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The New Joint Health Superstar?

Dr. Michael Smith, M.D., senior health scientist for Life Extension, loves the research behind ergothioneine.

Dr. Michael Smith

February 13, 2014

4 Min Read
The New Joint Health Superstar?

Joint pain is not acceptable. Simply put, people in pain dont work out and can become inactive. And considering that our bodies are meant to move, this is definitely not a good thing.

Staying active is one sure way to improve your quality of life and, for most of us, will ultimately translate into a longer life.

Recent research shows that the antioxidant, ergothioneine, holds promise for relieving joint pain. This means that we could potentially have another weapon in combating arthritis.

Ergothioneine is a Joint-Specific Antioxidant

The science is not conclusive yet, but it's promising. Dr. Bruce N. Ames, senior scientist at the Childrens Hospital Oakland Research Institute, told the publication Nutraingredients-USA that, Ergothioneine is a very weak antioxidant compared to other compounds in the cell, which isnt necessarily a bad thing. Specificity is the key.1

And Dr. Ames is right. Any time you can target a tissue and deliver a nutrient specifically to that tissue, the effects will be greater than using a nutrient that distributes all over the body even if that nutrient is stronger than the more specific one. And thats exactly what you have with ergothioneine: A potentially more joint-specific, antioxidant.

Some doctors actually think ergothioneine might someday be classified as a new human vitamin. Dr. Dirk Gründemann from the University of Cologne in Germany published a paper in 2009 that highlighted its properties as a vitamin. He wrote that it concentrates in the blood by a specific transporter and then is delivered directly into different tissues, like joints.2

Ergothioneine Reduces Pain & Improves Motion

Twelve people were recruited for the study.3 The average age was 54 and all of the participants had mild to moderate chronic joint pain. The pain limited their range of motion (ROM).

The subjects were given 500 µg of day of ergothioneine with additional nutrients, including white willow bark and glucosamine. They took the cocktail for six weeks and then were followed for an additional six weeks.

Results showed that all of the subjects experienced improvements in their range of motion after six weeks of treatment. Reports of pain also decreased, compared to baseline pain and ROM.

Now its true that the subjects took other nutrients during the study and these probably did help. However, the reduction in pain and improvement in ROM were far greater than expected. This implies that ergothioneine is playing a significant role. And, remember, whats really exciting about it is how targeted it is. It basically appears to "love" joint tissue.

Additional Strategies for Improving Joint Function

Did you know that by age 70, a vast majority of people will be affected to some degree by arthritis? In the elderly, arthritis of the knee and hip are leading causes of disability. This can negatively affect the activity level of elderly Americans.

We really need to keep moving as we get older. The more active we are, the better our lives will be. Heres just a quick list of things that have been helpful in keeping joints healthy and people moving:

1.) Resistance exercises. These exercises apply light weight across the joint, but with even movement and resistance throughout a full range of motion. This is excellent for strengthening joints.

 2.) Water aerobics. Any exercise done in water takes the pressure off of your joints. So you can improve cardiovascular health without damaging joints or waking up in pain the next day.

3.) Omega-3 fatty acids. Try to take between 2,000 and 4,000 mg of omega-3 fats every day. They can ease inflammation within the joint space. By the way, new data reveals that omega-3 fats from whole krill oil are particularly effective for joint health.4

4.) Korean angelica. Rich in decurcinol, Korean angelica is a fluid-regulating supplement that promotes healthy joints.

Want more info? You may also be interested in the joint health protocol, which highlights additional joint-healthy nutrients.


  1. http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/Ergothioneine-may-reduce-pain-and-boost-joint-motion-Study/

  2. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005 Apr 5;102(14):5256-61.

  3. Prev Med. 2012 Feb 9. [Epub ahead of print] doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.02.001

  4. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):84-6.

 Senior health scientist and media personality for Life Extension® Michael A. Smith, M.D., is host of Healthy Talk on RadioMD.com and author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build Your Personalized Nutrition Regimen, which will be released on March 31st.

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