How amino acids can help treat osteoarthritis
One of the most common and highly utilised amino acids is L-arginine. A conditionally non-essential amino acid, the body has the ability to synthesise L-arginine. However, there can be periods when the body is exposed to strain and this amino acid is needed in higher quantities. Diet therefore plays an important role in maintaining optimal levels of l-arginine.
Used in an array of metabolic pathways, l-arginine is needed to support circulation, hormone secretion, endothelial function, insulin sensitivity, among other processes. One of the key roles of l-arginine is in the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO). This compound is essential for vascular dilation and the regulation of healthy blood flow throughout the body.
The immune boosting effects of l-arginine combined with the production of nitric oxide may help to reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. New research shows that nitric oxide may have a protective role in the joint, mediating inflammatory responses and stimulating collagen production1. Foods high in l-arginine include seafood, chickpeas, pork, chicken, beef, and dairy products. Supplements containing l-arginine can also be beneficial.
Cartilage tissue development can be promoted by the sulphur containing amino acid l-methionine. The principal building blocks of cartilage are glycosaminoglycans. These are joined together by disulphide bonds to form chains. It’s these bonds that help to build cartilage integrity and strength in all joints. Consequently sulphur is very important for supporting and maintaining cartilage health and the joints rely partly on l-methionine for this supply.
Part of the SAMe (S-Adenosyl methionine) cycle, l-methionine has been shown in a number of clinical trials to help reduce joint inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis. There is also some evidence that SAMe supplementation may promote cartilage repair.
Short-term studies (4 to 12 weeks) have found that SAMe supplements are equally as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as celecoxib, naproxen, and ibuprofen in adults with spine, hip, or knee osteoarthritis2,3. Supplementation with SAMe improved motion range, minimised pain, lessening morning stiffness, reduced swelling, and increased walking pace. No adverse side effects were noted.
L-methionine is an essential amino acid and must be sourced from diet. Most protein rich foods contain this amino acid. However, it is a fairly soluble compound and raw/fresh foods shouldn’t be over processed to avoid reducing l-methionine availability.
One of the best sources of this amino acid is Brazil nuts, followed by salmon, soya beans, beef, chicken, sesame seeds, and green vegetables. Supplements containing this amino acid are also available. It’s recommended to take this amino acid in conjunction with vitamin B12 and folic acid to improve l-methionine metabolism.
Plasma amino acid concentrations, genetics and arthritis
Several studies have identified variations in plasma amino acid profiles between patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis compared with healthy individuals. In one study, researchers investigated 28 plasma amino acids and found that rheumatoid arthritis patients showed statistically significant differences in 19 amino acid profiles compared with healthy individuals4. Of these amino acids, 18 were in significantly lower concentrations in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Another study found a correlation between high concentrations of excitatory amino acids aspartate and glutamate in the synovial fluid and active arthritis5. Researchers concluded that high levels of glutamate within the synovial fluid may promote the pathogenesis of arthritic conditions in humans.
Some research indicates a genetic predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis characterised by five specific amino acid positions located in peptide-binding groves6. However, more research is necessary before conclusive genetic screening may be a possibility.
Purchasing amino acid products for joints
Osteroarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms of joint aliments are influenced by amino acids. Some amino acids such as l-arginine and l- methionine (among others) may help to combat the negative symptoms of these diseases. However, there is also evidence that excessive availability of some amino acids and a genetic predisposition may also contribute to arthritic conditions.
Maintaining a healthy active lifestyle and balanced diet enriched with raw, fresh, and unprocessed foods will help to reduce arthritic symptoms. Supplements containing amino acids that support good joint health can also be beneficial.
- Abramson, S. (2008). Nitric oxide in inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Research Therapy, Volume 10, Issue 2
- Najm W., et.al. (2004). S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus celecoxib for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms: a double-blind cross-over trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord, Volume26, Issue 5
- Kim, J. et al. (2009). Comparative clinical trial of S-adenosylmethionine versus nabumetone for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis; an 8-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, Phase IV study in Korean patients. Clinical Therapy. Volume 31, Issue 12, (pp. 2860-72).
- Partsch, G. et.al. (1978). Plasma amino acid level in rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and its variation during age. Z Rheumatol. Volume 37, Issues 3-4. (pp 105-11).
- McNearney, T. et.al. (2000). Excitatory amino acid profiles of synovial fluid from patients with arthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology. Volume 37, Issue 3, (pp. 739-45).
- Raychaudhuri, S. et.al. (2012). Five amino acids in three HLA proteins explain most of the association between MHC and seropositive rheumatoid arthritis. Nature Genetics. Volume 44, Issue 3, (pp. 291-6).