As people get older, the loss of cartilage -- the tissue that provides cushioning -- in their joints becomes more prevalent. A number of dietary supplements can help prevent and reverse this process. While some work to prevent and reverse inflammation, others can actually help rebuild the lost cartilage. Among the most effective and studied supplements for joint repair are glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins and S-adenosylmethionine.
Go for Glucosamine
Glucosamine, a substance produced naturally in the body, is an essential component of mucous membranes and synovial fluid -- and it plays an important role in building cartilage, which is the connective tissue that insulates joints. Commercial producers often extract it from the exoskeletons of lobsters, crabs, shrimp and other sea creatures for use in supplements. Studies support the use of these supplements for the prevention and reduction of joint pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. In particular, it has a potential role in the treatment of osteoarthritis -- a form of arthritis characterized by the loss of cartilage, due to either injury or normal wear and tear. A study published in the February 2008 issue of the journal "Osteoarthritis and Cartilage" found that the use of glucosamine for a minimum of one year could help prevent total knee joint replacement in osteoarthritis patients.
Omega-3s for Inflammation
Reducing inflammation may be a key factor in maintaining healthy joints. A 2011 article published in the "International Journal of Rheumatology" notes that omega-3 fatty acids may serve as a useful therapy for osteoarthritis. These healthy fats can help improve a variety of inflammatory conditions that cause joint pain, according a meta-analysis published in 2007 by the University of York Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. After reviewing 17 randomized controlled trials, the researchers concluded that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids could be an effective complementary therapy for treating joint pain associated with inflammatory arthritis.
It's All About Antioxidants
Antioxidants, which include vitamins A, C, D and E, are man-made or natural substances found in food and in supplement form. They may help prevent or delay some types of cell damage. Furthermore, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants can serve as a powerful tool in reducing inflammatory responses. Low antioxidant levels can accelerate joint damage, according to a study published in the April 2008 issue of the journal "Osteoarthritis and Cartilage." Vitamin C is required for the maintenance of cartilage and bones and also scavenges free radicals, which are molecules made by your body and found in the environment that are responsible for aging and tissue damage, according to MedlinePlus. A study published in the September 2013 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research" found that low plasma levels of vitamin D were associated with oxidative stress -- a key factor in the onset of osteoarthritis.
Say Yes to SAMe
S-adenosylmethionine, more commonly known as SAMe, is a molecule that occurs naturally within almost every tissue and fluid in the body. SAMe is important for immune function, cell membranes and the release of neurotransmitters. SAMe is commonly used to treat both depression and osteoarthritis. According to New York University Langone Medical Center, a substantial amount of scientific evidence supports the use of SAMe for arthritis symptoms. According to a May 2008 article in "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition," various clinical trials have shown that SAMe can stimulate the production of cartilage -- a key factor in reversing joint pain and arthritis. A study published in the February 2004 issue of the journal "BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders" found that SAMe was as effective as one prescription drug in treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee.