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.

A drug free treatment for osteoarthritis – read our guest post from Mark Taylor Bryant.

Mark Taylor Bryant is 43 and from Manchester. He works as a long distance lorry driver. In this guest post he tells us about a drug free treatment for osteoarthritis he has been using. We though we would share as part of our on going series of blogs on pain management.

He writes “I was first diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees, shoulder and wrist joints over ten years ago. However, over recent years I’ve been suffering from severe pain, particularly in my knees. This is something that is exacerbated by my work as a long haul delivery driver, which sees me sitting in the driving position for up to 18 hours a day as I cover between 200,000 to 300,000 miles per year.

I was told by doctors that I was too young for a knee replacement . However, neither of these provided me with any relief. I also had two arthroscopy procedures performed on my knees to try and clear the damaged cartilage. However, these procedures both had minimal impact in terms of pain relief. It felt as though I was just going to have to accept the excruciating pain for the rest of my life and in particular during the winter months when the pain would be heightened.

However, during a routine delivery I mentioned my troubles to an office worker at the delivery address who told me about a company, FLEXISEQ, that manufactures a drug-free treatment for osteoarthritis. I tried out a sample soon after and almost immediately the pain started to subside. After two weeks I felt completely different and I now apply the gel twice a day to the affected joints to ensure that the pain does not return.

I’m currently not suffering from any pain in my joints. It’s not so much that FLEXISEQ helps the pain go away, it actually stops the pain from occurring – it’s incredibly effective and has had a measurable impact on the day to day quality of my life.

We were told In a clinical trial on 1395 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee, use of FLEXISEQ resulted in clinically relevant reductions in joint pain and stiffness and improvement in physical function that were equivalent to the effects of an anti-inflammatory . There have been no serious side effects reported relating to the use of Flexiseq. In clinical trials FLEXISEQ caused minor skin irritations, mainly erythema, dry skin and rash – usually mild to moderate intensity, transient and fading away by itself. A treatment interruption was not necessary. There are no known interruptions with other medicines.

Osteoporosis. An interview with an older patient about her new treatment options, exercise and use of dietary supplements!

Welcome to the latest in our ongoing series of PatientTalk.Org interviews.  Today we are


interviewing Elizabeth a 75 year old woman living in London, England who has been lucky enough to get a wide range of treatments which allow her to live a full life with Osteoporosis.  It is also worth mentioning that she suffers from Osteoarthritis.

We hope this interview will give you an idea about some of the options which are becoming more and more available to osteoporosis sufferers.

PatientTalk.Org:- How long have you had osteoporosis and what are your main symptoms?

Elizabeth:  In fact I can’t give a clear answer.  Twenty years ago when I was going through the menopause I was told that I was on the cusp of being diagnosed with osteoporosis.  Ten years later I tripped and broke my wrist.  A second scan revealed that my bone density appeared to be still in the range of normal for my peer group.  However at this stage I was given calcium and vitamin D tablets on a daily basis (which I still take).  Another ten years passed and I tripped once again running up some stairs and fractured the other wrist.  At this time  I was told that there was no point in another scan as two low-impact fractures at my age equalled osteoporosis.  I had been told that walking would help to maintain and strengthen my lower body bone density.  So I try and walk for at least one hour every day.

PatientTalk.Org:  So apart from the calcium and vitamin supplements what other treatments have you been offered?

Elizabeth:  Because I was aware that I’d lost a lot of upper body strength,  for example undoing jars became a real chore,  due to the broken wrists and open heart surgery which took place 25 years ago, I wanted some form of exercise which would improve my situation.  I was told by a friend that she was following a course of Nordic walking and this seemed to be the answer.

I contacted the local health service who were very helpful and invited me to a set of tests and check-ups to ascertain my suitability for a Nordic walking course.

They were happy for me to start the course but beforehand they wanted me to do a course of bone density exercises.  These took place at a course of  eight weekly sessions.  They consisted of a warm up, a series of about 10 different exercises each of 2 minutes, followed by a cooling down session.  They were supervised by exercise specialists who were extremely supportive.

During this course I learned of another 8 week course in Gold Zumba.  That is a type of Zumba more suitable for older people.  I’ve now been on the course for around 4 weeks.  And enjoy it.

PatientTalk.Org:  So what actually is Zumba?

Elizabeth:  I think it can be described as some form of dance which can be used as a fitness programme as well.  We are taught by a qualified instructor who specialises in Zumba as a therapy.  For me the combination of exercise with music means that I’m pushed just a little bit harder than other types of exercise.  This is good for co-ordination of the body and, in fact, my brain.  Zumba is great for balance as well.

PatientTalk.Org:  So have you noticed any improvements?

Elizabeth: This is difficult to say.  In fact it is not my main objective.  I am really looking to maintain my current body strength and flexibility.  I notice that as each session goes on that I’m more flexible and my balance is much better.

And I’m now in a position to start Nordic walking.

PatientTalk.Org: Are you using any other treatments?

Elizabeth:  I have now started a 3 year course of biannual subcutaneous injections for my osteoporosis.  There are other treatments but it was felt that my digestive system was not suitable for them.

PatientTalk.Org: What sort of medical education / advice were you give?

I was invited to a series of talks at either the hospital or local health centres by osteoporosis experts in

a)  General information about osteoporosis

b) Exercise and osteoporosis

c)   Diet and osteoporosis

PatientTalk.Org:What did you learn about diet and osteoporosis?

