Amino acids and their significance for arthritis and osteoporosis
Nutritional supplements can help with arthritis
Prof. Dr. Klaus Miehlke († 2009) was classed as the leading expert on bone diseases in Germany. In his well-cited publication of 2002 he wrote, “Despite the fact that bone diseases have been on the increase for decades, scientific research has been able to provide few innovations, as attention has been focused more on combatting typical symptoms. The naturopathic perspective on joint illnesses as a part phenomenon of a modified basic regulation and matrix degeneration can lead to significant advantages for those who later become patients as well as for the community. This is because dietary measures taken in compliance with the newest findings from the matrix research can stabilize joint functions over the long term and prevent the abnormal production of cartilage/matrix components. The medical recommendation regarding the intake of dietary supplements can certainly be justified owing to pre-existing preclinical and clinical investigations as well as practitioner’s personal experience with them.”1
Professor Miehlke summarises by stating that in cases of joint or cartilage diseases, it is imperative that the human body receives the cartilage-forming substances in sufficient quantities. A healthy diet alone cannot provide this which is why scientists recommend taking nutritional supplements containing cartilage-forming substances.
Methionine is an important cartilage-forming substance
The amino acid methionine is among the cartilage-forming substances. Methionine is an essential amino acid, meaning it cannot be produced by the body and must therefore be consumed in the diet.
Methionine is known as an important organic sulphur donor
Joint cartilage principally requires one thing for its creation: sulphur. If there is not enough sulphur available in the body, healthy individuals will not be negatively affected over the long term. This is however not the case for those who suffer from arthritis, for a sulphur deficiency can cause major complications, even in the initial stages of arthritis.
Tests have proven that the cartilage in healthy individuals contains around three times more sulphur than in patients who suffer from arthritis. Consequently, sufferers are advised to boost the body’s own sulphur production through the supplementary administration of methionine. A further problem is that many medications form sulphate which is the salt in sulphuric acid. This is why the demand for sulphur is particularly high in sufferers of arthritis.2
However, it is not a simple task to take ‘sulphur’ as a dietary supplement. The amino acid methionine is far more suited to this purpose, as it can be used to create almost every sulphurous compound, especially in combination with the B vitamins.
Methionine is therefore of particular importance in three areas because it:
- contains anti-inflammatory properties
- has a pain-relieving effect and
- stimulates the cartilage cells to create more cartilaginous tissue.
Many tests have shown that methionine has this effect on arthritis patients and that it furthermore does so without causing any side-effects.3
Arginine supports the creation of bone
Osteoporosis belongs to the classic age-related illnesses which mainly women often suffer from. This bone atrophy disease decreases the bone density by accelerating degradation of the bone substance. Sufferers have a significantly higher risk of breaking bones, which then affects the entire skeleton.
The amino acid arginine is a crucial factor for bone creation as among other things, it supports the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein which is the basic component of various connective tissues (such as cartilage) and bone. In this way, arginine supports growth of the osteoblasts where bone mass is formed.4
An arginine deficiency can be the cause of osteoporosis, especially in the case of older women, as proven in a study from 20025. An Italian study from 20036 showed that arginine in combination with other amino acids supported the growth of osteoblasts and also encouraged division. Experts therefore recommend that the administration of amino acids belong to all osteoporosis treatments, particularly as arginine works against bone destroying cells.7
Vitamins and minerals are also important
Besides amino acids, specific vitamins and minerals are also important for the joints. Vitamin C is involved in the endogenous synthesis of cortisol. Cortisol prevents inflammatory processes in the joints and plays a significant role in the regeneration of cartilage substance.8
Vitamin B6 and magnesium are important joint nutrients as they provide effective protection against free radicals. Free radicals are aggressive connectors which exist in many metabolistic processes in the body. They attack joint cartilage and can therefore even speed up the breakdown process. This negative influence of free radicals can be reduced by other radical scavengers such as vitamin c, selenium or zinc.
The mineral calcium is a key building material for all bones. High-end suppliers of calcium are milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt. Although it is rare to have a calcium deficiency, it is nevertheless important that the calcium obtained from the diet is put to optimal use. Vitamin D is necessary for this purpose and in this case, the risk of deficiency is much higher.
Vitamin D is important for the utilization of calcium
During the summer, daily exposure of just half an hour covers the demand for vitamin D. The sun’s rays and UV light are able to activate precursors of vitamin D, i.e. the so-called pro vitamin D3. It is very important that the face and arms are not covered by clothes and that sun cream has not been used on the skin. However, in the winter the sun is not powerful enough to produce sufficient vitamin D, even in combination with the nutrition obtained in the diet.
It is therefore advisable to take vitamin D in tablet or capsule form as a nutritional supplement. It was initially suggested that 5-10 µg per day was a sufficient daily dosage amount, but now it is assumed that in fact 15-20 µg per day is necessary for the human body. This is particularly important for older or dependent people, as the skin in these individuals can only produce pro vitamin D3 in small amounts.
In addition, these people generally find it more difficult to process calcium in the kidneys and liver, which is why they have a particularly high demand for vitamin D. This was proven in a study from 2006 where participants were administered vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) over a period of three years. The results showed that the possibility of a fall had decreased by up to 65 percent.9
1Miehlke, K. & Inderst, R. (2002) Osteoarthrosen - Welche Möglichkeiten bietet die Ernährung zur Gesunderhaltung der Knorpel/Knochenmatrix?, Erfahrungsheilkunde, Volume 12, (pp. 838-844)
2Soeken, K.L., Lee, W.L., Bausell, R.B., Agelli, M. & Berman, B.M. (2002) Safety and efficacy of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) for osteoarthritis, Journal of Family Practice, Volume 51, (pp. 425-430)
3Ursini, F. & Pipicelli, G. (2009) Nutritional Supplementation for Osteoarthritis, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Volume 15, issue 4, (pp. 173-177)
4Williams, J.Z., Abumrad, N. & Barbul, A. (2002) Effect of a Specialized Amino Acid Mixture on Human Collagen Deposition, Annals of Surgery, Volume 236, issue 3, (pp. 369–375)
5Ammann, P., Laib, A., Bonjour, J.-P., Meyer, J. M., Rüegsegger, P. & Rizzoli, R. (2002) Dietary essential aminoacid supplements increase the bone strength by influencing bone mass & bone microarchitecture in an isocaloric low-protein diet, Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Volume 17, issue 7, (pp.1264-1272)
6Torricelli, P., Fini, M., Giavaresi, G., Giardino, R. (2003) Human Osteopenic Bone-Derived Osteoblasts: Essential Amino Acids Treatment Effects Artificial Cells, Blood Substitutes and Biotechnology, Volume 31, issue 1, (pp. 35-46)
7Visser, J.J. & Hoekman, K. (1994) Arginine supplementation in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, Med Hypotheses, Volume 43, (pp. 339-342)
8Kodama, M., Kodama, T., Murakami, M. & Kodama, M. (1994) Vitamin C infusion treatment enhances cortisol production of the adrenal via the pituitary ACTHroute, In vivo, Volume 8, (pp. 1079–1085)
9Bischoff-Ferrari, H.A., Orav, E.J. & Dawson-Hughes, B. (2006) Effect of Cholecalciferol Plus Calcium on Falling in Ambulatory Older Men and Women -A 3-Year Randomized Controlled Trial Arch, Intern Med., Volume 166, (pp. 424-430)