Time to Get a Move on Joint Health
by Nick Noloboff
It’s a dirty little secret of middle age. Nobody wants to admit they feel different than they used to, even though everyone does. Most of us expend a fair amount of effort convincing others we feel younger than we are. By age 60, few people are vain enough to care.
A sure sign of this process is the acknowledgement of body parts. For the ﬁrst time, you notice your back, only because it’s sore after a day of yard work. You discover your knees. They now ache after jogging the 5K you practically sprinted a few years back. Until recently, you didn’t even know your groin had muscles, much less that you could pull one! You get the picture. So, what to do?
Omega-3s & Joints
There’s a lot of evidence, both anecdotal and research based, that omega-3 fats are good for joints. You mention “omega-3s” and people immediately think cardio health. That’s not wrong, but it’s only part of the picture.
Omega-3s, which proliferate in cold-water ﬁsh, have unique properties that make them masters of managing inﬂammation—both inﬂammation after exercise and longer-term inﬂammatory states. In the cell membrane, omega fatty acids inﬂuence the activation of cytokines, tiny proteins responsible for cell-to-cell communication, including messages to increase or decrease inﬂammation.
Within joints, activity introduces friction, which causes gradual wear and tear, leading to greater resistance of movement and decreased mobility over time. Inﬂammation results as a protective mechanism, keeping the cluster of bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues insulated against further movement and potential harm. This process was somewhat straightforward, until a recent wild card: the Western diet.
The Western Diet
Since about the mid-20th century, changes in food manufacturing have introduced soaring amounts of omega-6 fats into the diet from things like soy, corn, cottonseed oils, grain-fed meats, and most processed foods. Without trying, most people eat about 15–20 times more omega-6 than omega-3, even though a relative balance between the two is best.
Modest amounts of omega-6 fats are good. But because they have the opposite effect as omega-3s (they promote inﬂammation) and because omega-6s compete with omega-3s for limited space in cell membranes, our bodies end up primed for inﬂammation without the means to resolve it. And so, you get longer-lasting inﬂammation and a third of Americans living with some sort of joint discomfort, due in part, to poor diet. Too much omega-6. Not enough omega-3.
One of the biggest names in the omega-3 industry, Joar Opheim, established Nordic Naturals on his own experience of joint health. A former gymnast from Norway, he was raised on omega-3 cod liver oil. When he moved to the United States, he lost access to these essential nutrients and quickly noticed how his daily omega-3 regimen had beneﬁtted recovery, mobility, and the overall health of his hard-working joints. Like many of us, he began to notice body parts he never paid attention to.
Science generally conﬁrms Joar’s experience. Numerous clinical studies document the beneﬁts of increased consumption of omega-3s. However, many of these studies consider higher doses than what’s found in a typical dose of ﬁsh oil. For joint health, 2,000–3,000 milligrams (2–3 grams) daily is not unusual. It’s worth considering products with highly concentrated amounts of EPA and DHA, the most beneﬁcial omega-3 fats.
It’s also important to ﬁnd ﬁsh oil products in the triglyceride molecular form. In short, triglyceride-form omegas are better absorbed by the body, so more of the omega-3s in that bottle of ﬁsh oil capsules you buy can actually make it where they should—your trillions of cell membranes. Only there can they beneﬁt the joints you’ll hopefully soon forget you even have.
Nick Noloboff is a marketing writer for Nordic Naturals and Adjunct Instructor in the Humanities at Flagler College. He has studied psychology, writing and the humanities for over twenty years and combines these interests to educate individuals on trends and new research that support natural health and wellness.