronutrient intake can be surprisingly low on a high energy, low-nutrient ‘junk-food’ style diet. While carrying weight may, in theory, exert a compression effect on the bone which should stimulate bone formation and density, if there are insufficient key nutrients then the bone simply can’t react to the stimulus in a healthy way.”
He says that obesity has also been associated with vitamin D deficiency and a requirement for higher dose and longer use of vitamin D supplementation. “This is an area of ongoing research but the early data does show that obesity tends to be associated with a greater demand for vitamin D and a slower elevation from a deficient level to an optimal one even when using supplements.”
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Osteoflex® Plus – Keeping you Flexible
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Joint Complex from Revive Active, is the most comprehensive formula for a multifaceted approach to joint healthcare, helping to reduce inflammation, restore mobility and repair cartilage. It contains 5,000mg Marine Collagen, 2,000mg MSM, 100mg Hyaluronic Acid and 1,000mg of Glucosamine. This unique formulation is available in a daily sachet and it addresses the three primary concerns in the development of osteoarthritis; joint pain and inflammation, decreased mobility and function, and deteriorating cartilage. Joint Complex is suitable for people over 40, individuals suffering from or concerned about osteoarthritis, women concerned about menopausal osteoporosis and athletes who want to protect their joints and bones.