Joints, the structure that connects two bones and allows movement of our skeleton, is a component that is gradually damaged and weakened due to physical activity training and aging. Articular cartilage is a delicate tissue that covers the surface of bones, creating a smooth, elastic structure additionally moistened with joint fluid. Cartilage is composed of 70% collagen and 25% glycosaminoglycans, which together form proteoglycans. Although there is three times as much collagen in cartilage, the glycosaminoglycans are more important for its proper functioning, as they are replaced completely once every few weeks and collagen only once every 300 days. Since the regeneration of cartilage is so slow, it is constantly necessary to ensure the supply of an adequate amount of substances that build up the cartilage and support its regeneration. Some of them can be supplied with food, but many require specific supplementation.
Taking care of the joint health, we should focus primarily on the glycosaminoglycans - glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, because they show the best regenerative and protective effects. However, we should not forget about sufficient intake of the basic building material of the joint cartilage - collagen. Interestingly, vitamin C also has a great impact on the joints because one of its main functions is to participate in the synthesis of collagen. So in case of deficiency, many tissues, not only cartilage ones, may be weakened.
Collagen is relatively easy to find in food because it can be found in all meat products, as well as fish. Its derivative is gelatin, which is made by shortening (hydrolyzing) long collagen fibers. The impact of collagen on the health of joints is still discussed. Due to the fact that it is a protein, like any other protein, it is broken down in the digestive tract to amino acids and only then absorbed. Amino acids resulting from this process are used for actual collagen synthesis.
It is because of the collagen synthesis, that MSM or organic sulfur, is often included in joint supplements. This element is crucial for the synthesis of sulfur amino acids, which are an important part of collagen structure.
In order for the collagen synthesis to proceed without any issues, it is worth remembering about appropriate vitamin C supply. Its extreme deficiency is rare (the famous scurvy), but people who avoid vegetables and fruit may suffer from its deficiency, which can result in worse condition of the joints.
Therefore, the basic of taking care of healthy joints should be providing adequate amounts of complete protein, which naturally contains a sufficient amount of sulfur-containing amino acids and is accompanied by collagen. Consuming vegetables or fruit at each meal, especially those rich in vitamin C (peppers, citrus fruit, parsley, currants) should also be your daily habit.
Although glycosaminoglycans occur naturally in tissues, they are usually elements that we rarely consume (some fish elements may be an exception), so it is best to supply them with supplements, and in the case of more serious problems you should visit the doctor, as it may provide a recommendation for injection of these substances. It is worth remembering that the intake of chondroitin, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid should always be combined because their synergistic actions improve the result of supplementation.
However, no supplements and food products will protect us from joint problems if we regularly damage them with poorly training technique and overload without enough time for regeneration. Therefore, we should take care of our joints, and in every worrying case, it is worth seeing a doctor.