Green-lipped Mussel Extract = Could this be a treatment for arthritis?

Given our ageing population, osteoarthritis is the most common arthritic disorder affecting the greatest number of people in the UK with more than eight million people estimated to be affected.

Green Lippled Mussels - a treatment for arthritis?
Green Lippled Mussels – a treatment for arthritis?

A couple of weeks ago I received a press release which, I have to say, bowled me a googly, but which did deserve a bit more investigation. Simply put the press release (which I have pretty much reproduced verbatim below) suggested that green-lipped mussel extract (GLME) can be used as a treatment for arthritis.

They very kindly gave me the opportunity to interview John Croft, a New Zealand marine scientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the life cycle of the green lipped mussel who have written extensively on GLME as a treatment for arthritis.

You can read my interview below as well.

Now I have no idea how well GLME works so if you have used it to treat arthritis then it would be great if you shared your story in the comments section below.

Arthritic disorders are one of the most significant causes of debilitating mobility and pain problems. Thanks very much.

So first up the PR story.

The number of people who have arthritis is thought to have risen four fold over 50 years and by 2030, it is estimated that 67 million adults will have doctor diagnosed arthritis with 37% of those estimated to report arthritis related activity limitations.

20% of adults in the UK consult their GP each year with a musculoskeletal problem accounting for one in six consultations, 8.8 million physiotherapy consultations and over 3.5 million calls per year to emergency services. The demands on the NHS are already considerable with experts predicting an unsustainable weight in years to come.

There are now more people over 60 years of age than there are children under five. Ensuring a quality of life for an ageing population is key. Prevention or cure for joint degeneration is not possible however, in many cases the progression can be slowed down. Knowing what treatments are best to take to maintain a lifestyle is well debated especially with some pain relieving products causing stomach discomfort and other side effects for a number of people that take them.

One such alternative which has been extensively researched is green-lipped mussel extract (GLME) which is the basis for a new book by renowned marine scientist, John Croft. John’s review, ‘Arthritis and Aging, Solutions from the Sea’ explores more than 40 years of international research into the use of marine based compounds in human and animal health. The findings within John’s review have particular relevance for sufferers of chronic rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and age-related degenerative disease.

John’s published review has indicated that the specific nature of GLME – known as Seatone in the UK – may help inhibit age related joint degeneration and may help reduce inflammation, pain and joint immobility caused by arthritic disorders.

Osteoarthritis isn’t just an age-related condition however and can also affect people with physically demanding lifestyles.

Joining Croft for the interview was Dr Chris Steele from ITV’s This Morning.

PATIENT TALK: Dr Chris first, what exactly is arthritis and what are the symptoms?

Steele – Arthritis is basically in an inflammation of a joint, and most of us will know somebody with arthritis – normally osteoarthritis – which is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition of wear and tear and inflammation in the joint that comes on over time and is more common in people over 55.

PATIENT TALK – What is the difference between as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms such as gout?

Steele – Well there are many different types of arthritis, and it does get complicated.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a different type of disease process altogether. It’s not the wear and tear of osteoarthritis but a condition known as an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own tissue – and we are not sure why. It tends to affect the joints of the fingers , wrist and the toes. Interestingly it tends to affect both sides. It is symmetrical and women are more affected than men. It also comes on in a younger age group, so 20 – 50 years of age.

PATIENT TALK – Is fibromyalgia a form of arthritis?

Steele – Myalgia means pain in the muscles, and fibro refers to fibres: tissues, tendons, ligaments etc. So with fibromyalgia you have got the inflammation or tenderness of muscles, tendons and ligaments which can cause acute tender spots, specific spots all over the body. It can cause fatigue, sleep disturbance and is one of those conditions for which there is no test: they can’t test you and say, ‘yes, the test is positive – you’ve got fibromyalgia’. But a lot of people suffer the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

PATIENT TALK – And what are the typical treatments for arthritis at the moment?

Steele – Well, basically if you have “twinges in your hinges”, pain in your knees and joints, and are over 55 years old, you will just try and help yourself – take some painkillers or stronger anti- inflammatory tablets you can get over the counter.

If you are not getting much response then you should probably be going to see your G.P who can give you something stronger or maybe a different type of medication, maybe get some physiotherapy booked for you and then see how it goes. But alongside all of this, a lot of people will look for alternative or complementary therapy even before they get to the G.P by just trying to help themselves.

PATIENT TALK – John, tell us about your research into arthritis and the possible benefits of this substance called ‘Green Lipped Mussel Extract?’

Croft – This dates back to 1972 in New Zealand. It was there that we learned that the green lipped mussel had anti- inflammatory properties and so we began the research with the University of Auckland and the department of medicine there.

They were able to make a powder from the extract which actually did work and helped both human and animal subjects. It has been in clinical trials in several countries. My contribution has also been on the laboratory side, finding out precisely how it works , what it does to help alleviate the symptoms of arthritic disorder, and now also with age-related joint degeneration.

PATIENT TALK – Can you tell us a little bit more about how you think it works?

Croft – What we now know is that has range of anti-inflammatory properties, the main one is due to carbohydrate component in the muscles which inhibits the immune cells, the white cells, in the blood stream from escaping, being over-excited, out of balance and attacking our own tissues, attacking good cells instead of just antigens.

The green mussel extract also contains omega 3 fatty acids naturally, which inhibit the components that actually cause the degeneration of cartilage in the joint.

PATIENT TALK – How long do you have to take it for before it starts to work?

Croft – For most people it takes 4 – 6 weeks for it to start working, slowly and progressively. The maximum time would be 12 weeks. If it hasn’t worked for someone in 12 weeks-time, well then it’s probably not suitable for that person.

PATIENT TALK – And have you taken this yourself?

Croft – I have taken it for the last 16 years because of my age, I’ve never had arthritis but I’ve now got age-related joint degeneration simply by growing old and I’m fully fit, I’m fully mobile and pain free, I’m grateful to say.

PATIENT TALK – What are the cost implications? Is this potentially an expensive treatment, or is it something that could be made available on the NHS?

Croft: I have no idea what it costs in the UK. I know what it costs in New Zealand, and it doesn’t seem expensive to me. I do know that you cannot get it on prescription. It is not a prescription item, but doctors can actually ask people or suggest that people try it.

PATIENT TALK – Would it also help with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis?

Croft: For rheumatoid arthritis, the anti-inflammatory compound in it can help there with chronic rheumatoid, not acute. With fibromyalgia, I can’t really comment as we have never looked at that disorder.

PATIENT TALK – Thank you both very much.

Just been diagnosed with Celiac disease? Here’s what you need to know!

As you may know last month (May) was Celiac Awareness Month. To help promote this event we published a FAQ based upon an interview with Dr Chris Steele. Steele is both a doctor and a person who lives with Celiac disease.

As part of our preparations for this interview we asked a patient who has been diagnosed with gluten

Celiac Awareness
Celiac Awareness
intolerance and probable Celiac what were the first questions he wanted to know the answers to as soon as he was diagnosed. And we are now delighted to share the results of this interview with you today!

It might be worth mentioning that in Dr Steele’s native UK the condition is spelt Coeliac rather than Celiac. This might explain some of the idiosyncratic spelling in this follow up.

Also you might find this introduction to Celiac disease of use and interest.

Patient Talk: If we can just talk a bit about how this might affect any who has coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, what would happen if someone inadvertently ate food containing gluten, how careful do they have to be?

Dr. Chris: Some people have to be very careful. Like most disease there is a spectrum, it can be mild it can be moderate it can be severe. And some patients with very sensitive intestines who react to tiny amounts of gluten, a classic example is a coeliac patient has to have their own toaster. Because if they put their gluten free bread in to the family toaster, which is ordinary bread, even crumbs from ordinary bread can set off their symptoms of diarrhoea, the abdominal pain and bloating. There are some patients which are less severe and they tolerate little gluten and you soon find out where you stand on the spectrum.

Patient Talk: there’s a question here: Is it safe to buy food which is not labelled as gluten free of is there is no gluten items in the ingredients?

Dr. Chris: I think what you have to think about is where gluten can be? It’s in the bread, pasta, pastries, cakes. But it’s also hidden in foods like sausages, fish fingers, soups sauces, soy sauce, and beer. Right?

Patient Talk: Right.

