The Best Supplements For Joint Support and Bone Health
The most common joint problem throughout the world is Osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear in the joints. This issue affects approximately 8.5 million people here in the UK, with studies showing that half of those over the age of 65 have some form of wear and tear in their joints. The joints that are most affected by this issue are the knee and the hip, with women being the most likely to suffer.
Every time we exercise, or indeed use our joints, we can cause them some damage. Our body is designed to repair that damage daily but as we age, this repair mechanism cannot always meet the demands placed upon it, leading to a deterioration of joint health.
Consequentially, as we age, we are certainly more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis. However, this is not inevitable and taking steps to look after our bones and joints whilst we are younger, in the same way as we maintain our car, is a good idea.
How do diet and lifestyle impact the joints?
Diet and lifestyle play an important role in joint support. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight (as excess weight can place an extra burden on the joints), it is important to strengthen and support the joints by maintaining our joint tissues through low-impact exercise such as swimming, walking, and cycling. Stopping smoking is also beneficial to our bones and joints, as smoking increases the risk of suffering from issues in these areas.
Some dietary changes can also make a difference to the health of your joints. For example, adopting a healthy Mediterranean style diet, with lots of oily fish, nuts, and seeds, will help to reduce inflammation. Other popular joint supporting foodstuffs include ginger, turmeric, spinach, broccoli, and Montmorency cherries.
What are the best joint support supplements?
Cartilage, the substance that covers the ends of the bones at the joints, allowing smooth movement of the bones against each other, relies on the production of collagen. Collagen production in turn requires adequate supply of vitamin C and therefore the best cartilage support (and therefore joint support) supplements will include a good amount of vitamin C.
Did you know? Rosehips are a popular supplement for those looking to support their joints, probably due to the fact that they are a rich natural source of vitamin C.
Another fantastic supplement for joint issues is the herb Devil’s Claw, with licensed products such as JointEeze being traditionally used for aches and pains in the muscles and joints.
Other substances that are naturally found in healthy joints include:
- Glucosamine, which supports the production of the building blocks of our joints, and
- Sulphur which plays an important role in holding the strips of collagen together, much like the rungs of a ladder holding the legs together.
The link between the joints and the bones
Healthy joints are vital for keeping us moving but equally important are healthy bones. Unfortunately, it is estimated that over 3 million people in the U.K. suffer from osteoporosis – also known as brittle bone disease. Whilst the majority of these are women this is still an issue for the male population too. The reason that women are affected more than men is that falling oestrogen during the perimenopause and menopause has a direct link to the development of the disease.
Osteoporosis is a ‘silent disease’ with most people not knowing that they have it until a bone either cracks or breaks, by which time the disease is often fully developed. This is the reason that women are encouraged to look after their bones during perimenopause and menopause. However, a lifelong approach is even better, as peak bone density is reached at around age 30.
What can influence bone health?
In addition to age, there are several other factors that can adversely affect our bone health. Smoking and alcohol consumption are two of the biggest culprits. However, poor diet, being underweight and failing to engage in good weight baring exercise can all lead to poor bone density and increase the risk of suffering with osteoporosis.
A good diet is important to help maintain healthy bones. Calcium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, dairy, almonds, figs, broccoli plus fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are important food groups to include. These foods help sustain blood calcium levels and reduce inflammation, supporting healthy bones. It is also important not to limit food intake too severely, as this can also negatively impact bone health, but it is recommended to limit the amount of red meat in the diet as this can acidify the blood, ultimately leading to a loss of calcium from the bones.
Also be aware that several medications can also negatively impact on our bone health. PPI inhibitor medications (antacids) like omeprazole or lansoprazole are particularly problematic due to their inhibition of stomach acid production, which in turn will significantly reduce calcium absorption. In fact, the World Health Organisation has suggested that menopausal women should not take these medications long term due to this adverse effect.
Which are the best supplements for bones?
- Calcium – Most people are familiar with the concept that calcium is good for bones. In fact, this is probably the most well-known supplement for bone health. However, ensuring we get enough calcium through the diet or supplements is only step one. We next need to ensure it is absorbed and utilised by the body for building bones. For this reason, calcium should be taken alongside nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. If calcium is not properly absorbed and utilised, then there is an increased risk of developing issues like kidney stones and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) where calcium is “dumped” in areas away from the bones.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is often overlooked when it comes to bone health but is nearly as important as calcium. Low levels of magnesium can adversely affect healthy bone formation. It is therefore a sensible approach to look for both in any bone supporting formula – ideally, you should look for 800mg calcium and 400mg magnesium.
- Vitamin D – The body needs adequate vitamin D to help absorb calcium and build healthy bones. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D can help to reduce the risk of falling due to instability and muscle weakness, helping to prevent falls and bone fractures.
- Zinc – Zinc plays an important role in the development of healthy bones, with research indicating that postmenopausal women given a supplement of trace minerals that included zinc, magnesium and copper had a lower rate of loss in bone mass than those who took calcium alone.
- Vitamin K2 –Although this form of vitamin K is not particularly well known, vitamin K2 could actually be one of the most important nutrients for bone health. Osteoblasts (cells that make bone) produce a vitamin K-dependent protein called osteocalcin. This protein helps bind calcium in the bone, leading to increased bone mineral density and consequently stronger bones. Osteocalcin needs natural vitamin K2 to function optimally. Studies have proven that menopausal women using vitamin K2 supplements have a significantly reduced risk of developing osteoporosis.
Tim Gaunt BSc (Hons) CBiol MSB D.N. gained his degree in Biochemistry from the University of Lancaster in 1988. Tim has gained over 30 years’ experience in the field of nutrition, and also holds the position of chartered biologist which was granted by the Institute of Biology.