When I first wrote the book Living a Century or More, supplement marketing was challenged by arbitrary claims and results that varied dramatically between users. As effectiveness improved, the healthcare community slowly came around to endorse supplements. Today, with scientific understanding coming into focus around the role of fatty acids in reducing inflammation and joint pain, the industry has arrived at an important tipping point.
First, no pill alone can deliver on the promise of improved health. The three-part regimen that I prescribe my patients requires strict adherence to supplement intake, moderate exercise, and for most people, a dramatic change in diet.
Diet is where the scientific paradigms are shifting. Many people think it’s years of bodily abuse and gravity that break down cartilage and cause pain and swelling. But the most prevalent inflammatory influences come from food. Processed foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids, sugar, and other rapidly digestible carbohydrates directly cause chronic inflammation.
Inflammation can be a good thing. Little cuts turn red when healing through inflammation. A virus infection alerts the system to produce more antibodies and the subsequent inflammation curses the infection. But once inflammation goes chronic, pain takes over, especially in joints. The imperative is to stop eating processed foods and non-grass-fed livestock that inject omega-6 fatty acids into our bodies. Choose instead fruits, vegetables, free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught fish.
We are what we eat, and we are what our food eats. A grain-fed, farm-raised salmon isn’t much better than eating a fast-food burger. I grew up on a farm, and noticed that chickens have beaks that are meant to peck the ground for worms and grubs. That’s protein, not the carbohydrate-based chow that makes packaged chicken meat appear glazed and yellow in the supermarket.
Both omega-3s and omega-6s are essential fatty acids that we need in our food since we can’t produce them ourselves. Though some omega-6 is good, the modern diet often contains 20 times more omega-6 than omega 3. The optimal ratio is around three to five omega-6 molecules to one omega-3 molecule. This balance between the inflammation-causing omega-6s and the inflammation-inhibiting omega-3s provides for a healthy, but not chronic, level of inflammation that the body needs.
All omega-6s need to be scrutinized, as high glucose levels in blood for long periods tend to bond irreversibly with proteins. Cartilage becomes brittle. The orthopedic surgeon may recommend drugs or inject hyaluronic acid before a hip replacement. But neither patient nor surgeon usually react to the fact the patient is 30 pounds overweight and doesn’t exercise.
Here’s where the doctor should intervene in a patient’s lifestyle. Start a new diet with fresh, unprocessed foods. Insist on moderate, consistent exercise, which has been shown time and again to reduce inflammation. A brisk walk 30 minutes a day will do. Then, address chronic joint pain with natural anti-inflammatory agents found in dietary supplements.
Advancements in ingredient and processing science have come a long way. Fish oils have proven to be the best supplements to lubricate joints and, with virtually no side effects, can be taken for a lifetime. Since the cartilage is already damaged and cannot be replaced, consumers should plan to take fish oil supplements every day for the rest of their lives.
My research has shown that the most effective, wide-spectrum fish oils have been discovered in the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (GLM). A study performed at the University of Brussels on patients with chronic, severe back pain, who were resistant to conventional medical interventions, showed reliable improvements after taking GLM supplements for three months (Open Journal of Rheumatology, 2017).
I had heard about positive results in veterinary GLM applications, and that Maori tribes in New Zealand who lived on the coast with a daily GLM diet had far less incidence of arthritis and joint pain than their inland counterparts. The Dutch supplement maker Synofit, one of the few companies incorporating GLM, provided the product for the study. When I learned about the processing technique and ingredient formulation, I sensed there was something new here.
First, Synofit’s proprietary cold-press liquification process preserves the mussel’s nutritional integrity instead of the more common heat-based processing into powder. Medical uptake is improved, and the process retains the beneficial lipids (a variety of omega-3 fatty acids including the rare furan fatty acids, DTA, DHA, EPA, ETE, and ETA) and the natural tissues (proteins, glycosaminoglycans,
Curcumin is also incorporated into the formula. Pressed from the turmeric plant, curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory capabilities but is hard to absorb from the intestines into the blood stream. Synofit addresses this through a unique preparation that achieves 97% natural maximum absorption of curcuminoids biologically available in the blood.
The third workhorse in the Synofit formula is blackcurrant leaf extract. Traditionally used for rheumatism, this is another anti-inflammatory agent with diuretic (urine excretion) and uricosuric (urine acid excretion) activity that offers a blood purifying effect.
These processes result in a stable and highly bioavailable joint-support supplement. When considering these elements on a biological molecular level, they augment each other by delivering their effects at different points on the inflammation cascade.
This means that going from normal conditions to a state of inflammation is not a one-step process. It involves many different molecules, transitioning (or “cascading”) from one to the other, where each ingredient attacks the problem at different parts of the cascade, thus complementing their effectiveness. Think of it as if you were to take on the inflammation at a single point in the cascade. You would have maximum effect with one of the ingredients, but adding more ingredients at that same mechanical trigger point wouldn’t necessarily enhance the process, and could even cancel out the others.
In a sense, this supplement formula works on a timed-release of the right ingredient at the right time to deliver the optimum effects in fighting inflammation. With chronic inflammation, this process rolls into a continuum that reduces joint pain long-term, and slows down the degradation of cartilage. To me, this represents the state-of-the-art in how supplements should work.
There are more people age 50-plus than ever. Joint pain and arthritis are impacting their quality of life and shortening the lives of millions.
Blood thinners complicate matters, NSAIDs harm intestines, and opioids are killing more people than car accidents. Supplements need to be more effective than ever. A GLM-based omega-3 regimen to balance out the omega-6s that appear in our diets, combined with fresh, unprocessed food and moderate exercise, plays a now scientifically proven role in decreasing osteoarthritis, and increasing longevity.
These findings and practices are going to change the way consumers approach supplements, and guide the nutraceuticals industry in developing, testing, producing, marketing, positioning, and packaging products. New scientific understanding of ingredient formulations, nutrient ratios, processing techniques, cascading principles, bioavailability, and absorption behaviors should inform product development as our industry approaches a new performance paradigm.
Pain is now the “fifth vital sign,” and is so common in an aging society that we can no longer afford to mask the pain or just treat symptoms. We’re compelled to prevent joint pain with the best solutions science has to offer, and, most importantly, to keep moving if we want to beat the odds and live to be 100.
About the author: Best-selling author of the book, “Living a Century or More,” Dr. William Cortvriendt has developed a scientifically based longevity strategy that combines exercise, diet, and a state-of-the-art joint-support supplement regimen. His approach sets a new paradigm for potentially millions of consumers in realizing a goal previously attainable only through genetic luck: to live to be 100 years old.