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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Joint and Connective Tissue - The Natural Approach

The health of our joints is extremely important and is
something that many people take for granted. The amount of pressure exerted
on major joints, including the knees and hips, is largely underestimated but
it is thought that when we run, the knees absorb up to four times our body weight.
Therefore it can be appreciated that the connective tissue of the knees (ligaments
and tendons) must be extremely strong for efficient shock absorption. Also the
fluid which occupies the space between the bones of the joints must be kept
thick as this acts as a cushion and helps prevent the two bones (the femur and
tibia) from touching. Joints which contain this fluid are referred to as synovial
joints and these include the knees, elbows, hips, ankles and wrists. Not only
does the fluid provide cushioning support for the joint, it also helps keep
the joint lubricated and freely moveable. Tendons, ligaments and synovial fluid
are very important, because if the bones of the joint were to touch, it would
be extremely painful!

Without our joints we simply could not move so keeping
them strong and supple is vitally important, as damaged, or unhealthy joints
are just as bad as having no joints at all. There are a number of nutritional
supplements available which can help to maintain the health of joints and the
connective tissue which supports them. One such supplement is called Glucosamine
and many studies have shown that this substance may help thicken
synovial fluid and, in cases of arthritis, may help to regenerate the joint
tissue. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance which is normally produced
in the human body and accumulates in joints. It is basically a glucose molecule
and an amino acid (the building block of protein) stuck together, but the efficiency
of this production declines with age which is normally when the first signs
of arthritis are experienced. Today, glucosamine sulphate supplements are used
by many top athletes to help protect their joints and it would be advisable
for anyone who partakes in strenuous exercise to consider this kind of supplement
to help safeguard against damage later in life.

Many glucosamine supplements on the market contain an
additional substance called chondroitin. Chondroitin also helps to keep the
joints of the body supple and healthy but there is some debate over its effectiveness
in supplement form. This is because chondroitin is a very large molecule which
many believe is not efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream. In this respect
extensive scientific research needs to be carried out which will prove the effectiveness
of chondroitin in supplement form. Therefore at present, it would be wiser to
buy a supplement which contains pure glucosamine sulphate as this has been shown
to be highly absorbable and glucosamine is actually converted to chondroitin
once inside the body.

Another nutrient, which may be useful, is Vitamin
as one of its prime functions in the body is helping with the production
of collagen. Collagen is the major structural component of the connective tissue
in joints (ligaments and tendons) as it makes up to 80% of their structure.
Therefore, ensuring an adequate amount of vitamin C in the diet is important
to maintain the strength of the connective tissues. Another supplement which
may help with the synthesis and repair of collagen is called Pycnogenol. This
is an extract from French maritime pine bark which contains molecules called
pro-anthocyanosides, which can be used and incorporated into the structure of
collagen and may help to keep connective tissue strong.

Any supplement, which provides essential fatty acids,
will also help to maintain the health of joints. Essential fatty acids are known
anti-inflammatory agents, which is why they are so useful for this cause. Inflammation
of the joints is quite common, not only among the elderly, but also among those
who exercise regularly as well. Any strenuous exercise which is carried out
on a hard surface, such as running, dancing, basket ball and tennis, will cause
the knees and hips large amounts of stress. This is because a hard surface has
no 'give' to it when compared to a surface like grass, so all of the body weight
will absorbed by the joints and none by the ground. This type of stress, if
carried out on a regular basis, can result in a condition in which the tendons
become inflamed called tendonitis. In respect to this it would be useful to
chose footwear which is comfortable and will help to absorb some of the shock
and take some of the pressure off the joints. Supplements containing essential
fatty acids include Evening Primrose oil, Fish oil and Cod Liver Oil.

However, in respect to this, this article is by no means
suggesting that physical activity should be avoided to help protect the joints.
Physical activity should be enjoyed for as long as one can, and
this will actually help to strengthen joints and help keep them supple. Regular
weight-bearing activity has also been shown to promote the deposition of calcium
into the bone which will keep the bones around the joints strong as well. Devil's
may also be used to relieve inflamed joints as this herb has been found
to possess anti-inflammatory properties. This herb, along with Evening Primrose
oil, may be useful for those suffering symptoms of arthritis and who do not
consume any animal products. This is because the majority of glucosamine sulphate
products on the market have been derived from a shellfish source and very few
are synthetic.

However, although Devil's Claw and Evening Primrose oil
are effective for reducing the severity of the symptoms of arthritis, they cannot
directly target the actual cause of the pain as glucosamine does. Studies have
shown that glucosamine sulphate supplementation can stop, and in some cases
reverse, the progression of arthritis. Apart from consuming at least two portions
of oily fish each week, there is no miracle diet which may help sufferers of
arthritis. Therefore it is best, as with most nutritional therapy techniques,
to adopt a 'prevention is better than cure' attitude.

There are certain measures which can be taken to help
avoid, or at least delay, the onset of arthritis with the primary concern being
the maintenance of a healthy weight. It has been shown that obese, or over weight
people are more likely to get arthritis later in life due to the extra stress
being exerted in the joints. It has also been found that regular consumption
of Green tea may help as it has been shown to inhibit an enzyme which destroys
cartilage. The same could be said for the use of supplements as, although glucosamine
has been shown to reverse the progression of arthritis, it would be better to
use them as a preventative measure and not as a remedy or cure.

This should be taken on board as soon as someone becomes
more physically active and therefore is exerting more pressure on the joints
than usual. Therefore there are a number of factors to consider if good joint
health is to be enjoyed throughout life.

These include: " Maintaining a healthy weight.
" Ensuring that good quality, supportive footwear is used when carrying out
physical activity. " Using supplements, such as glucosamine and cod liver oil,
if you are physically active on a regular basis. " Enjoy regular weight bearing

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