Red seaweed extract may cut NSAIDs need for arthritis sufferers

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug

A natural, multi-mineral ingredient derived from the red seaweed Lithothamnion Corallioides may allow osteoarthritis sufferers to reduce their use of NSAIDs by 50 per cent, say the results of a new pilot study.

Daily doses of Marigot’s Aquamin ingredient allowed patients with osteoarthritis of the knee to partially withdraw their use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), while also producing improvements in the range of motion of the knee, and during walking exercises.

The study, published in the open access Nutrition Journal​ and funded by Irish company Marigot, builds on previous studies indicating benefits for bone health.

“Aquamin cannot entirely replace NSAIDs […] for osteoarthritis,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Joy Frestedt from Frestedt Incorporated in Minnesota. “However, Aquamin may allow for a reduced need for NSAIDs which may have substantial health benefits including a reduction in many of the adverse and well documented side effects of NSAIDS.”

Some NSAIDs, which are among the most frequently prescribed medications worldwide, have been linked with gastrointestinal toxicity, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

“NSAIDs are a daily necessity for many osteoarthritis sufferers to control pain and allow them to carry out their everyday activities,”​ said David O’Leary, commercial manager at Marigot. “These preliminary results are another feather in the cap for Aquamin, which has been the subject of a number of positive recent studies in the area of joint health and inflammation.”

Approximately seven million people in the UK alone are reported to have long-term health problems associated with arthritis. Around 206 million working days were lost in the UK in 1999-2000, equal to £18 billion (€26 billion) of lost productivity.

Study details

Frestedt and her co-workers recruited 22 people with an average age of 62.7 and moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either the red seaweed extract (Aquamin, 2400 mg/d) or placebo for up to 12 weeks.

After two weeks the use of NSAID was reduced to 50 per cent at two weeks and eliminated completely at four weeks.

Fourteen volunteers completed the study, and no significant changes were observed in scored on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) pain, function and stiffness subscales.

However, after one month of supplementation with the red seaweed extract people in the Aquamin group demonstrated a higher range of motion for the knee.

Furthermore, in the six minute walking test, the Aquamin group demonstrated an improvement of 45.7 metres (150 feet), compared to only 3.8 metres (12.5 feet).

“These results indicate Aquamin has the potential to help manage osteoarthritis symptoms when NSAID use is reduced to 50 per cent,”​ wrote the researchers.

6 MWD (150 ± 48 ft vs. 12.5 ± 31.5 ft; difference, 136 ± 57 ft, p = 0.03) in the Aquamin group compared to the placebo group; respectively, following a 50% reduction in NSAID use. The treatments were well tolerated and the adverse event profiles were not significantly different between the groups.

Conclusion: This small preliminary study suggests Aquamin may increase range of motion and walking distances in subjects with OA of the knee and may allow partial withdrawal of NSAIDs over 12 weeks of treatment. Additional research is needed to confirm these preliminary observations

Active ingredients

“Aquamin is composed of multiple minerals and the 'active ingredient' for the complex is difficult to determine,”​ wrote Frestedt in the Nutrition Journal​. “A number of the minerals in Aquamin may have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which might directly and/or indirectly influence the efficacy of this unique complex.”

Calcium is reportedly the main mineral present, and at the dose used in this study the red seaweed extract would provide 80 per cent the US RDA. Important concentrations of magnesium, manganese, and selenium were also quoted by the researchers as potentially playing an active role.

Specifically, the extract contains 74 trace minerals. The red seaweed is harvested off the coast of Ireland and Iceland.

Source: Nutrition Journal​ 2009, 8:7 “A natural seaweed derived mineral supplement (Aquamin F) for knee osteoarthritis: A randomised, placebo controlled pilot study”​ Authors: J.L. Frestedt, M.A. Kuskowski, J.L. Zenk

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