Should I be taking a supplement to keep my joints healthy so I can maintain an active lifestyle?

I’ve been seeing this commercial for Joint Juice on TV, lately, and found myself actually wondering whether or not this particular dietary supplement is different than all the rest. I wondered, for just a moment, whether or not this one was for real because it was developed by an orthopedic surgeon. After a little research, I even found out that studies actually do show positive trends when patients that already have Osteoarthritis take the supplement (article one, two, and three). I actually got excited for a minute! This goes to show that it is all too easy to be sucked into an advertisement and suddenly find yourself wondering where reality just went, even if you define yourself as a skeptic. What exactly is Joint Juice, anyway? Let’s take a look at the commercial I’ve been seeing:

The commercial says that Joint Juice was originally developed by an Orthopedic Surgeon for professional athletes, but it is just as good for anyone who likes to keep moving. If I drink one per day it is supposed to help lubricate the joints in my body to help me maintain a pain-free and active lifestyle. I gathered up some information from the website’s Frequently Asked Questions section to take a closer look at the product. It should be noted that these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

Why should I use the product?

We tend to produce less glucosamine as we age. Therefore, supplementing with daily glucosamine has been shown to be effective in maintaining healthy joint cartilage.

How does the product work?

Together with glucosamine, chondroitin stimulates your body to produce glucosaminoglycans, which act as powerful water magnets. These “magnets” increase the water content of your joint cartilage keeping it healthy and lubricated while increasing its shock-absorbing potential. These effects aren’t just limited to cartilage – all the body’s tissues benefit from increased hydration.

What are the side effects?

All Joint Juice® products follow strict standards for purity and are guaranteed to meet all label claims for ingredients. In clinical studies, participants using glucosamine and chondroitin have not experienced any higher levels of adverse events than those taking a placebo.

What happens if I accidentally take too much?

All Joint Juice® products are very safe. For healthy people it is safe to take more than one Joint Juice® supplement drink, Joint Juice® Easy Shot™ supplement or Joint Juice® On-The-Go drink mix a day, or to use other joint health supplements in combination with Joint Juice® products.

Product Pricing

I can even buy the product directly from their website for $29.99 for 30 8-ounce bottles of regular strength Cran-Pomegranate Joint Juice. That means I would have to spend more than $30 a month to maintain this regime.

There are already a couple of episodes of Skeptoid that point the skeptical eye at immune boosting vitamin supplementssupplements that stave off the common cold  and how to spot pseudoscience. To sum it all up, taking any kind of daily vitamin supplement isn’t going to help me in any way. It isn’t going to get rid of a cold any faster, nor will it prevent me from contracting the cold to begin with. Yes, this means that vitamins also won’t help maintain my joints or even aid in the recovery of a joint injury.

I find myself thinking, “But, every time I take supplements, I feel so good. They HAVE to be working, right?”, but that way of thinking isn’t taking all of the other variables that determine whether or not I feel a certain way. Let’s take a look at this article from Quack watch to explore Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work. The article points out that There are at least seven reasons why people may erroneously conclude that an ineffective therapy works:

1. The disease may have run its natural course.

2. Many diseases are cyclical [and have “ups and downs” normally].

3. The placebo effect may be responsible.

4. People who hedge their bets credit the wrong thing.

5. The original diagnosis or prognosis may have been incorrect.

6. Temporary mood improvement can be confused with cure.

7. Psychological needs can distort what people perceive and do.

Of course, the original article goes into more detail, but this method of thinking can be applied here to determine whether or not other things could cause me to feel better a mere few weeks after I start my new Joint Juice regime.

I am no trained doctor, but I am fairly certain that many minor sports injuries such as a sprained ankle, runners knee, or tennis elbow will go away on their own within a week or two. If someone is already expecting a product to work, whether they heard so from a friend or read it in a magazine, they are primed to believe that it is the product that is causing their injury to heal when it would really have healed on its own, anyway. So, if I’m planning on drinking Joint Juice to aid in recovering from a minor sports injury I should, instead, use that $30 to purchase a nice heating pad (or ice pack) and an OTC pain reliever to help ease the symptoms until the issue resolves itself.

There are more than a few joint conditions that have symptoms that come and go in cycles. For example, people who suffer from arthritis will have a “flare-up” of symptoms that come and go with no apparent trigger. If I am planning to use Joint Juice to help ease or reduce a “flare-up” of symptoms associated with a cyclical condition, it is better for me to save my $30 (per month if I stay on the regime) as it will surely be better spent on something that will actually ease my pain, such as a corticosteroid, a prescription pain killer, massage treatment or pain management therapy.

