Once upon a time, glucosamine and chrondroitin sulfate completely dominated the joint health market. At its peak, the makers of Osteo B-Flex even ran a now iconic ad featuring Frankenstein’s monster.
No help from Mary Shelley, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and silica entered the scene shortly after the aging sulfates did, and we had the makings of a vibrant, booming health category that has kept expanding along with the Baby Boomers for whom the category was initially, and successfully, targeted.
While still enjoying a powerful chunk of the marketplace, glucosamine and chondroitin are now showing their age, with global retail sales that have been on the decline over the last several years.
MSM, about a third of which is made up of sulfur, is vitally important for connective tissue and for supporting inflammation relief in the area of joint health. Aside from MSM, a number of botanical-derived and other unique, proprietary ingredients have been on the upswing in interest among formulators, manufacturers and end-use consumers.
Silicon. Scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of dietary silicon (originally derived from horsetail) has been building over the last 40 years—research that strongly supports this element’s role in bone and connective tissue health; the BioSil™ choline-stabilized form has been the focus of much of this ingredient’s research.
Boswellia serrata. Specifically, 5-LOXIN® from PLT Health Solutions is marketed as the “most potent boswellic acid extract available," promoting joint health and fending off collagen degradation by inhibiting an enzyme called 5-lipoxygenase.
Curcumin. Well-known in Ayurvedic medicine, special extracts of turmeric’s most famous antioxidative and anti-inflammatory ingredient, such as DolCas Biotech’s BCM-95®, are leading the way in this category.
Terminalia chebula. An Ayurvedic comrade-at-arms, specific extractions of this plant, including Natreon’s Ayuflex®, are pointing at expanding roles for even the newest joint health ingredients, and that includes sports nutrition.
In addition to herbal-based ingredients, omega-3s and collagen have drawn their share of past and more recent category attention, too, with the latter products exemplified by Gelita’s Fortigel® and InterHealth’s UC-II®.
Of all of the research out today, Maypro’s Juvecol®—salmon cartilage extract—does stand out. One 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that the extract supported joint comfort and mobility. Another example of joint health ingredients bursting out beyond their segmentation confines, another clinical study found that Juvecol improved several markers of skin health, including elasticity, moisture and appearance.
While many Baby Boomers will still be alive and kicking for the next 40+ years, there will be no shortage of aging and active consumers, both of which will most assuredly need effective joint support.
Formerly the longtime editor in chief of Better Nutrition magazine and editorial director of the Vitamin Retailer Magazine group, James Gormley is the editor of several health blogs, including The Gormley Files, and serves as a full-time health writer, editor and consultant for the natural products industry through Gormley NPI Consulting. The author of several books related to natural products, he is a board member of Citizens for Health and the Natural Health Research Institute. Gormley was also the trade relations and regulatory affairs officer for Nutrition 21 from 2002 to 2006. He can be reached at email@example.com.