Special edition: Bone & Joint Health

MSM helps joint health big players do their thing

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

photo courtesy of Bergstrom Nutrition
photo courtesy of Bergstrom Nutrition

Related tags: Joint health, Dietary supplement

If joint health ingredients were a volleyball team, glucosamine and chondroitin would be the star-quality hitters up front. MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, would be the setter, the smaller, more nimble player helping the big girls do their thing.

That’s just fine with executives at Bergstrom Nutrition.  The Vancouver, WA-based company has made a thriving business out of MSM’s adjunct position and subtle action within the joint health sphere.

“At Bergstrom, we are the only North American manufacturers of MSM and we’ve been doing it for 27 years,” ​said sales and marketing VP Tim Hammond. He said the constituents of MSM’s molecular structure positions it to be an important joint health player.

Sulfur content

“MSM is made up of 34% sulfur which is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Sulfur is important in all connective tissue.  MSM helps those other actives perform at peak efficiency,”​ Hammond said.

Inflammation is always part of the joint health story, but it is a thorny concept to deal with from a compliance standpoint, said Bergstrom’s R&D director Rodney Benjamin. 

“You have to be careful in how you talk about inflammation within the context of dietary supplements and structure/function claims. MSM has been shown to moderate or reduce oxidative damage and the expression of inflammatory markers.  If you can reduce the inflammation and swelling around a damaged or injured joint, that allows things like glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and others that are actually seen to repair connective tissue to get in there,”​ he said.

‘Happy molecule’

Benjamin said beyond the sulfur content of MSM, the molecule has a structure that benefits its persistence within the body and aids in its action.  MSM is not a highly reactive molecule like some others that wave the antioxidant flag, molecules which have a brief, violent existence until they meet a free radical in the bloodstream.

“I like to call it a happy molecule. It has two double oxygen bonds and two methyl groups. You don’t really have any reactive sites. It doesn’t go around and neutralize free radicals,”​ Benjamin said.

“Rather, it cuts down on the expression of free radicals. There are a number of studies that show that MSM seems to boost glutathione within the cell,”​ he said. Glutathione is often referred to as the cell’s ‘master antioxidant.’

MSM is found in small amounts in a number of foods but is often destroyed in processing. The molecule can be formed in the body as a metabolite of DMSO, or dimethyl sulfoxide, a wood-pulp derived liquid substance that easily crosses the skin and was used in guerrilla fashion at one time during the 1970s by athletes who were suffering from career-threatening inflammatory conditions. Oakland Raiders QB Darryl Lamonica openly acknowledged that daily swabbing with DMSO of the throbbing thumb on his throwing hand was the only thing that allowed him to continue playing. The substance was also used to treat the leg pain that former Alabama Governor George Wallace suffered after being paralyzed by a gunshot wound suffered during an assassination attempt. These uses of DMSO were never formerly approved by the Food and Drug Administration. "At present, the only human use for which DMSO has been approved is for interstitial cystitis, a bladder condition,"​ FDA said in its most recent communication on DMSO.

GRAS letter

But FDA has passed on Bergstrom’s OptiMSM-branded ingredient as a legal and safe dietary ingredient via a GRAS no objection letter in 2008​. Benjamin said he believes this sets his company’s ingredient apart.

“One of the key things we have done as a company that sometimes isn’t talked about enough in the dietary supplement industry is all of safety data we have gathered behind MSM. The no objection letter has been extremely beneficial, and it builds a packet that the major players want to see,”​ Benjamin said. Other factors of that ‘packet’ are the company’s many manufacturing certifications, he said.

In addition to joint comfort, Hammond said sports performance and muscle recovery is another area of growth for the company. Doing studies with those kinds of populations builds a data set that can be useful in Europe, where regulators have become more restrictive about what kind of data can be used to back an ingredient’s mode of action, he said.

“We have an ingredient that supports an overall mobility situation. That is not just bone and joint health, but muscle health as well,”​ he said.

Bone & joint health 16

Bone & Joint Health

Experts from GNC, NBTY, Jarrow Formulas & NOW Foods will discuss the market forces, science, supply chain, and future opportunities in bone and joint health in the FREE to attend NutraIngredients-USA Bone & Joint Health Online Event on June 29. .

For more information and to register, please click HERE​.

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