Most of us like to be beside the sea on a warm summer’s day and its health properties have been known for hundreds of years. In 1701 William Buchan advocated the practice of sea bathing for health benefits in his book “Domestic Medicine”; while in 1753 Dr Charles Russel published a paper entitled “The Uses of Sea Water” which recommended the use of sea water for healing various diseases. In modern times the sea is still known for its health giving properties, and bathing in seawater is sometimes recommended therapeutically for joint care.
The sea also contains a whole wealth of animal and plant life, which can have health benefits. Green lipped mussels (GLM), oily fish, kelp and seaweed, sea cucumbers and shark cartilage, to name a few, are all used for their health giving properties, yet few of us appear to know much about these products from the sea. In a survey among 2000 adults in the UK by the joint health brains behind Regenovex, 53.8% of the survey sample either did not know which ingredients from the sea could be helpful or thought that none of them was helpful.
Shark cartilage has been promoted for various health problems but there is no scientific treatment evidence. In some cultures, sea cucumbers, a small marine animal with the shape of a cucumber, are believed to have medicinal value as an aphrodisiac and for joint problems but again there is no scientific evidence for these beliefs. Kelp is useful for its iodine content while laverbread, (dried seaweed) is a local delicacy in Wales – and especially tasty incorporated into pancakes! However, kelp has little proven scientific benefit when it comes to joint discomfort.
Oily fish and fish oil are well-established sources of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with health benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system, as well as the joints. The UK government’s recommendation is to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily, yet few of us achieve this target in Britain, with the consequence that recommended intakes for omega-3 fatty acids are not achieved. In the new Regenovex® research poll, 63.2% of participants stated they did not eat the one piece of oily fish recommended once a week.
Whereas there is limited evidence for the positive effects of some of the animal and plant life from the sea, scientific data for green-lipped mussels (GLM) is extensive. These show that the GLM omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, the beneficial effects of green-lipped mussel are the subject of an increasing area of research.
Regenovex® Capsules is a relatively new product containing a uniquely derived GLM from the sea between the North and South islands of New Zealand. Regenovex® contains Bionovex Oil®, a natural marine oil extracted from GLM using a patented proprietary process. Regenovex® also contains hyaluronic acid (HA). The role of synovial fluid is to lubricate and cushion. HA is a key component of synovial fluid, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
SECTION 1: Joint stiffness – we all suffer
An independent consumer poll commissioned by Regenovex of 2000 adults aged 35-70 found that joint stiffness is very common.
When asked whether respondents experienced joint stiffness first thing in the morning, a staggering 88 per cent of the sample said they suffered from stiffness.
Morning stiffness is more common in women with 23.6% saying it takes them several minutes to get going compared with 18.0% of men. First thing in the morning was the most common time of day for joint stiffness for 38.7% of these participants with men and women almost equally finding this is the worst time of day.
Joint discomfort. What parts of our body are affected more?
The neck, shoulders and knees were the most commonly affected joints for 40.4%, 39.7% and 39.9% respectively of the survey sample. Women are particularly affected by knee pain – 43.7% compared with 35.8% of men. People in Northern Ireland (46.3%) and the South East of England (45.8%) seem to be more affected by joint movement issues first thing in the morning after gardening and sport than people in other parts of the UK.
Joint woes versus hobby habits
In this same research poll, there was some evidence of joint discomfort after physical activity such as gardening or housework increasing with age.
Almost half (43.0%) of respondents said they experienced more discomfort and stiffness in these circumstances than they had a year ago.
A majority of the participants thought that joint stiffness is inevitable as we age.
Almost one fifth (19.6%) said there is nothing you can do about it.
One in six (15.9%) said there is nothing you can do about it if it runs in the family.
Just half (50.5%) of the total respondents thought the risk of these problems can be reduced by the right diet and lifestyle.
An erroneous belief there is nothing you can do for joint problems
The belief that there is nothing you can do to maintain healthy joints was confirmed in further responses to survey questions.
One fifth either sees no point in trying or do not have the time. This applied to 24.0% of men and 14.0% of women in the survey.
