Why Study Eggshell Membrane?
In the United States, over 20% of adults have reported doctor-diagnosed joint and connective tissue (JCT) disorders; this number has been projected to increase by 40% over the next 25 years [1, 2].
Numerous forms of intervention have been used as treatments to improve joint pain. Conventionally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics have been used to address joint pain associated with JCT disorders; however, their long term use has been associated with diverse and severe side effects including cardiac and gastrointestinal complications [3, 4].
Alternative therapies used to treat joint pain include dietary supplements; the most popular of these supplements being glucosamine, chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). While many turn to these complementary treatments to avoid the side effects associated with NSAIDs and analgesics, there is little evidence to support their effectiveness, and the evidence that does exist is equivocal . Several large-scale human clinical trials , including the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial, as well as a few additional meta-analyses and reviews [5, 7] have reported limited effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation in reducing joint pain. However, other groups have noted long-term improvements in joint pain from glucosamine supplementation alone , and further enhanced effectiveness of combined glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, rather than the separate use of either supplement [5, 9]. The question of their effectiveness in JCT populations is subject to ongoing debate.
There has been growing interest in eggshell membrane (EM) supplementation as a treatment for joint pain, as it does not present the side effects of conventional treatments (NSAIDs). Eggshells and their membranes have been extensively analyzed for their components: the separate layers of the eggshell have been analyzed and found to contain several types of collagen (types X, I, V) [10-12]. Additionally, EM has been found to have notably high concentrations of a number of amino acids , collagen-like proteins [14-16], enzymes [17-19] and glycosminoglycans (GAGs).
Glycosaminoglycans are of high interest, as they play key roles in connective tissue . Glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and chondritin sulfate are important GAGs in EM (21, 22). With the high protein and enzyme content, and naturally occurring GAGs in EM, scientists and nutritional supplement companies have speculated that it could present a viable alternative to traditional joint disorder and osteoarthritis treatments. Additionally, while the aforementioned elements of EM have been detected, it should be noted that membrane components have not yet been wholly characterized; there are likely a number of compounds that have yet to be identified in the membrane. Some of these yet undetected elements may contribute to benefits or improvements seen in joint health.
To date, very few studies have investigated the effects of EM supplementation on joint pain and range of motion. In rats, 4 weeks of EM treatment led to significant reductions in many proinflammatory cytokines (measured in plasma), notably including TNF-? and IL-1 . Two recent clinical reports [24, 25] investigated the timing and effectiveness of EM supplementation in JCT and osteoarthritis patients experiencing severe pain and limited range of motion. These patients received daily 500mg doses of oral EM for four to eight weeks. Rapid (seven to ten days) and continuous effects were seen in terms of reduced pain and stiffness, as well as improved flexibility. In both investigations, there were no reports of adverse effects with supplementation.
In the present study, we set out to observe the effects of EM (fast joint care+; FJC+) supplementation on joint pain within a physically active adult population experiencing chronic joint pain in one of four joints (ankle, knee, shoulder or elbow). As many adults use exercise to manage joint and connective tissue disorders, this population would likely see great benefit from adjunct therapies designed to reduce pain and increase range of motion.