Cartilage loss (Part 1)

Osteoarthritis is all about loss of cartilage, subsequent inflammation and changes to bone and joint structure. The result is pain and loss of mobility. The ends of bones such as the femur are covered in tough, flexible articular cartilage. It may surprise that despite its tough appearance and texture it is actually 80% water which acts like a shock absorber.

Cartilage is a combination of living cells, the matrix they produce plus water. These specialised cells are called chondrocytes and their job is to secrete and maintain cartilage. They repair small amounts of damage as it occurs.

Osteoarthritis starts when chondrocyte cells die causing cartilage to breakdown.  While there are a number of things that can damage chondrocytes, in most cases these are a combination of free radical damage from insufficient antioxidants and biochemical changes caused by trauma to the joint. While the triggers vary, the outcome is chondrocyte death and cartilage loss.

This is then followed by unwanted inflammation in the joint capsule that further damages cartilage. Eventually the bone itself becomes compromised and the net result is more pain and restricted mobility.

Nutritional therapy can help, especially in reducing inflammation, slowing the rate of cartilage loss and improving the function of existing cartilage. For example, therapeutic levels (800+ mg) of chondroitin can have significant effects on the health of chondrocytes and therefore cartilage protection and repair. Glucosamine also helps maintain cartilage while Curcumin from turmeric helps reduce inflammation and fluid accumulation.

An ex-builder contacted me two years ago with significant knee pain from advanced osteoarthritis. An orthopaedic specialist had recommended knee replacement. Two years on a personalised joint health programme and he now has very little pain and no longer needs surgery.

John Arts (B.Soc.Sci, Dip Tch, Adv.Dip.Nut.Med) is a nutritional medicine practitioner and founder of Abundant Health Ltd. For questions or advice contact John on 0800 423559 or email  Join his all new newsletter at

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