Ergothioneine may reduce pain and boost joint motion: Study

A nutritional supplement containing the antioxidant ergothioneine may reduce pain and increase the range of motion of joints, suggests results of a small study.

Six weeks of supplementation with the branded ErgoFlex supplement, produced by Oxis International, produced improvements in the range of motion by up to 70%, according to a study with 12 subjects published in Preventive Medicine.

“The data presented here suggest that EF consumption can reduce pain and increase functionality in people suffering from mild-to-moderate chronic pain that affects the joints,” wrote the researchers, led by Gitte Jensen from NIS Labs.

“It would be important to demonstrate the functional bioefficacy of the ergothioneine formula through larger clinical study in a number of clinical conditions of over inflammation.”

The study was funded by Oxis International and co-author Bernie Landes is the company’s president.

The science

Following the First International Congress on Ergothioneine at UCLA, Dr Bruce Ames, senior scientist at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, told NutraIngredients-USA that the science to support the benefits of ergothioneine is not quite there yet,“but that might be sorted out soon.

“Ergo is a very weak antioxidant compared to the other thiol compounds in the cell, which isn't necessarily a bad thing: specificity is the key,” he said.

“Snyder (Cell Death & Diff. 2009) suggests ergo may turn out to be a vitamin, as have others, as humans transport it into blood, where it is at high concentration, by a very specific transporter (Grundemann et al. PNAS 102, 5256, 2005).

“When a paper is published showing the biochemical mechanism of ergo action, and how that relates to disease, I think the case will be much stronger. Dr. Jung Suh, in my lab, has been working on that problem since the Grundemann paper and plans to publish soon.”

New data

The new study adds to the body of literature and suggests a role for ergothioneine for joint health.

Dr Jensen and her co-workers recruited 12 people with an average age of 54 and with mild-moderate complaints of chronic pain affecting range of motion in specific joints. The participants were assigned to receive the ErgoFlex supplement for six weeks, and then followed for a further six weeks.

The supplement provided 500 micrograms per day of ergothioneine in combination with glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, glucosaminoglycans, collagen, acai, cat's claw, and white willow bark.

Results showed that all of the subjects experienced improvements in the range of motion after six weeks of supplementation. Pain measures also improved, compared to levels at the start of the study.

“The joints most frequently reported as painful at study start were predominantly associated with the anatomical areas involved in poor postural work habits,” wrote Dr Jensen and her co-workers.

Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers said that the effects of the supplement are likely to be multi-faceted, and may include anti-inflammatory effects, as well as direct anti-nociceptive action.

Source: Preventive Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.02.001
“Improvement of joint range of motion (ROM) and reduction of chronic pain after consumption of an ergothioneine-containing nutritional supplement”
Authors: K.F. Benson, D.M. Ager, B. Landes, O.I. Aruoma, G.S. Jensen

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Comments (1)

Jason Theodosakis, M.D. - 02 May 2012 | 08:43

This is "junk science", folks, in my opinion

This is the kind of study that gives ammo to the critics of dietary supplements. No placebo group was reported and only 12 subjects were used. I'm astounded this was allowed entrance in a publication. This "study" tells us nothing, except that the authors might want to do some real research. If you flip a dime 12 times and it comes up "heads" 10 times, you certainly can't say that dimes are likely to be flipped to a "heads". Nonsense, folks.

02-May-2012 at 08:43 GMT

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