Osteoarthritis is the wearing down of joints, especially of the cartilage that lines the joints.
It’s also called degenerative joint disease or “wear-and-tear” arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is very common. Our joints are the Achilles heel of the musculoskeletal system; they are prone to wearing down and getting damaged given many of our joints move a lot, day in and day out.
Many people consider joint problems as a normal part of aging, but this should not be the case.
What accelerates osteoarthritis?
An unhealthy diet, lack of important micronutrients, not enough exercise, chronic low-grade inflammation and many other factors can substantially accelerate the wearing down of joints and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.
Conversely, proper nutrition, supplements and other lifestyle changes can significantly improve joint health, and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.
That’s why some people already suffer from joint problems in their 40s or 50s while other people in their 80s hardly have any problems with their joints.
What are the best ways to reduce your risk of osteoarthritis and to keep your joints as healthy for as long as possible?
We will first name a few ingredients that have not only been shown to improve joint health, but also slow down aging.
Glucosamine — in the correct form
Glucosamine is found in our tendons and cartilage. Many studies show that glucosamine can improve joint health (R,R,R,R,R).
Some doctors or “experts” claim that glucosamine does not help for joint health. However, they base their claims on old studies. Recently conducted and higher quality studies clearly show that glucosamine can improve joint health.
In these newer studies, the right form of glucosamine was used: high-quality, highly-absorbable, crystalline glucosamine sulfate, as opposed to low-quality versions or glucosamine hydrochloride which work less well.
It’s also important to take glucosamine sufficiently long (ideally for at least 3 months) to notice an effect.
Interestingly, glucosamine has also been shown to slow down aging and even extend lifespan (R,R).
Long-term glucosamine intake has been associated with reduced mortality in humans (R,R).
Learn more about the longevity benefits of glucosamine here.
We wrote more about glucosamine and joint health here.
Hyaluronic acid is a substance that occurs naturally in our bodies. It’s an important component of our skin and joints.
However, as we get older, the amount of hyaluronic acid decreases, contributing to joint problems (and wrinkles, too).
Studies show that hyaluronic acid can improve knee osteoarthritis (R,R,R).
A specific component of hyaluronic acid, acetyl-glucosamine, has shown to slow down aging and extend lifespan (R).
You can learn more about the anti-aging effects of hyaluronic acid here.
Glycine is a molecule that occurs naturally in our bodies. When we get older, levels of glycine decline.
Glycine is an important component of collagen. Cartilage is made up of collagen and other substances like glucosamine and hyaluronic acid.
Glycine is needed for collagen synthesis. Chondrocytes (cartilage cells) exposed to glycine produce more collagen (R). Supplementing with glycine could help prevent osteoarthritis and osteoporosis (R,R).
Glycine can also reduce inflammation, which plays a role in osteoarthritis (R,R).
Glycine has also been shown to slow down aging and extend lifespan (R,R,R).
Learn more about the longevity effects of glycine here.
Inflammation plays an important role in osteoarthritis. Smoldering low-grade inflammation in the joints accelerates the degeneration of the cartilage.
There are various natural substances that can reduce inflammation. One is fisetin.
Fisetin is a powerful substance to reduce inflammation (R,R,R). Also, fisetin can improve joint health by clearing away senescent cells (R).
Senescent cells arise everywhere in our bodies during aging. They are damaged cells that refuse to die and secrete substances that damage the surrounding cells.
Senescent cells in the joint secrete substances that break down the cartilage and that cause inflammation.
Senolytics like fisetin can kill off senescent cells, thereby reducing osteoarthritis.
Interestingly, fisetin has also shown to extend lifespan in mice (R).
Learn more about the longevity effects of fisetin here.
Alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) – the proper form
Alpha-ketoglutarate is a natural substance found everywhere in our bodies. Alpha-ketoglutarate plays an important role in collagen production and could therefore support healthy joints.
Studies also show that alpha-ketoglutarate could reduce the wearing down of cartilage (R), and support healthy and strong bones (R,R).
Alpha-ketoglutarate can also improve stem cell health, including stem cells that make bone and cartilage cells (R).