Joint Juice is also supposed to help maintain healthy joints so that they can stay healthy, but there is not enough evidence to support that supplements actually do anything significant to maintain healthy bones and joints. According to the Arthritis Health Center at WebMD, the best thing I can do to maintain my joints is the same advice that is given to maintain health in a more general sense. I should maintain my weight, eat right and exercise regularly. I should also take care not to injure my joints by over doing it when I exercise, or not knowing my limits when moving heavy objects or playing sports. Those little bottles of flavored sugar water don’t look like they taste really good, anyway.

About Dani Johnson

I am 26 years old and I live in a college town with my boyfriend, our 2 dogs and chinchilla, 4 additional room mates and the house cat. Since I share financial responsibilities with my boyfriend I am waiting on him to finish college before I go back (he's almost done!). I will then focus my studies on Science Writing. I want to write particularly about Astrophysics, Cosmology and Planetary Science. Until then, I spend my free time listening to various podcasts about science and skepticism to inspire deeper research on potential writing topics. I also enjoy sewing, drawing, writing fiction, spending time with the boyfriend and pets, amateur astronomy and some girly things like nails, hair and makeup.
This entry was posted in Alternative Medicine, Education, Health, Pseudoscience. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Should I be taking a supplement to keep my joints healthy so I can maintain an active lifestyle?

  1. Pat Berry says:

    “To sum it all up, taking any kind of daily vitamin supplement isn’t going to help me in any way.”

    Huh? All vitamins are completely worthless? When was that determined, and by whom?

    • Jeremy says:

      Vitamin supplements are only useful if you aren’t getting enough of that vitamin in your daily diet. The vast majority of people don’t need to supplement anything. If your doctors doesn’t tell you to take it (like mine has with Vitamin D), you’re probably just flushing money down your toilet, because it’s all going to end up in your urine.

    • Jay Humphrey says:

      Hey Pat, the reason we ever put stock in supplementation in the first place is largely because of Lynas Pauling (very interesting story about this scientist). Sure, he only promoted mega-dosing on vitamin C as a supposed cure for the common cold, and as a cancer cure/preventative, but, as one thing leads to another, this is what opened the door for an industry to develop into a multi-billion (per yr) industry over the course of the last 40-odd years.

      Vitamin supplementation is not ‘all’ woo. However, if one has not been properly tested and diagnosed by a licensed physician (medical doctor) as being deficient in specific vitamin(s) – through blood tests etc. – and is ‘self-diagnosed’, then the chances they are wrong is about 99.99%.

      A common misconception, especially these days, is that if something is necessary for maintaining optimal health, then ‘the more the merrier’, which couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, it can be dangerous.

      The ‘average’ person eating a normal, varied/balanced diet is unlikely to be deficient, disregarding certain medical conditions of course. Lynas Pauling himself is a good example of why living by this belief is not very wise.

    • Moral Dolphin says:

      Thanx for the weasel phrase Pat;

      “Huh? All vitamins are completely worthless? When was that determined, and by whom?”

      Nobody said that.

      Test your skeptical skills if you are a Dunning devotee and see how many phallusies that one rated guys.

      Dani, you said something magnificent there. You are no doctor. I can assure you that the orthopedic specialist isnt using any cred as a scientist in his marketing development.

      Great article!

  2. Patrick Hardin says:

    No Pat, Vitamins are essential to life itsself. However,, barring certain medical conditions or malnutrition, a well balanced diet will give one all the vitamins one needs. Taking any kind of vitamin supplement isn’t going to help one in any way.

  3. Karolyn says:

    Arthritis runs rampant through my family. In my 50s and early 60s, I had a lot of problems with my knees; and then it was my hands. I take reasonably good care of myself, take as little artificial ingredients into my body as possible and do take a few vitamins and supplements. I am now 66, and have had little knee or hand pain over the past 4 years. Of course, my hands are a bit gnarled, and I get a little pain now and then in my knees and feet; however, I believe that just taking good care of myself and getting a reasonable amount of exercise is keeping me going. I had tried glucosamine-chondroitin and other supplements previously and found no improvement. On the other hand, I know people who swear by them. The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all medication or supplement for everyone, but they do work for some people.

    I also wanted to comment on the “placebo effect.” Is this not the mind in action? (something which some people who frequent this site do not believe in). “As ye think, so shall ye be.”