Few participants take supplements; 7.5% take a calcium supplement, which is of most benefit to the bones rather than the joints, 16.3% take a multivitamin, which is of benefit in terms of topping up the micronutrient levels in a poor diet, 16.3% take an omega-3/fish oil supplement and 7.1% take glucosamine.
Clearly more education is also needed on green-lipped mussel and hyaluronic acid as few survey respondents were aware of their unique benefits for joint health.
SECTION 2: Poor awareness of the health benefits of the sea
Intriguingly, despite being island people, the British do not appear to be fully attuned to the benefits of the sea and its potential health powers.
Almost half of the research sample (46.3%) cited that they try to stay active and 19.2% take exercise. When it comes to swimming, a non-weight bearing activity well known to help maintain the health of the joints, opinion varied on the healthiest place to swim, such as a fresh water lake (11.5%) or a chlorinated pool (17.2%).
Only 16.3% quoted the sea as the healthiest place to swim.
Although the health giving properties of the sea have been known and recommended for centuries, not all participants in this new research poll by Regenovex® seemed to appreciate this.
In terms of their muscles, 40.7% thought there was no difference between swimming in a pool or the sea with 33.7% saying that a swim in the sea did make their muscles feel better.
When it comes to mood and emotions, a sea swim was more highly rated with 40.0% saying that the sea made them feel better than a swim in the pool.
Sea health ignorance
There was a considerable lack of knowledge about the health remedies derived from the sea. Although more than half (55.8%) thought that seawater is a natural antiseptic, only 23.6% were aware that some shellfish are of benefit for maintaining joint health.
Just 23.9% of participants were aware of the potential plant remedies from the sea, and only 14.7% had heard of seaweed wraps for improved blood flow.
Almost a fifth (19.6%) either knew nothing about remedies from the sea or did not think that the sea and swimming in the sea had anything particular to offer in terms of their health.
When asked a specific question about which marine plants and animals could be beneficial for joint health, again there seemed to be considerable ignorance. Only 12.4% rated green-lipped mussel, likely because they had not heard of it. Seaweed was rated by slightly more people (16.4%) and sea vegetables, such as kelp by 12.9%. The majority (53.8%) of the survey sample either did not know which ingredients from the sea could be helpful or thought that none of them was helpful.
A similar lack of knowledge emerged for potential benefits of specific ingredients from the sea for overall health.
As for joint health, there was more awareness around seaweed (21.8%) and kelp (11.3%) than green-lipped mussels (7.8%). Almost 40% (39.0%) either did not know or did not rate anything about the sea or its ingredients as being particularly helpful for human health.
But poor awareness could be part of the explanation. For example more than eight in ten of the survey sample did not know how mussels are created and almost nine in ten had not heard of things like dulse, hijiki, arame and kombu.
SECTION 3: Brits shun fish
Britain is not a nation of fish eaters. Despite recommendations to eat more fish going back over 30 years in the UK, 12.1% in this survey said they never eat fish and almost half (49.3%) eat it only occasionally. Oily fish is particularly unpopular. Although government recommendations are to eat one portion a week for its omega 3 content, only 36.8% stated they eat oily fish once a week. Fewer men (34.6%) achieve the recommendation than women (38.9%).
Many of us simply don’t like the look of whole fish. If served a whole fish with its head still on, almost a third (29.8%) said they would ask the waiter to remove the head and take the fish off the bone while 16.9% said it would put them off their food. People in the Midlands (around 21%) seemed to be particularly put off their food by being served fish with its head in place.
Seafood is not universally popular either. Among the 2000 participants, 14.3% said they disliked all seafood, 31.2% said they disliked mussels and 38.3% said they disliked oysters. Only a quarter of participants said they liked all seafood.
A significant number of us have not tried seafood. For example, 31.3% of participants had never tried mussels, 45.4% had not tried sea vegetables such as kelp and 15.0% had not even tried salmon. Just one in ten had tried a range of seafood. When asked why they had not tried these foods, 46.8% said simply that they thought they would not like it while 29.1% said they had not seen these things in the supermarket.
