Joint health is a key piece of your healthy aging puzzle, and in order to maintain comfort and flexibility, proper support is required for the cartilage that makes up a key part of the joint matrix.
As we age, our cartilage naturally deteriorates. As a result, it is common to experience soreness throughout your body after participating in even the most mundane of physical activities, so it is important to take the proper steps in order to maintain healthy cartilage.
Our joints are made up of several components including ligaments, tendons, menisci, and cartilage. While each of these are vastly important when it comes to overall joint health, we will focus on your questions that concern cartilage health, why it is important, and ways to support it.
1. What Is Cartilage?
Cartilage is defined as “a usually translucent somewhat elastic tissue that composes most of the skeleton of vertebrate embryos and except for a small number of structures (such as some joints, respiratory passages, and the external ear) is replaced by bone during ossification in the higher vertebrates.”
There are several types of cartilage in the human body. Each type plays a role in carrying out functions such as flexibility, the ability to resist pressure, and more.
This is the most abundant type of cartilage in your body and is primarily composed of type II collagen and proteoglycans. Hyaline cartilage is typically found in your joints, trachea, nose, sternum, and select rib segments. This particular type excels at resisting compression at sites of bone articulation. In other words, it works hard to support the area where your bones meet when a physical force presses inward on your bones.
Elastic cartilage is present in your ears, larynx, and epiglottis. It is resilient to pressure and responsible for providing flexibility in your cartilage.
You’ll find copious amounts of type I collagen in fibrocartilage. It contains proteoglycan, but not as much as hyaline cartilage. Fibrocartilage can resist high levels of compression and tension and is commonly found in your tendons, ligaments, and even menisci.
2. Why Is Cartilage Important?
Simply put, your cartilage is a crucial component of your joints. It is an important structural component in our bodies and serves as a connective tissue between bones. It helps us perform functions such as the ability to resist compressive forces, enhances bone resilience, and provides support to bony areas where there is a need for flexibility. Cartilage consists of fibrous tissue and several combinations of proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans. When injured, cartilage takes an extended period of time to heal because blood does not flow into cartilage itself. Also, cartilage does not contain nerves. This is why you do not feel pain or any sensation when your cartilage becomes damaged. Any sensation of pain is typically caused by damage in the surrounding structures such as the joint, bones, or other connective tissue.
As previously stated, joint health plays a key role in your healthy aging journey. Forgoing the proper support for your joints — especially your cartilage — could result in aches and pains after completing simple physical activity. When untreated, these aches and pains could lead to bigger issues such as osteoarthritis and spinal disc herniation.
3. How Do I Support My Cartilage Health?
There are several ways to nutritionally support your cartilage. Two of the most prominent ways are dietary supplements and food.
It is important to be diligent when it comes to supporting your cartilage. When we are young, we don’t often think about the wear and tear of daily aging. But as we get older, we begin to see and feel the effects on our joints and wish we could turn back time. So, whether you are feeling young, spry, and limber — or are hoping to increase joint comfort, flexibility, and mobility — you will want to give your cartilage daily support.
While reading the label of your supplements, keep an eye on products that contain a certain pair of patented and clinically studied ingredients. The first ingredient, Fortigel®, is a unique form of bioactive collagen peptides developed by scientists to stimulate the collagen cells within your joints to grow healthy cartilage. The second clinically studied ingredient, OptiMSM®, has earned a reputation for being one of the purest forms of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) on the market. This bioavailable form of sulfur promotes healthy connective tissue.
Both ingredients were carefully developed and tested to support your cartilage health. For instance, Fortigel® is clinically tested to significantly increase cartilage tissue metabolism. On the other hand, OptiMSM® is a carefully cultivated form of MSM built using a multi-stage distillation process.
Fortigel® has undergone multiple clinical studies in recent years. One study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, recruited 147 collegiate athletes who experienced activity-related joint pain. Mobility, inflammation, and joint pain in the athletes were evaluated during the 24-week study phase.
The study concluded with a breakthrough result as it was the “first clinical trial of 24-weeks duration to show improvement of joint pain in athletes who were treated with the dietary supplement collagen hydrolysate.”
The second clinical trial, a 2011 prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study, was performed at the Tufts Medical Center in cooperation with Harvard University. This particular study tested the “long term effect of Fortigel® treatment on the composition of hyaline cartilage in individuals with early knee osteoarthritis was investigated.”
The administrators used a specific type of magnetic resonance imaging to track structural changes in cartilage tissue in patients. 30 subjects received 10 grams of Fortigel® per day for 48 weeks. Along with the 10 grams of Fortigel®, each subject received an MRI at baseline, 24 weeks, and 48 weeks.
Similar to the previous study, this particular analysis concluded with landmark findings. The tests revealed a “statistically significant increase in proteoglycan density in the medial and lateral tibial regions of the Fortigel® treated subjects compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the oral supplementation of Fortigel® had a direct impact on cartilage tissue in humans.
Fortigel® has fared quite well in recent clinical studies and has gained the trust of the health community. And OptiMSM® has made a name for itself in recent years as well. While each ingredient supports cartilage in different ways, both have shown to support the comfort and flexibility in your joints.
Nutrients, a peer-reviewed open access journal of human nutrition, published a clinical review titled “Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement.” The 2017 review acknowledged the emergence of Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) for medical purposes. MSM has become a popular ingredient in dietary supplements, with anti-inflammatory being the most prominent point of concern.
The clinical review covered various medical purposes in which MSM has played a role in. While many use this ingredient as an anti-inflammatory, MSM is a highly absorbed ingredient by the human body as well. According to the review, “Pharmacokinetic studies indicate that MSM is rapidly absorbed in rats and humans.” It is important to note the significance of this claim because not all joint formulas include bioavailable ingredients. With this in mind, be sure to keep an eye out for supplements that contain Fortigel® and OptiMSM® because these two ingredients absorb into your system quickly through the walls of your intestines. From there, it gets distributed to into your collagen centers and connective tissue to support comfortable and flexible joints.
Although we’ve covered a pair of ingredients that have staked their claims as top options to support cartilage health, we cannot forget about the many types of foods to eat — and foods to avoid — to support your cartilage as well!
According to Healthline, you should avoid foods that are highly processed and contain unhealthy fats including trans fat and saturated fat. These foods could cause inflammation throughout your body. This is why it is important to consume foods rich in nutrients and healthy ingredients, especially when it comes to supporting your cartilage.
Here is a list of 12 superfoods to consume for cartilage and general joint health:
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
- Oily Fish
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Onion and Garlic
- Green Tea
- Cherry, Elderberry, and Raspberry
- Yogurt and Kefir
- Walnuts and Brazil Nuts
- Camu Camu
This list features various sources of healthy ways to support your cartilage. For instance, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and parsley contain antioxidants to help reduce the rate of cartilage breakdown. And dieticians recommend oily fish and avocado, thanks to the anti-inflammatory ingredients featured in both foods. Also, make sure to add grapefruit to your diet if you wish to strengthen your cartilage (but be sure to check with your doctor if you are on prescription medications, as some do interact poorly with grapefruit).
Joint health is a key component to healthy aging, and your joints are made up of various components including cartilage. This type of tissue covers the surface of the bone and helps reduce friction caused by movement in your joints. It is important to support your cartilage with plenty of nutrients and the right dietary supplements that contain clinically backed ingredients such as Fortigel® and OptiMSM®. After all, staying physically active is one of life’s greatest joys!