    • Jeremy says:

      It’s not really “the mind in action” in any way that’s meaningful. Mood and belief can change perceptions, but the placebo effect is always strongest when dealing with subjective things, and weakest when dealing with concrete physiological conditions. It can make you perceive less pain, but it can’t make you survive cancer. This shows that it is not a biological effect at all…it’s all psychology. It can potentially be useful for treating subjective symptoms, but I believe that’s unethical, because in the end, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-placebo-effect/

    • Moral Dolphin says:

      Karolyin, how is the wait for reincarnation going? Bet you are looking forward to the next life where you may get an education.

      No a placebo is a dummy acting as a control in a trial to see if something could be better than junk.

      Big Chemicals (Big Pharma, Big Supplements and Big Vitamins, all the same companies) would market the notion of placebos being a higher power against which ridiculous claims can be made.

      I am not any sort of shill for Big Chemicals but do realise their marketting division (the guys who dont like math) have a lot to answer for.

      This is the topic of many lectures from very credible thinkers netwide. Its also brought up frequently in real op ed (not the stuff journalists write).

      PS, sorry to hear you are crook again. This vacillating disease state must drive you mad.

      • gymgoki says:

        reincarnation?….did I miss something?

        • Moral Dolphin says:

          See my collation of Karolyn’s comments on incarnational hypochondria in Stephen’s influenza immunisation skeptoid blog.

          PS ..she suffers from a severe case of sinusoidalitis.

      • Karolyn says:

        Crook? You really think you’re funny, don’t you? I’m curious. Do you speak in such a demeaning and derogatory manner to people you meet face to face? Insecure people build themselves up by tearing others down.

        • Moral Dolphin says:

          Hi Karolyn, are you better or worse today? Hows the wait for a better place going?

          Which bit was demeaning? I’d like to save that for future comments.

          Crook = ill, sick, under the weather, preoccupied with physiological disposition, last at the breakfast table.

          • Karolyn says:

            I never said I was “crook,” nor did I say anything that would lead anyone to believe I was manifesting any of the terms you used to define it. I feel fine and dandy. I’m not waiting for anything, but I am living my life, with no fear of death, knowing that after death my spirit is free of this cumbersome body and can come back if it so wishes. On the other hand, are you ill? That could be a reason for your insulting posts. Does it make you feel better? I feel sorry for dolphins, gentle and kind animals, that you would demean their species by using that name for yourself.

  4. Guy McArthur says:

    Are vitamins worthless? I’d like to see an analysis of this study:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/health/daily-multivitamin-may-reduce-cancer-risk-clinical-trial-finds.html?_r=0

    I’m inclined to believe that the benefit found is due to the placebo effect, but even so I’ll take a daily multivitamin just in case ;-)

  5. Reg. says:

    It’s been my understanding that this is why we’ve been taking fish oil, or its more captivating, Krill Oil. I prefer lashings of BUTTER myself. If god wanted us to eat Krill Oil she’d have left us in the sea with the whales.

    Do I sense a reluctance to market whale meat for its tasty health giving properties?

    Anyway with advancing years poor blood circulation in the legs suggests that targeting the knees is merely a hopeful gesture.

    Thanks Dani, and it’s “patients who” not “patients that.” Sorry sorry sorry sorry.

  6. “Powerful water magnets?” I’m sold!

  7. Freke1 says:

    What works to keep the joints moving fluently please?

    • Reg. says:

      It’s called co-articulation of consonant and vowel. You put your left foot in you put your left foot out, you do the hokey pokey and you turn it all about….”

    • Moral Dolphin says:

      not glucosamine nor chondroitin..

      Freke, did you try and look it up before questioning? If you are injured or arthritic etc see a medico for a medical result.

    • gymgoki says:

      About the only home remedy that really works is loosing weight. Staying active as long as you can also will keep you out of the operating room (total knee replacement) for as long as possible. As a general rule smoking is always bad since it impairs your body’s ability to heal.

      As far as glucosamine and chondroitin go, the studies are inconsistent. Some of my orthopedic surgeon friends actually think its worth a try others think its bunk. The only thing that is clear is that they are as safe as placebo. So if you don’t mind shelling out some $$ for something that may or may not help you…..that’s up to each patient. So if it works for you…great! Just don’t ask me to recommend it.