Dr. Chris: You’ve got to be aware. I think a good thing is if you go to Coeliac UK they give you some very good directory of all the foods and drinks out there and the levels of gluten in them.

Patient Talk: Does that cover gluten free friendly restaurants?

Dr. Chris: Now this is a problem when you go out to eat. A restaurant might advertise this gluten free food. Yeah they are probably serving normal good and gluten free food as your gluten free food has been on the surface on kitchen where there was normal food before and therefore there can be contaminated. There are some restaurants which are totally gluten free and more and more of them are popping up and you can go in and feel quite reassured when you go in and normally the chief or the owner is a coeliac.

Patient Talk: This one is an interesting question as well, can somebody kiss their partner if they are a coeliac and their partner has eaten bread?

Dr. Chris: I think it’s very unlikely, unless they have a thick coating of bread crumbs on their lips.

Patient Talk: So is it safe to touch and handle bread?

Dr. Chris: Not normal bread, if you are touching or handling or even the slight taste of any food which contains gluten you could get a reaction where your symptoms flare up.

Patient Talk: Does the same apply for drinks ?

Dr. Chris: Yep, you just got to be very aware, you know? Of the drinks as you don’t think of them as containing gluten. Barley, wheat, rye, if it’s there it contains gluten.

If you are a Celiac what were you first concerns?

Why not share them and the solutions in the comments section below.

Thanks very much in advance.

Celiac Awareness Month – Frequently Asked Questions with Coeliac sufferer Dr Chris Steele

TV doctor and coeliac sufferer Chris Steele is urging people to take notice of their symptoms if they suffer from digestive issues or other potential symptoms of coeliac disease, with experts believing hundreds of thousands of people in the UK could unknowingly be suffering from Coeliac disease.

Celiac Awareness
Celiac Awareness

This week is Coeliac UK Awareness Week and, according to Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease, around 1 in 100 people in the UK are estimated to suffer from the condition. However under-diagnosis is a big problem with an estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffering from the condition without knowing. It takes on average 13 years from the onset of symptoms for people to achieve a diagnosis. One in four people diagnosed with coeliac disease were previously treated for IBS.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. There are a range of symptoms, including digestive problems such as abdominal bloating, pain, gas, regular bouts of diarrhoea and weight loss as well as ongoing fatigue, a severe blister like skin rash, and iron deficiency anaemia.

New research shows that almost 40% of people in the UK suffer from digestive issues, however, almost half have never been diagnosed.

Of those that have been diagnosed, more than a quarter weren’t diagnosed for over a year, and above 40% said they thought the symptoms would go away gradually. Surprisingly one in eight were misdiagnosed by a GP, while the same number were embarrassed to talk about their symptoms.

Although there has been more attention around gluten and gluten free products in recent years there seems to be confusion over what products actually contain gluten. A quarter of those surveyed did not know that bread contains gluten, a third were unaware it was in pasta and almost two thirds did not realise beer contains gluten, while one in eight believe oats should be avoided at all costs by people with coeliac disease. In fact, according to Coeliac UK, 95% of suffers are able to tolerate oats as long as they are labelled as gluten free. The British Society of Gastroenterology Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of coeliac disease advice that gluten-free oats can be included within the diet from diagnosis.

Once following a gluten free diet, it is important to ensure you are not missing out on key nutrients such as fibre. Following recent changes to guidance from the British Society of Gastroenterology, gluten free oats are now listed as a safe food for people with coeliac disease to consume from diagnosis, providing an important source of fibre in gluten free diets.

PatientTalk.Org were lucky enough to interview Dr Chris to give us a great introduction to Celiac.

Patient Talk: Its coeliac awareness week, and joining me now is Dr. Chris Steele to tell us a bit more about it. Dr Chris, first of all what is coeliac disease

Dr Chris: Well, Coeliac disease is a serious illness, it’s a life long illness, and basically it’s a reaction to the body from a protein called gluten, and gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. And these grains are found lots of food. Basically these- the gluten causes the immune system to overreact and your immune system starts attacking your own tissues, so in effect it’s what’s known as an autoimmune disease and not actually an allergy to gluten. The gluten has caused your immune system to attack your own tissues.

Patient Talk: And how common is it?