Most supplements contain plain alpha-ketoglutarate, but ideally calcium alpha-ketoglutarate is used. This form has shown in various studies to extend lifespan and healthspan (R,R,R).
You can learn more about the longevity effects of calcium alpha-ketoglutarate here.
Pterostilbene can reduce inflammation which plays a role in osteoarthritis (R,R,R).
For example, pterostilbene can inhibit inflammation and production of damaging free radicals in cartilage cells (R).
Just like glucosamine and hyaluronic acid, chondroitin is an important component of cartilage, and of the extracellular matrix, which is the glue that surrounds cells and supports them, including cartilage cells.
Studies have shown that chondroitin can improve joint health, especially when combined with glucosamine.
In fact, this combination seemed to work as well as celecoxib, a potent anti-inflammatory drug sometimes prescribed to treat osteoarthritis (R).
It’s important to use the sulfate form of chondroitin, i.e. chondroitin sulfate, and a high-quality form of glucosamine sulfate.
MSM is a naturally occurring substance found in some fruits and vegetables.
MSM can improve joint health, and reduce pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis (R,R).
This herb has been shown to reduce inflammation and ease pain in osteoarthritis patients (R,R,R).
The recommended duration of treatment is at least 4 weeks (R).
Collagen is an important building block for skin, tendons and cartilage. Studies have shown that collagen, taken orally, can improve osteoarthritis (R).
It’s important to take hydrolyzed collagen from a trusted brand.
Collagen can also reduce wrinkles. We explain more about collagen supplements here.
Curcumin is a substance found in the bright yellow spice turmeric. It has shown to reduce inflammation, which could mitigate osteoarthritis.
It’s important to take a form of curcumin that is well-absorbed. A bit of olive oil and black pepper can improve the uptake of curcumin manifold.
Ginger is a herb that reduces inflammation and could reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis (R).
Interestingly, ginger can also slow down specific aging mechanisms. Learn more here.
Vitamin K is needed for healthy bones and joints (R,R). It works synergistically with vitamin D.
Make sure to take around 200 to 350 ug (microgram) per day of vitamin K2.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. These fatty acids also play a role in bone and cartilage health (R,R).
NMN is a substance that is a precursor to NAD, an important molecule in each of our cells that repairs and maintains the DNA and epigenome, among many other things.
NMN could promote stem cells to form more bone and cartilage cells (R).
Given that NMN has been shown to mitigate many symptoms of aging (R,R,R,R), it may also improve or maintain joint health.
Various substances that slow down aging and extend lifespan can also be beneficial to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, or improve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Examples of these longevity substances are glucosamine, glycine, alpha-ketoglutaric acid, hyaluronic acid (containing acetyl-glucosamine), fisetin, and pterostilbene.
It’s important to not use one supplement for osteoarthritis, but to combine different supplements, because they work synergistically.
While some studies don’t show an effect on osteoarthritis by one specific substance (either because the dose is too low, the wrong form is used, or the study does not last long enough), the supplement does show an effect when it’s combined with other substances.
To optimally threat osteoarthritis, you need to take multiple substances, like ones that induce collagen synthesis (e.g. glycine and alpha ketoglutarate), reduce senescent cells (e.g. fisetin), reduce inflammation (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids and pterostilbene), improve bone health (e.g. vitamin K and alpha-ketoglutarate), build up the extracellular matrix and cartilage (e.g. hyaluronic acid and chondroitin), and more.
Which joint supplements are best to start?
One could start with taking glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate (often sold together), ideally also combined with MSM and hyaluronic acid.
On top of these, you can also take substances that reduce inflammation, like fisetin and omega-3 fatty acids.
However, the ultimate root cause of osteoarthritis is aging.
This means that if you get old enough, you will eventually get some degree of osteoarthritis.
Of course, if you for example eat unhealthy food or are deficient in various nutrients, you will get osteoarthritis much sooner.
Therefore, the best way to slow joint breakdown is by slowing down aging itself.
That’s why we created NOVOS Core, the first supplement addressing all known major causes of aging.