Elizabeth:  Apart from information about foods and drink which are particularly good for sufferers of osteoporosis which include dairy, lentils, fish and some vegetables,  we were advised that there were certain circumstances in which it was more efficacious to take the supplements.   These were not explained to me by my normal Doctor.    Indeed the supplements documentation contains only limited advice.  The lectures I attended however provided me with far clearer advice.  What concerns me is that many other people with osteoporosis are not getting the full benefits of the supplements they are taking.

PatientTalk.Org:Thanks very much for this.  Very useful for us and our readers.

So over to you.  What do you think of Elizabeth’s story?   It would be great if you could share your thoughts in the comments box below.  You might want to think in terms of the following questions:-

1) How long have you been diagnosed with  Osteoporosis?

2) What sort of treatments have you had and how effective have they been?

3) What sort of support did you receive in terms of education about the condition?

4) Do you feel you have been well advised regarding the use of supplements?

5) What sorts of exercise do you take for your osteoporosis?

Many thanks in advance!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me! National Arthritis Week!

National Arthritis Week 2013
National Arthritis Week 2013

As part of building awareness for National Arthritis Week Catherine Manning has very graciously given us permission to repost her post on the subject.  To check out Ms Manning’s excellent arthritis blog (called Old Before My Time) please head over to

“It is nearly National Arthritis Week!! and I am proud to be dedicating some of my blog posts to NAW!!

I thought I would start with a “10 things you don’t know about me!” so here goes!!

1) The condition I have is called Osteoarthritis. The common misconception is that only older people get OA. I am living proof that this condition can affect anyone at any age!

2) I was first diagnosed and treated at the age of 12. Very young I know. I had my first arthroscopic surgery when I was 12.

3) My condition affects every aspect of my day to daylife. Imagine struggling to get out of bed, having a raised toilet seat because you can’t get on and off the toilet otherwise. Needing help to shower, dress, cook dinner, make a cup of coffee. Not being able to do the school run without help or do the shopping. That’s my life.

4) Since my condition has progressed to this stage I have taken up blogging and trying to raise awareness of all forms of arthritis especially how it affects younger people.

5) Living with arthritis has taught me to value the small things, the little achievements that most people take for granted. To listen to by body on what I can and can’t do. It has also made me realise who are my true friends and that my family are everything to me.

6) My advice to other people living with osteoarthritis would be do your research, get support medically and emotionally. Listen to your body! You can still have fun and enjoy life!

7) A gadget I couldn’t live without…my laptop/smart phone! When pain is so bad I can’t get out to meet up with people or just get some fresh air I am able to log onto the internet and chat with like minded people on support groups. It means I am not so isolated as living with arthritis can be very lonely.

8) Apart from my pain medication, my supportive hubby and gorgeous children get me through a really tough day. Just a gentle hug and an understanding smile can mean a lot.

9) I am very lucky as I have a very supportive husband who helps me in almost every way. My parents live in the Highlands and are making the 18 hour drive down to where we live to help me and look after the children while I have my right knee replaced next week. I have some wonderful friends I have met online too one especially has turned out to be one of my very best friends. Cara, has RA and a number of other autoimmune conditions. She is always there at the end of the phone or email or support group to chat about anything and everything. Having friends who understand are worth their weight in gold.

10) This National Arthritis Week I would like to say thank you to: My Husband Paul, for everything you do for me and your unconditional love and support. To my Mum and Dad for dropping everything to come and stay with us while I am in hospital. To Cara Davidson, for being Cara, for making me laugh and for just being an awesome friend. To the Doctors and Staff at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.”

You can find out more about National Arthritis Week which begins on Monday by going to

Natural Treatments for Arthritis

Cherries - an aid to pain reliefIt has been estimated that more than 50% of people with arthritis have tried some kind of natural or alternative treatment for the condition.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis including fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and gout. Each of them affects the body in different ways.

The objective of this blog is to have a look at some of the alternative treatments for arthritis and to get feedback from our readers as to how effective these natural therapies are.    We can only cover some of the treatments in a blog post like this so it would be great if you use the comments box below to add any suggestions you might have for alternative therapies for arthritis.  and to  share your experiences of how effective they are.

So here goes:-

a)      Diet as a way of treating arthritis pain.  For more information please have a look at our previous blog on the subject

b)      Similarly diet can help with inflammation.  Check out our other blog on the subject here

c)       Yoga and similar exercises such as Tai Chi.  Exercise is important for people with any kind of arthritis.  Low impact exercise like this helps improve both balance and muscle strength.

d)      Acupuncture seems for some to be a way of dealing with the pain.

e)      Supplements are available but please check with your doctor before using them as they might have an effect on the conventional medications you use.  These supplements can include Chondroitin sulphate and Glucosamine sulphate.

f)       Famously it has been thought that wearing a copper bracelet can help with some of the arthritic symptoms.

As we said before it would be great if you could tell us your arthritis story below.  Please add any links you think may be of use to other readers.  What have you tried and how did it work for you?  You may wish to consider some of the following questions when you make your comments:-

1)      What kind of arthritis do you have and how long have you had it?

2)      What conventional treatments have you used and how effective were they?

3)      Have you used natural treatments and how well did they work?

4)      What was the reaction of your healthcare providers to your use of natural remedies?

Thanks very much in advance.