Dr .Chris: well it’s actually not uncommon, 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease. But what disturbs me is that they are half a million people out there walking around with coeliac disease and they don’t know they got, they’re not diagnosed.

Patient Talk: They are just experiencing the symptoms and not knowing what to do.

Dr Chris.: Yeah – They may just be experiencing mild symptoms, or symptoms that come and go. And the symptoms they can’t put down to any one thing in particular. Whereas the reactant to gluten – but it could be in all sorts of different foods that they are eating. You know- If you’re just reacting to eggs you will soon find out when you are reacting to many different food that contain gluten it’s very hard to find out, there is a specific trigger for your symptoms.

Patient Talk: And what are these primary symptoms?

Dr. Chris: Now the symptoms are very important because some patients will have and these symptoms may be diagnosed as having another conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, IBS. So the sort of classic common symptoms of coeliac disease – and I know ‘cause I have coeliac disease and I’ve been through this in the early days: Diarrhoea. That can come in episodes depending on when you have been exposed to the gluten, the urgency to go, when you got to go you got to go, otherwise there will be an accident. Abdominal bloating, abdominal discomfort and fatigue, weakness. They’re the classic ones, you can get other symptoms such as mouth ulcers, hair loss, aching joints and bones. The consequences of not being diagnosed. So, here you are walking round with IBS and you really have coeliac, and you’re not absorbing certain nutrients – such as – for myself it was vitamin D and calcium, so I got oscosteoporosis, as a consequence for having undiagnosed coeliac disease for many years. Anaemia an unknown cause can be caused by coeliac disease. One interesting area, it’s not a massive area, but women for having recurrent miscarriages or problems with infertility should be tested for coeliac disease.

Patient Talk: What are the tests for it?

Dr. Chris: Tests – simple, single blood test, that’s all there is to it. Now if you have these symptoms and are thinking “Oh that could be me” go and see you GP for a blood test and do not change your diet, if you stop eating gluten your tests could come back negative. So eat normally have your blood tests and if that’s positive then you’ll be referred to a specialist for a biopsy test, it’s only a thin flexible test going down and then again before that test do not change your diet, have normally food before those tests have been done.

Patient Talk: Are there other types of gluten intolerance?

Dr. Chris: Well it’s a complicated area and it’s probably best not to go into that because you can have non-coeliac gluten intolerance, you can be intolerant to other proteins similar to gluten….it’s quite a complicated area. For most patients they have coeliac disease caused by gluten, therefore avoid gluten in the future.

Patient Talk: Okay. So, let’s talk about treatments available, what are they and how efficient are they?

Dr. Chris: Well, there is no cure for coeliac disease and there is no treatment. That sounds very negative. However the answer is going on to a strict gluten free diet for life. It’s as simple as that, but following and gluten free diet is not simple. It’s very difficult and adjust to and you need to see a nutritious after you’ve seen your specialist to get advice on gluten free food. You will become an expert on reading labels to check whether there is gluten in there or not.
Patient Talk: Can you tell us a bit about this research what you’ve done, a bit about methodology and what the results were.

Dr. Chris: Well the latest research has come out has actually changed the way we manage coeliac disease. Usually the patient has been diagnosed as a coeliac sufferer and told: right avoid wheat, barley and rye and don’t eat oats. Oats don’t contain gluten. But don’t eat oats for 6 to 12 months and then slowly introduce them into your diet. Now the latest research has changed all of that completely, once you’re diagnosed you can’t eat wheat, barely or rye but you can eat oats there on then. But of course when you are buying oat products got to assure that they are gluten free
Patient Talk: Read the label.

Dr. Chris: Yes, read the label – they have got to be gluten free. Although oats don’t contain gluten they can be contaminated by gluten up by the farm, if oats are mixed with wheat barley, rye the farming process, in the mill where the grains are milled if the oats can be contaminated by wheat barely rye. And also in the bakery, that makes the cakes, pastries and the crackers, has to be a dedicated bakery where there are no grains where there are wheat barely or rye.

