Seaweed extract shows joint health promise

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Clinical trial

An extract from brown seaweed may reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis by up to 52 per cent, suggests results from phase I and II clinical trials from Australia.

Improvements in measures of pain, stiffness, difficulty with physical activity and overall symptom severity were recorded following 12 weeks of supplementation with a blend of extracts from three seaweeds, vitamin B6, zinc and manganese, according to findings published in Biologics: Targets & Therapy​.

The joint health market is dominated by glucosamine, which is extracted from the shell of crabs, lobster and shrimps. Cargill also markets a non-animal, non-shellfish derived product. The ingredient is often used in combination with chondroitin sulphate, extracted from animal cartilage, such as sharks.

According to the Nutrition Business Journal​, US sales for these combined supplements were $810 million (€563 million) in 2005.

However, conflicting results from various studies have led to a questioning of glucosamine’s and chondroitin’s efficacy, leading to the promotion of alternatives, including omega-3 fatty acids, extracts from egg shell membranes, collagen, and extracts from pine bark.

If results of the new study, which uses Marinova’s Maritech branded ingredient, are supported by future studies, including a phase III clinical trial, it could see another alternative enter the joint health market.

The Maritech ingredient is composed of extract of Fucus vesiculosis​ (85 per cent), Macrocystis pyrifera​ (10 per cent) and Laminaria japonica​ (5 per cent) plus vitamin B6, zinc and manganese. Marinova funded the research.

Study details

The small study, which included 12 osteoarthritis sufferers with an average age of 62, used two doses – 100 mg or 1,000 mg for 12 weeks. Using the internationally-validated COAT (Comprehensive Osteoarthritis Test) assessment protocol, the researchers found a dose-dependent response, with the lower dose associated with an 18 per cent reduction in symptoms, while the higher dose was associated with a 52 per cent reduction in symptoms.

In addition to the apparent efficacy to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis in a dose-dependent manner, the researchers noted that the ingredient was also well tolerated.

“The efficacy of the preparation now needs to be demonstrated in a phase III randomized controlled trial (RCT),”​ they concluded.

Industry welcome

Commenting on the findings, study co-author and Marinova’s senior scientist Dr Helen Fitton said: “A particularly exciting finding from this trial is that both groups of patients who took the Maritech seaweed extract felt a significant reduction in pain after just one week of treatment. These clinical findings have now created an opportunity for osteoarthritis sufferers to reduce or replace their drug intake”.

Source: Biologics: Targets & Therapy
2010, Volume 4, Pages 33-44
“A combined phase I and II open label study on the effects of a seaweed extract nutrient complex on osteoarthritis”
Authors: S.P. Myers, J. O’Connor, J.H. Fitton, L. Brooks, M. Rolfe, P. Connellan, H. Wohlmuth, P.A. Cheras, C. Morris
Full paper available online here​.

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