SECTION 4: Stiff joints impact on our hobbies
Joint problems can often start early in life. A common perception is that stiff joints appear around the sixth decade of life, but more than a quarter of people in this new research poll stated they had started to experience joint problems in their 30s (28.7%) and 28.6% first getting problems in their 40s.
Joint early ageing issues
More than one in six (16.1%) highlighted that they had developed joint problems in their twenties.
The knee is the most common anatomical site for joint discomfort; almost half (48.2%) highlighted knee pain with pain in the shoulder coming a close second (43.9%).
Almost 6 in 10 (58.1%) of people in the South East of England said that knees were the most troublesome for them compared with just under half of the population in other regions identifying this particular joint.
Knees, shoulders and hips were the three joints that caused participants the most trouble. Hips were less problematic for men than women (20.9% vs. 27.8%).
Joint discomfort has a considerable impact on people’s ability and desire to continue with favorite sporting hobbies, which is quite serious given the health benefits of activity throughout life.
A total of 23.8% had been forced to give up some hobby sport or activity from as young as their thirties and forties; 26.1% had been forced to give up football or rugby and 10.8% had been forced to give up rambling or walking.
Sadly, not everyone replaces these activities with new ones. While 25.6% took up walking and 18.9% took up swimming, almost 30% (28.8%) took up no new activity to replace the one they had been forced to stop.
Men were less inclined to take up a replacement activity than women with 31.6% of men and 25.3% of women failing to take up a new activity.
Given the benefit of hobby activity for joint health, it is important to minimize discomfort so that activity can be maintained. However, more than one in five people in this new research poll thought that activity could make joint discomfort worse, although the benefits of gentle activity were acknowledged by 65%.
Men appear to believe in the benefits of activity for joint pain to a lesser extent than women. A quarter of men thought that exercise could make a joint problem worse while this belief was held by one in six women
Wear and tear ignorance
Although people are all too aware of joint discomfort, they seem to know little about the physiology of the joints
, or how they work.
The risks of being overweight and of family history on joint health were understood by more women (80.4% and 40.9% respectively) than men (71.4% and 29.2% respectively). It is estimated that every pound of extra weight puts another three pounds of pressure onto hip and knee joints and as a result, studies suggest excess weight can increase the risk of knee pain by more than 50%.
Experts have also reported a rise in knee replacements among younger patients as obesity has increased. As obesity is still set to increase in the UK, the incidence of joint problems is very likely to increase.
A massive 70.8% of survey participants did not know that there are different types of cartilage for different functions, 93.9% had no idea how much of the joint cartilage is water and more than half (57.9%) did not know that the proportion of water in the joint cartilage decreases with age, with the resultant need for additional joint lubrication as the years go by.
Poor knowledge of joint physiology
While it may be not so surprising that people seem to know little about the physiology of the joint and the lubricant role of hyaluronic acid, the lack of knowledge around the sheer prevalence of joint problems is more surprising.
While 57.0% knew someone in their family and 42.6% knew a friend or someone at work with joint problems, almost one in five (19.4%) had no idea how many people over the age of 65 years suffer from joint problems and more than one in four (25.5%) had no knowledge of the numbers of people over the age of 25 who suffer.
The fact is that in the UK, about 10 million people suffer from osteoarthritis and many more have undiagnosed stiff joints.
The prevalence of osteoarthritis increases with age and is greater in women than in men. About 20% of adults aged 45-64 years and 35% of women aged 75 years or over have osteoarthritis pain in the knee while about 25% of adults over 50 report disability from severe knee pain.
Hyaluronic acid – an unknown joint health hero
Hyaluronic acid, which is a key constituent of cartilage and a crucial lubricant for maintaining the biochemical properties of the joint cartilage, reduces in both quality and quantity as we age (see Figure 1).
Yet a massive 78.4% of people in this new research poll were not aware of this crucial substance for joint health.
In the East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside, knowledge of hyaluronic acid was particularly poor with 84.9% and 83.5% respectively saying they had not heard of this substance.
Figure 1: The graph shows that people from the age of 40 produce less HA in their joints. Regenovex Capsules are designed to maintain joint health and contain 12.5mg of HA.