Patient Talk: Finally for this part what is the best advice which you have about coeliac disease?
Dr. Chris: You can’t treat coeliac disease, that you have to avoid gluten and also because you aren’t eating grains like wheat barley and rye, you’ve got to eat oats you’ve got to get those grains into your diet they have to be gluten free. The reason for that is oats are a good source of fibre, fibre reduces cholesterol fibre fills you for longer, provides slow release energy for longer, and also is very good for bowel health. So coeliacs’ have got to get oats into their diets. Now, I’ve looked at all of these products out there, and there is a company called Nairn’s, who are dedicated in producing only gluten free oat products: Biscuits, crackers etc… and they are probably one of the biggest suppliers out there on supermarket shelves, and I can say I use their products I’ve tested them all.

Keep your eyes peeled for our follow up article on advice for the just diagnosed!

Want to stop smoking? Swap tobacco for nicotine’, advises new guidance

smoking banDepartment of Health publish new guidelines for “Tobacco Harm Reduction”

Struggling to quit? ‘Swap tobacco for nicotine’, advises new guidance from NICE

Today sees the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) publish new guidelines for tobacco harm reduction in the UK.  This world first, recognises that some people may not be able to quit smoking in one step.


At the heart of tobacco harm reduction is the concept that the flexible and long-term use of nicotine is always better for smokers and people around them than continuing to smoke tobacco. Experts believe this will provide a significant opportunity to help many more smokers to quit.


Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of early death and illness in the UK, with Dr Chris Steeleone in five adults (around 10 Million) being smokers[i]. Approximately half of persistent cigarette smokers are killed by their habit and a quarter are still in middle age[ii].  Tobacco control measures have led to a decrease in smoking prevalence but the decline in smoking rates has lost momentum in recent years with no significant change in the prevalence of smoking in the last six years.[iii]


The annual cost to the NHS attributable to smoking is estimated at around £2.7bn[iv]. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, with recent figures published in the Annals of Oncologyshowing the number of lung cancer cases in the UK – particularly among women – is still rising.[v]


To date, stop smoking services have been available to those smokers who want to quit in one step with, or without, the help of an NRT (such as gums or patches). The amount of NRT offered varies but tends to range from four – 12 weeks on prescription, with some smokers receiving the support from a Stop Smoking advisor.


The new tobacco harm reduction recommendations understand that the journey to quitting is different for every smoker. It no longer needs to be ‘succeed or fail’ by a set deadline. The journey can now involve flexible and long-term use of NRT. This will give healthcare professionals the opportunity to bring more people into the stop smoking services and make inroads into smoking prevalence.


Watch our video with GP and stop smoking expert, Dr Chris Steele, to find out more about the new Tobacco Harm Reduction guidelines and how they could ‘revolutionise’ the way the UK tackles its smoking problem


Key Statistics

  • Adult smokers in the UK in 2010:10 Million
  • Recent figures show the number of lung cancer cases in the UK – particularly among women – is still rising
  • Smoking is the single biggest cause of social inequalities in death rates between the richest and poorest in our communities
  • Approx. half of persistent cigarette smokers are killed by their habit—a quarter while still in middle age (35–69 years)
  • 79,100 deaths (adults aged 35 and over) in 2011
  • On average, cigarette smokers die about 10 years younger than non-smokers
  • Switching 1% of smokers a year from tobacco to less harmful nicotine could save around 60,000 lives in only 10 years
  • Smoking cessation is the most cost-effective health intervention in the NHS and one of the most effective ways to prevent early deaths

The financial burden

According to the Policy Exchange, the annual costs to society from smoking are £13.74 billion[vi]

  • Cost of treating smokers on the NHS (£2.7 billion)
  • Smoking related house fires (£507 million)
  • Loss in productivity from smoking breaks (£2.9 billion) and increased absenteeism (£2.5 billion)
  • Loss in economic output from the deaths of smokers (£4.1 billion) and passive smokers (£713 million)
  • Cleaning up cigarette butts (£342 million)

[i] NHS, Statistics on Smoking in England, 2012

[ii] Doll, R. et al. BMJ; 2004;328:1519–27

[iii] General Lifestyle Survey Overview. Office of National Statistics 2011

[iv]Policy Exchange – Cough up: Balancing tobacco income and costs in society, March 2010

[v]M. Malvezzi, P. Bertuccio, F. Levi, C. La Vecchia and E. Negri, European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2013. Annals of Oncology, February 2013

[vi] Policy Exchange – Cough up: Balancing tobacco income and costs in society, March 2010