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Mar 14, 2012

Joint Flexibility for a More Active Lifestyle

Dr. Shawn Talbott - MonaVie VP of Research and DevelopmentFor many people in the nutrition industry, the simple mention of the term “joint health” conjures up images of the “tried and true” dietary supplement, glucosamine. Numerous research studies show the ability of glucosamine supplements to help rebuild and repair joint cartilage to keep joints healthy and flexible. If you’re a consumer of MonaVie Active juice or MonaVie MX juice, then you’re already familiar with the plant-derived form of glucosamine (not from shellfish, like most glucosamine supplements) that MonaVie uses in both products.

What you might not be familiar with, however, is that having a healthy “joint” is a lot more than just healthy cartilage. Joints are actually complex systems involving bones, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels—and all of these structures need to be maintained in a state of healthy turnover (balance between buildup/breakdown) if we want to stay mobile and flexible as we age.

You’ll be happy to know that MonaVie products, especially MonaVie MX, contain multiple ingredients to help support optimal joint function, including the direct cartilage building blocks supplied by glucosamine, but also through antioxidant and circulation-enhancing phytonutrients, as well as stimulation of the body’s “house-keeping” processes to enhance cleanup of cellular debris.

Understanding Natural Joint Support

Right now, there are approximately 30 million Americans with osteoporosis, 50 million with arthritis, and well over 100 million who suffer a sports-related injury each year. Overall, about one-eighth of the U.S. population suffers from some variety of chronic pain—and about 80% of the adult population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain stands as the third most common reason for a visit to the doctor and the leading cause of activity limitation in adults under the age of 50.

As the U.S. population ages, the total number of people with disability or functional impairment related to their bones and joints is expected to skyrocket. At this writing, more than 70% of the elderly suffer from some form of osteoarthritis of the knee joint. Over the next 10–20 years, an estimated 250 million people will be affected by joint and bone issues and millions more will lose some degree of flexibility and mobility to other connective tissue ailments. Sobering statistics to be sure, but when considered in light of the dramatic increase in active lifestyles and sports participation among older Americans (up nearly 60% since 1990), it is clear that many people are not quite ready to accept these "inevitable consequences of aging" as part of their future. Dramatic breakthroughs in nutritional biochemistry, exercise physiology, and sports medicine have begun to change the way health professionals, and the public at large, think about how to support joint health and how to maintain an active lifestyle.

Understanding Connective Tissue and Inflammatory Balance

Both pain and inflammation are normal body processes—without them we would literally not be able to survive for very long. Pain is a signal to your body that damage is occurring and you need to stop doing whatever it is that is causing that damage. Inflammation is a process controlled by the immune system that protects us from invading bacteria and viruses, but also helps regulate heart function, blood flow, and many vital functions. Keeping a normal balance of both pain signals and inflammatory balance is vital to good health and well-being. When this balance becomes disrupted—or unbalanced—we experience more inflammation, increased pain, less flexibility, and reduced mobility. When we have too much inflammation, this process that is supposed to be protecting us actually causes more and more damage. For example, an overactive inflammatory response is known to stimulate bone breakdown (leading to osteoporosis) and interfere with cartilage repair (leading to a worsening of arthritis). Inflammation is also involved in emotional balance and brain function—so when our bodies experience too much inflammation, we simply don't feel happy and we feel mentally exhausted.

The term "connective tissue" describes a wide range of tissues in the body that collectively have an "extracellular matrix" that serves to support and protect organs.

There are four basic types of connective tissue:

