Glucosamine and chondroitin are mainstays of joint health supplement formulations. But while the overall joint health category has grown to a US$2 billion annual affair, the growth is not because of the mainstays. What gives? Along with methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), they’re the most-researched backbones of the joint-health category.
“The upside is that they definitely help to rebuild joints and improve joint discomfort,” said Nick Bitz, N.D., chief scientific officer at supplements company Youtheory. “The downside is that they have a slow onset and the benefits seem to dissipate once you stop taking the glucosamine/chondroitin product.”
The rap on these top two joint health ingredients is time needed for effects to take hold: usually at least six to eight weeks.
In the last decade, new ingredients have come on board that work in much shorter time horizons.
“Collagen and turmeric are the trendiest ingredients in the industry right now,” Bitz said, “and for good reason—they work!”
One fascinating source of collagen also combines another hot ingredient—bone broth. Both are trending, and both can benefit joint health. And it shows that not all joint health products need to be in a supplement pill format.
International Dehydrated Foods (IDF) has a ChiKPRO Broth Protein Isolate Powder that combines the benefits of collagen bone broth with lean protein from chicken. It’s currently the only ingredient on the market to do so.
Eggshell membrane is another source of collagen and other cartilage ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glucosamine and chondroitin. A 2018 human clinical trial showed 500 mg of natural eggshell membrane improved joint stiffness in just four days, exercise-induced joint pain in eight days, and discomfort immediately following exercise in seven days.
This brings up the brave new world of joint health ingredient formulations. Savvy formulators are approaching new product developments with an eye to different mechanisms of action so as to attack joint health from a number of directions.
“Joint issues are almost always multi-factorial,” Bitz said. “So in theory, it’s a good idea to create broad-acting formulations.”
Such directions include inflammation, cushioning the joint space between bones, pain relief, ingredients that add to flexibility and more.
“In addition to tried and true ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM, many of our customers are asking us to manufacture bone and joint support products that contain ginger, turmeric, and omega-3s,” said Vincent Tricarico, vice president of contract manufacturing at NutraScience Labs. “We’ve also had a few customers add bromelain to their product because they specifically wanted an herbal formulation.”
Another contributing factor to combination formulas is the smaller dosage level of some of these newfangled ingredients.
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