      • Stephen Propatier says:

        Disclaimer: what I am going to say is not a supplement(pun intended) for medical advice and does not reflect the opinion of my practice partners or academic affiliations. It is an opinion based on current scientific knowledge.
        1. Remove my knowledge and training about anatomy and physiology, just use basic cynicism G&C is a fail. G&C has been around for 30+ years. If you could take a pill and reverse or restore joint structures it would cure arthritis for the world. Think about that. A safe(it probably is but see my old post http://skeptoid.com/blog/2012/11/14/glucosamine-may-be-hurting-more-than-your-wallet/) pill that would take away arthritis for the world. Cynically ask yourself would a pharm company patent it, and charge 300.00 a pill for it? The cynical answer is, of course. It has been done with fish oil.
        2.Some human studies have found pain benefit. Other studies have shown no benefit. As the research accumulated, expert review bodies have been cautious because, although positive reports outnumbered negative ones, the negative ones have been larger and better designed .NIH GAIT trial is a good example of a well structured study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20525840. In addition, whether glucosamine offers any advantages or safety over established drugs such as acetaminophen, traditional NSAIDS, or selective Cox-2 inhibitors has not been established.
        A pattern of effect that disappears with well structured randomized studies is consistent with NO EFFECT.
        3. Your “joints” are all very different structures anatomically and functionally. There are similarities, but a weight bearing joint is very different than lets say your shoulder. An all cure is essentially magical thinking because some joints contain little or no cartilage.
        4. Despite decades of use and belief in this supplement there has been no reversal or decline of degenerative arthritis complaints. Not on single case of restoration to a normal joint for anyone.

        Put it in a bottle sprinkle it on your cornflakes whatever marketing gimmick you want. Bottom line. Decades of poor research says it alleviates pain, good research says sugar pill is the same.
        My advice buy some sugar pills (unless you are diabetic) put it in an empty G&C bottle and save yourself some money. Often 30-40 dollars a month.

        • gymgoki says:

          Would you agree that they are as safe as placebo?

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            Well.. i did write a post about a study which represents a question of harm in a animal model. Truthfully you should not take it if you are on anticoagulants or have any form of liver failure. A diabetic should not be taking sugar pills for placebo either. Since there is no mechanism to report problems for supplements so it is not known. My impression probably benign.

          • gymgoki says:

            this is weird….I posted something at 1:14 pm. Its still in moderation. In I tell Stephen to “never mind” on the placebo question. I hope it makes it past the censors since I so want Stephens response. Its actually friendly and beign….

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            As an editor I can read your question but I cannot approve it. I will tell you that the best structured meta analysis was done by the AAOS(American Association of Orthopedic surgeons). It had very strong inclusion and exclusion criteria. The full recommendation document is available on their site. “Research guidelines treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee”, PDF pg 306 check it out. Very specific domain flaws/strengths for meta analysis and weighting. That is what is critical. I have not read the two you posted but I will take a look when I can. Bottom line the AAOS meta analysis is very compelling and shows strong evidence of no benefit. My opinion related to physician support. That is multi-factoral. Physicians are not immune from poorly structured research, bias, or lack of critical thinking. Hope that helps.

        • Karolyn says:

          Never have been a fan of GNC, always preferring smaller companies or herbal remedies from an herbalist.

  8. gymgoki says:

    Stephen,
    I just read your previous piece on Glucosamine so ignore my previous question.
    I wholly endorse your point of view. But explain to me how current reviews still endorse this stuff. Certainly they too can discern good studies from bad ones. A couple examples:

    Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2013 Oct;15(10):361. doi: 10.1007/s11926-013-0361-z.
    Chondroitin and glucosamine in the management of osteoarthritis: an update.
    Henrotin Y, Lambert C.
    Source
    Bone and Cartilage Research Unit, Institute of Pathology, Level 5, CHU Sart-Tilman, University of Liège, 4000, Liège, Belgium, yhenrotin@ulg.ac.be.

    Arthroscopy. 2009 Jan;25(1):86-94. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2008.07.020. Epub 2008 Sep 30.
    A review of evidence-based medicine for glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate use in knee osteoarthritis.
    Vangsness CT Jr, Spiker W, Erickson J.
    Source
    Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA. vangsness@usc.edu

    I am in no way being sarcastic. Is the belief so ingrained in the medical culture that we can’t shake it completely or could one see the literature and truly come to a completely different conclusion?

    • gymgoki says:

      Stephen,
      Thanks for the reply. The “safe as placebo” phrase was take from one of the articles (abstracts). I really thought the stuff was just inert…..I had no idea that it might have a down side.
      Thanks.
      Upon further reflection I have concluded that the physicians that “recommend” it may be just knuckling under to patient perception. It takes a shorter time to say “OK take it” than to try to talk people out of their beliefs. If someone thinks something works, its unlikely to convince them otherwise. When people ask me about their latest cockamamie practice….I say “If it works for you great! But the science doesn’t support it.” This usually leaves the person flummoxed and then they leave me alone.

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