Invigorating the Bone-Joint Category

Marketing your bone/joint products to fitness enthusiasts and athletes will accelerate sales in your sports nutrition department.

If you thought that bone- and joint-support products have a limited market appeal, you can sprint ahead with these products when moving them to your sports nutrition department.

Itโ€™s not just older folks who want to preserve their knee and other joint function. There is a growing consumer base of individuals who are committed to fitness and those who compete in sports that are seeking out natural solutions in this category.

Abdul Alkayali, vice president, sales and marketing, California-based Longevity by Nature, observed that the bone and joint health product market for fitness enthusiasts and athletes โ€œis growing rapidly with no signs of slowing.โ€ According to FMCG Gurus, he cited, in 2022, more than one-third of consumers surveyed expressed their intention to address their joint and bone health during the next 12 months.

Kate Quackenbush, communications director, France-based Gnosis by Lesaffre Corp said, โ€œFocusing on bone and joint health is critical for any athlete due to the intense physical demands they face. Athletes across various sports experience constant pressure to perform their utmost, often enduring repetitive motions and high-impact activities that stress their skeletal and joint systems.โ€

She added that such rigorous training regimens heighten risk of injuries of the musculoskeletal system, including impairing joints, which emphasize the need for injury prevention. Maintaining mobility, pain-free movement and injury-free performance are crucial aspects of an athleteโ€™s and active adultโ€™s performance and well-being.

Therefore, prioritizing robust bone and joint health is essential for athletes and active adults alike. By safeguarding these vital components, individuals can not only enhance their performance, but athletes may also prolong their careers, ensuring they can continue to excel in their field for years to come. For active adults, staying mobile and injury-free is key to continuing to enjoy all manner of fitness activities and workouts.

According to presenters at the 2023 International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Annual Conference and Expo, there is a strong trend toward an overarching performance nutrition category that encompasses both the sports nutrition athlete and the active nutrition customers, more of whom will be seeking cartilage, collagen, bone and inflammation support supplements, reported Denis Alimonti, director of U.S. nutrition, New York-based Maypro.

Demographics for bone and joint health have been shifting, he added. An Innova Market Research survey found that more than half of consumers aged 18 to 25 believe that healthy aging is very or extremely important to them, with bone and joint health an important part of that. โ€œThe result is products once seen almost exclusively as appropriate for seniors, now have a younger, highly active audience,โ€ he commented.

Jessica Arnaly, senior marketing and business development manager, Balchem Human Nutrition & Health, agreed, quoting an Innova Market Insights survey, which found that 80 percent of Millennials and 79 percent of Gen X plan on staying active physically as they grow older.

All this stated, retailer Tim Oโ€™Brien, founder of Your Healthy Place with four stores in Wisconsin, doesnโ€™t yet see a strong pull among physically active adults or athletes for bone and joint support โ€“ yet. โ€œI have not seen an increase in fitness enthusiasts or athletes supporting their bones and health. It is a constant area that we need to educate and persuade them towards. We like to remind them that they can move the needle around their bones and joint health. That the right nutrients can make a significant difference in their flexibility, mobility, elasticity, range of motion, bone density and prevention of unneeded fractures.โ€

He added that he and his staff will recommend Osteo Awesome and shellfish-free Joint Live by Lively Vitamin Co.

โ€œI think thereโ€™s a lot of room for the bone and joint category to grow for younger athletes and fitness enthusiasts, commented Neil Edward Levin, CCN, DANLA, senior nutrition education manager, Illinois-based NOW. โ€œA lot of younger people think that bone health is only something that senior citizens need to be concerned about, without regard for the excess stresses that they are putting on those body structures where diets may not supply the right balance to adequately nourish and maintain bone structures. And aside from a few sports where knee injuries or elbow injuries might be common, joint health probably is not on the radar of most young, or even middle-aged adults.โ€

In the viewpoint of Juston Sharratt, managing partner, KaLaya Health & Wellness, Ontario, Canada, focusing on bone and joint health for athletes and active adults is crucial within the sports nutrition and supplement arena for several reasons:

โ€ข Injury Prevention: Athletes and those who engage in high-performance fitness regimens are more prone to musculoskeletal injuries caused by the repetitive nature of their activities. Strong bones and well-supported joints are better equipped to withstand the demands placed on them during training and competition.

โ€ข Optimizing Performance: Joint pain or stiffness can reduce flexibility and mobility, limiting ability to perform efficiently and optimally. And bone strength is crucial for providing a stable framework for muscle attachment and supporting the body during high-impact activities.

โ€ข Enhanced Recovery: Intense training sessions and competitions can lead to micro-damage within bones and joints, contributing to soreness and inflammation. Joint-support products that address inflammation management will fulfill this need.

Bone and Joint Inter-relationship

Many customers likely think of bone health and joint health as different concerns, as most are used to the conventional thinking that โ€œolder women need bone support and old people need joint support.โ€

However, if your customers are working out regularly to gain strength, flexibility and endurance, bone and joint products are interrelated. Bones and joints are thought to be separate, but itโ€™s simple to remind customers that the joints are the connections between bone segments. Levin detailed, โ€œBones can protrude into the joints, their ends covered with type II cartilage. Both bone and joints rely on cartilage and other connective tissues, in addition to the minerals comprising the hard structure of bones.โ€

That stated, there are distinctions between the two. Another way of looking at it, pointed out Quackenbush, is that bone health is characterized by bone strength and density while joint health focuses on the functionality of connective tissues supporting mobility. โ€œStrength or weight-bearing exercises help strengthen bones and exercise promotes joint health by maintaining cartilage and improving joint mobility.โ€

Sharratt elaborated, โ€œBone health is largely about maintaining bone mass and structure, while joint health focuses on the cartilage and synovium (the lining of the joint). Joint health issues might involve inflammation or degradation of cartilage, whereas bone health issues often revolve around density and the risk of fracture.โ€

Alimonti pointed to unsung heroes in the bone and joint categoryโ€”tendons, which connect muscles to bones and are responsible for movement of the joints and ligaments, which connect bones together. โ€œSince these body components are fully interconnected, a comprehensive approach to support the health of bone, connective tissue and joints is the correct approach for athletes and active adults,โ€ he noted.

And donโ€™t forget collagenโ€™s role, Alkayali emphasized. Joints, cartilage and bones are made up of collagen. In fact, he said, collagen comprises 60 to 80 percent of all connective tissuesโ€”cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Collagen is an essential component for repairing and maintaining joint tissues that enable movement without discomfort. โ€œThat makes collagen an essential supplement for both recreational and competitive athletes,โ€ he said.

Moving Ingredients

There are both more ingredients and more developments of existing ingredients in the bone/joint-support products you sell.

Arnaly reported that Balchem has been busy with a recent series of acquisitions that expanded its human health supplement portfolio; this includes established bone and joint support ingredients K2VITAL, Albion Minerals and OptiMSM.

โ€œOptiMSM, Balchemโ€™s brand of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a star player in this space, supplementation with OptiMSM contributes to overall joint health and physical function,โ€ she noted. โ€œCombining MSM with glucosamine and chondroitin supports markers of joint health better than glucosamine and chondroitin.โ€

A recent trial published in Nutrients evaluated the effects of supplementing with MSM in relieving mild knee joint pain, she reported. โ€œWhile previous studies involved participants with osteoarthritis, this is the first trial carried out on healthy adults and offers a great opportunityโ€ for athletes and for active adults.

Vitamin K2 (as MK-7) is known as the bone-health vitamin, but it is emerging as a joint-support supplement as well. According to Levin, clinical studies reveal that MKโ€7 supplementation can induce prolonged carboxylation of MGP and osteocalcin in the bloodstream. He explained, โ€œVitamin K is essential for the proper function (gammaโ€carboxylation of glutamyl amino acid residues) of GLAโ€proteins in the body, which are utilized in extracellular matrix mineralization including osteocalcin in bones and other matrix GLAโ€proteins (MGP) found in cartilage (and arterial walls). Osteocalcin is the most abundant non-collagen polypeptide in bones; vitamin D regulates its production and vitamin K2 is necessary for its activation.โ€

MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 as MK-7 from Gnosis by Lesaffre has a substantial body of research showing positive impact on bone structure and supporting healthy bone maintenance, according to Quackenbush. โ€œAnd evidence is increasing, demonstrating that K2 has the potential for impacting joint health through its bone support mechanism and anti-inflammatory action,โ€ she said.

Several studies have demonstrated that when vitamin K2 levels increase through supplementation, bone health improves. According to Quackenbush, low vitamin K status has been associated with joint problems and evidence is growing that shows K2 has the potential to impact joint health through its bone support mechanism and anti-inflammatory action. โ€œMenaQ7 offers a reliable solution to support optimal bone health and mobility,โ€ she explained. โ€œAs such, it represents a very effective addition to formulations targeting athletes and active life-stylers alike.โ€

Another ingredient showing promise for younger adults who engage in sports or regular vigorous workouts is S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe). Adonat SAMe from Gnosis by Lesaffre may promote the maintenance of healthy joints through tissue-healing properties (such as that sustained from competition or heavy workouts) and may help to relieve pain and discomfort, which improves function and the range of movement of the affected joints, Quackenbush pointed out.

SAMe is an important factor in promoting the maintenance of healthy joints and may help relieve associated pain and discomfort, improving function and the range of motion of the joints. In a double-blind clinical trial of SAMe, the morning stiffness, pain at rest, pain in motion, crepitus (crinkling sound in knee joints when bending), swelling and limitation of motion of the affected joints were assessed before and after supplementation, with an improvement of the total score obtained. SAMe administration exerted a symptomatic effect that was clinically beneficial in participants.

Maypro, said Alimonti, has several ingredients that appear in products suitable for the active nutrition bone- and joint-support section. Juvecol is a proteoglycan with clinical research โ€œto support the preservation and repair of joint cartilage while improving mobility and flexibility,โ€ he described.

A mineral coming into its own for joint structure support is silicium. Mayproโ€™s Mesoporosil is an essential mineral for the production and crosslinking of collagen fibers. Alimonti explained that without an adequate amount of silicium, collagen fibers cannot link and connect to form the triple helix structure. Silicium amounts are reduced in aging individuals, and therefore, he underscored, remineralization is essential to the synthesis and the renewal of collagen and is essential to the health of all connective tissue.

Mayproโ€™s organic dried apple peel powder, AppleActiv DAPP, is supported by a 12-week pilot human clinical study showing that it encourages a healthy range of motion and promotes healthy joint function and comfort, according to Alimonti.

Many products aimed at protecting bone and joint health feature โ€œolderโ€ ingredients, such as glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. Joints need sulfur-containing compounds, and MSM is a natural source of sulfur, a mineral element needed to synthesize glucosamine, an amino sugar that is a precursor to chondroitin sulfate.

โ€œChondroitin sulfate is a more complex sulfur-containing molecule called a glycosaminoglycan (or mucopolysaccharide). These are the major constituents of joint tissues,โ€ said Levin.

He added that hyaluronic acid is needed to maintain synovial fluid levels, especially in weight-bearing joints like the knee. Vitamin C and protein are also needed to synthesize collagen as a necessary component of joints (articular cartilage on bone ends facing into joints) and the bones themselves.

Foundational Finished Products

These ingredients are contained in numerous products that appeal to your active and athletic customers. Here are just a few.

KaLayaโ€™s 7x Joint & Muscle supplement blends Boswellia serrata extract, Turmeric 10:1 extract, hydrolyzed collagen, MSM, bromelain (stem), tricylglycerol lipase and vitamin C. Sharratt described, โ€œThe combination of these ingredients in a supplement may support bone and joint health through various pathways, primarily by supporting the bodyโ€™s natural inflammatory response, aiding in the maintenance and integrity of cartilage, and promoting the synthesis of collagen, for healthy connective tissue. This multi-faceted approach aims to maintain joint comfort, flexibility and mobility, as well as contribute to bone health through nutrient support and the maintenance of a healthy inflammatory response.โ€

TendoGuard from Longevity by Nature is a clinically proven, innovative blend of collagen peptides from avian sternum and eggshell membrane that delivers the collagen types (I, II, V and X) essential for maximizing bone, cartilage, and tissue repair, according to Alkayali. He described TendoGuard is being optimized for bioavailability and bioactivityโ€”its collagen peptides are the right molecular size (20kD) to ensure uptake and preservation of naturally occurring mucopolysaccharides, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin and glucosamine.

An observational study on TendoGuard showed that it significantly improved the range of motion, general pain, and muscle strength in 78 percent of subjects who consumed 750 mg daily for 60 days.

New from Ayush Herbs is Calcium & Cofactors for bone-specific support by promoting healthy bone mineralization. The calcium is derived from marine algae and an ayurvedic herb Cissus quadrandgularis, along with vitamin C and minerals zinc, boron and strontium.

Utah-based Trace Minerals launched Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides under its TMAncestral brand. It contains collagen types I and III, along with vitamin and mineral cofactors and ConcenTrace, a blend of full-spectrum ionic trace minerals.

NOWโ€™s best-selling joint health product, according to Levin, is the UC-II undenatured type II collagen product. NOW uses UC-II in a base of 40 mg Aquamin. Research indicates that Aquamin is a multi-mineral complex that may support proper bone mineralization and helps to regulate key factors involved in the normal immune system response to typical joint usage. Levin reported that clinical studies have shown that Aquamin can help to support joint comfort and mobility. โ€œWe also have a second UC-II formula combining it with hyaluronic acid, vitamin D-3, and boron called UC-II Advanced Joint Relief. The purpose of UC-II is to provoke an oral tolerance, allowing the body to better regulate and maintain its immune response in the face of daily wear-and-tear,โ€ he commented.

Many of the NOWโ€™s supplements for support of joint structure contain varying amounts of glucosamine and/or chondroitin, as well as MSM, hyaluronic acid, and other well-known ingredients. โ€œWhat this means is that NOW provides a variety of joint support products to meet nearly every variation of beneficial ingredients and formulation, all in one brand, to meet both current and changing consumer needs,โ€ commented Levin. โ€œPlus a few of these supplement formulas are vegetarian/vegan; glucosamine has a vegan option, and hyaluronic acid is a fermented vegan-friendly ingredient.โ€

Of course, there are numerous other joint and bone-support products to choose from, but these represent the variety that can be featured in a sub-segment of your sports/active nutrition section. Adding these targeted products to this section will be greatly appreciated by customers who are engaged in athletics or who work out regularly to keep fit.

Sharratt agreed, noting, โ€œFocusing on bone and joint health within the sports nutrition arena is essential for injury prevention, performance optimization, enhanced recovery, long-term joint health, and overall well-being. By providing targeted supplemental support, sports nutrition professionals can help athletes and active adults achieve their fitness goals while minimizing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and promoting longevity in their athletic pursuits.โ€

Healthy bones and joints are essential to maintaining an active lifestyle, Quackenbush added, โ€œso it makes sense for your athletic and active customers to consider both in their overall strategy to ensure they maintain mobility, flexibility and strength.โ€VR

For More Information:

Ayush Herbs,
Balchem Nutrition and Health,
Gnosis by Lesaffre,;
KaLaya Health & Wellness,
Longevity by Nature,
Trace Minerals,

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