  • Cartilage – found mostly in joints (between bones) with an extracellular matrix composed primarily of the tough fibrous protein called collagen. Cartilage tissue is formed and maintained by specialized cells called chondrocytes. Inflammation within the joint space can accelerate the destruction of cartilage tissue and destroy healthy chondrocytes—so it is vitally important to maintain the body’s normal inflammatory balance if we want healthy joints.
  • Bone – which contains specialized bone-building cells called osteoblasts and bone-destroying cells called osteoclasts embedded in a mineralized extracellular matrix (collagen filled in with calcium, magnesium, boron, silicon, and other minerals). Bone obviously functions to provide support for the entire body, but when inflammation becomes chronic, bone tissue breaks down faster (due to increased osteoclast activity) and bone-building and bone strength suffer (because osteoblast function is inhibited). Too much inflammation eventually leads to osteoporosis.
  • Fibrous Connective Tissue – is the "catch-all" term that we apply to connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons, a portion of the muscles, and the fascia—a dense connective tissue covering muscles that becomes chronically inflamed in certain diseases such as fibromyalgia. These fibrous connective tissues help us get from point A to point B, but when they become inflamed, even the most basic of activities becomes a painful ordeal.
  • The fourth category of connective tissues is your Blood and Circulatory System, which functions in the transport of nutrients, oxygen, hormones, and numerous good and bad substances throughout the body. Its extracellular matrix is the blood plasma and blood vessels with its main cellular component being the red blood cells and white blood cells as well as the fibroblasts that make up the structure of the vessels. Even though you might not think of your blood as becoming "inflamed," we need to keep in mind that inflammation in one part of the body (your knee joint, for example) can travel via the blood to other parts of the body. So the chronic inflammation of arthritis in your joint cartilage can lead to faster bone breakdown (inflammation in the bones), increased feelings of stiffness (inflammation in the fascia), a higher incidence of heart disease (inflammation in the blood vessels), an increased rate of depression (inflammation in the brain), and the list goes on and on with inflammation affecting each and every body system.

How MonaVie Products Support Joint Health

It’s important to understand that while MonaVie products can help to support and promote normal body processes involved in maintaining joint health, they are not intended to treat or reverse the course of diseases such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Our normal process of “turnover” helps to dismantle and recycle older cartilage and other connective tissues that have become damaged, worn out, or that simply need repairing. This turnover process is a continual breakdown/buildup cycle—where older tissue is replaced with newer tissue. When we're young (before the age of 30, or so), this turnover process is perfectly balanced. For every bit of cartilage that is damaged and removed, another similar (or slightly greater) bit is put in its place. This means that, under normal circumstances, we're always making our connective tissue (cartilage, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, etc.) stronger and more resilient. After about age 30, however, our turnover process becomes a bit less efficient year after year. This causes a very slight loss of healthy tissue—where we breakdown and remove a certain amount, but the amount of healthy tissue added back is just a little bit less than it should be. As we age, the turnover process becomes less and less efficient, and our body's ability to heal itself from injury is reduced. This normal imbalance in tissue turnover and inflammatory balance is the primary cause of the loss of flexibility that we all tend to encounter as we age.

The specific type of glucosamine found in MonaVie Active and MX is helpful not only for supplying healthy joint cartilage with its structural “building blocks,” but also for stimulating a cellular process called “autophagy” which directs the “clean up” of cellular debris. Autophagy can also be stimulated by regular physical activity, and is one of the body’s primary repair mechanisms, which is responsible for degrading damaged organelles, cell membranes, and proteins. Sub-optimal autophagy is thought to be one of the main reasons for the accumulation of cell damage and aging.

In addition to these glucosamine-derived benefits, are the general effects of antioxidant phytonutrients, including flavonoids and carotenoids, that help to protect joint structures from free radical damage and improve microcirculation (for optimal nutrient delivery and debris removal).

As indicated above, because the immune system helps to coordinate and regulate certain aspects of our connective tissue turnover process, the fact that MonaVie MX also provides Wellmune beta-glucan to support optimal immune function is yet another benefit throughout the body—including healthy joints.

Now, I hope that this information helps you understand that “joints” encompass a whole lot more than “just cartilage,” and when you think about maintaining joint health, you think about how MonaVie products, such as MonaVie MX, can support the health of the “whole joint” in the same ways that it supports the health of the whole body.

About the Author
Shawn Talbott is VP of Research & Product Development for MonaVie. He holds a MS in Exercise Science, a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry, and is the author of 10 books, including The Secret of Vigor (Hunter House, 2011), about natural approaches to restoring mental and physical energy levels. He regularly punishes his own joints by running ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons.

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