Joint supplements are quickly becoming a mainstay of the industry. Products designed to improve flexibility, protect joints from damage, and reduce joint pain are taking up a larger and larger slice of supplement market share. Within a few years, we expect joint supplements to be as widely used as nootropics and prebiotics. Eventually, these products could easily overtake the sales figures of probiotics or multivitamins (especially with an ageing and increasingly active population).
But compared to things like gut health supplements or multivitamins, very little is actually known about joint supplements. Your average consumer has no idea how these stacks work, what the commonly used ingredients do, or what the risks are when using a joint health supplement on a regular basis.
Do joint supplements even work?
What are the risks?
Can you get the same benefits from food?
We will now take you through a brief overview of the most common joint supplement ingredients, explaining what they are supposed to do (according to manufacturers), and what the clinical data has to say on the matter.
If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section at the end.
Joint health supplement common ingredients
Let’s go through some of the ingredients you’re most likely to find in a joint health supplement today. In each case, we’ll explain what the manufacturers say the ingredient does, and then what the science has to say about it.
Turmeric is probably the number one most commonly used ingredient in joint supplements. You will find turmeric in all of the top selling joint supplements today. For example, if you read this review of Instaflex, you’ll see that turmeric is the main ingredient responsible for most of the supplement’s benefits.
Supplement manufacturers claim that turmeric helps ease joint pain, promotes recovery from injury, and increases flexibility. But what does the scientific evidence say? Does it work?
Yes! The clinical data is actually quite strong in support of the use of turmeric as a joint supplement. Multiple clinical studies have shown turmeric having a very positive and significant effect on joint pain. The reason it works so well is that turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory (reference). Inflammation is probably the most frequent cause of joint pain, whether it’s from a condition like arthritis or from constant impact damage. By reducing inflammation, turmeric helps ease joint pain and protect against the kind of wear and tear exacerbated by inflammation.
Since it is so safe, not to mention effective, turmeric makes for a superb natural joint supplement.
Does it work?: Yes. Very well.
After turmeric, glucosamine is probably the most popular ingredient among joint supplement manufacturers. We see glucosamine in about 80% of joint supplements these days. This is in part due to the growing interest in glucosamine among consumers.
According to glucosamine’s biggest proponents, this amino sugar can actually promote the maintenance and rebuilding of connective tissues. Some manufacturers even go as far as to say that glucosamine can promote the rebuilding of cartilage after it has been worn away to a significant degree. What does the scientific data say?
There is some truth to the claims often made about glucosamine, but we feel that a small number of manufacturers go too far. Glucosamine is a major constituent of structures important to your joints; it is needed to make cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and the synovial fluid that surrounds and protects your joints. Supplementing with glucosamine will promote the healthy formation and maintenance of these tissues (reference).
However, supplementing with glucosamine will not stimulate the complete regrowth of connective tissues that have been damaged or worn down to considerable degree. The human body is not very good at rebuilding things like cartilage.
If you want to help protect your joints and promote good joint health going forward, glucosamine is a great supplement. However, no supplement can really help you rebuild tissues that are practically gone already.
Does it work?: Yes, but not exactly as sometimes advertised.
Do joint supplements work?
The above two substances should illustrate the fact that joint supplements can have a meaningful effect on joint health, flexibility, and pain.
If they contain the right ingredients – those proven to work in clinical trials – then a high quality joint stack can make a huge difference to your physical performance and well-being.
However, that’s a big “if”.
These are the two most common ingredients in joint supplement. But few joint supplements contain optimal amounts of these ingredients to really have a significant effect. Many low quality joint stacks also use turmeric and glucosamine of questionable quality.
When choosing a joint supplement, make sure you look at the ingredients list carefully. Opt for a product that contains plenty of turmeric and glucosamine. Ideally, use a supplement that uses a high-curcumin turmeric extract and some highly bio-available glucosamine.