Instaflex Joint Support contains a variety of joint health ingredients, some which have been extensively research and some that we would still consider speculative…(Skip to the Bottom Line)
Glucosamine is a member of the group known as ‘amino sugars’, and has been studied primarily in regards to joint health. Glucosamine is commonly found in two forms: glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride. Glucosamine sulfate appears to be the most readily absorbed when consumed orally.
While originally thought to directly induce collagen synthesis, more recent research indicates that glucosamine may actually work by inhibiting Interleukin-1, a protein which regulates inflammatory response and ultimately breaks down collagen. By inhibiting IL-1, glucosamine may reduce inflammation and slow down the degradation of collagen, thereby preserving the joint and possibly reducing joint pain.
This was evidenced in a recent 2013 study, as well as a 2009 study which noted lower levels of CX-II (a bio-marker of collagen breakdown) in athletes (bicyclists and soccer players) following glucosamine supplementation (most effective at 3 grams daily). While glucosamine appears to be atleast somewhat effective at preserving joints, there is no evidence to suggest that supplementation can reverse osteoarthritis (degradation of joints). However, preserving joints is still of much importance to athletes (particularly high impact sports) who may be in danger of developing osteoarthritis.
Overall, glucosamine may certainly benefit those suffering from osteoarthritis (or perhaps less severe joint degradation), but the miracle claims made by some supplement companies are a bit exaggerated. Instaflex Joint Support contains 1500mg of Glucosamine, which is technically an effective dose but, based on the literature, better results could be achieved by doubling that to 3000mg.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is similar in efficacy to glucosamine, but a significant synergistic effect has never been recorded. It is hypothesized that the real benefit of MSM lies in the fact that it contains sulfur, which is a component of collagen, and thus necessary for functional, healthy joints.
According to this hypothesis, only people with sulfur deficiencies would derive benefit, and would be able to derive the same benefit from other sulfur containing compounds such as the amino acids methionine and cysteine. However, this is just a hypothesis and an exact mechanism of action is not currently known. Overall, it appears MSM offers the same benefits as glucosamine in regards to joint health, but there is no evidence that the same benefit cannot be derived from glucosamine supplementation alone.
WHITE WILLOW BARK:
White Willow Bark contains a compound called salicin, which is chemically almost identical to acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin). For this reason, White Willow Bark has been used as an herbal anti-inflammatory/pain reliever.
Indeed, a 2001 Phytotherapy Research study concluded that a standardized white willow extract yielding 240mg Salicin, when taken daily was moderately effective at relieving joint pain. However, a 2004 study published in “The Journal of Rheumatology” failed replicate these findings in subjects suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
While these two studies conflict, two separate scientific reviews have concluded that white willow bark extract appears to be at least moderately effective at reducing joint pain and be a suitable alternative to conventional medications. However, The Joint Support Formula only contains 250mg WWB extract, 15% of which is salicin. Therefore, the Joint Support Blend only contains 37.5mg of salicin which is far less than the 240mg which reached statistical significance in the above mentioned study.
Supplemental Ginger extract is used for a variety of ailments such as nausea, digestive problems, and joint problems (such as osteoarthritis). In 1992 study noted that over 75% of the arthritis patients who consumed supplemental ginger extract over an extended period of time experienced an overall decrease in joint pain and swelling.
In a 2001 study investigating the potential effects of ginger extract on osteoarthritis, researchers found that subjects who consumed a highly purified ginger extract for 6 weeks experienced a moderately significant reduction in joint pain. While these studies certainly lend preliminary support Ginger’s potential for joint pain resulting from osteoarthritis, a mechanism of action has yet to be discovered. Furthermore, it is difficult to interpret Joint Support’s claim of “Ginger Extract (4:1)”.
Boswellia has been the subject of several human studies, and has shown promise as a treatment for osteoarthritis in all. A 2008 study published in “Arthritis Research and Therapy”, as well as two (2010 and 2011) studies published in the “International Journal of Medical Sciences” noted significant improvement in measures of mobility and pain in subjects given two different patented forms of Boswellia extract (Aflapin and 5-Loxin) in doses ranging from 100mg to 250mg. Furthermore, A 2011 study involving 56 patients, each showing ‘signs and symptoms’ of osteoarthritis, found that supplementation with 6 grams Boswellia extract daily effectively relieved many of the symptoms the subjects had previously reported, and increased mobility.
However, there are a few problems with this study. First, the study was unblinded, and therefore is wide open to potential bias. Furthermore, the extract in the study was of unknown concentration, making it difficult to directly compare the Joint Support formula which states “Standardized To 65% Boswellic Acid”. Finally, Given the high dose used in the study, it is not likely that the 125mg present in the Joint Support formula would yield similar results. However, even if we disregard this last study, there are still three seemingly sound studies which indicate Boswellia is effective at relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Turmeric is a close relative of Ginger, and is commonly standardized for its active components, curcuminoids. A 2006 study involving rats, noted that treatment with Turmeric extract “profoundly inhibited joint inflammation and periarticular joint destruction.” However, due to a lack of human studies, we cannot draw any conclusions. It is possible that Tumeric shares some of the properties of Ginger that make it effective for reducing joint pain, but until further research is published, we can only theorize.
Cayenne peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which has been implicated for several uses including weight loss and pain reduction. In a 1990 study, researchers found that a topical cream containing capsaicin effectively reduced joint pain in subjects with osteoarthritis. A 1992 study to investigate the effects of topical capsaicin on certain types of arthritis found that the treatment was effective for reducing osteoarthritis symptoms but not rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Unfortunately, there are no documented studies regarding the effect of oral capsaicin supplements on joint pain, so we really cannot draw any conclusions.
Like glucosamine, hyaluronic Acid is a major constituent of synovial fluid, the body’s natural joint lubricant. It has been studied primarily as a potential treatment for joint pain, and while a significant analgesic (painkiller) effect has been noted in rats following injections with hyaluronic acid, similar treatment has only been mildly effective in humans suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. While most studies have used injection, a 2012 study published in “The Scientific World Journal” found that oral supplementation with 200mg hyaluronic acid daily over a 12 month period improved symptoms in subjects suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. However, these results were far from miraculous and it should be noted this particular study combined the treatment with a quadriceps strengthening exercise regimen. Ultimately, hyaluronic acid injections appear to be more effective at reducing joint pain than oral supplements. Joint Support only contains 4mg of Hyaluronic Acid which is insignificant at best, so for all intensive purposes, the formula contains no HA.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Instaflex Joint Support formula contains the usual array of joint support ingredients, but with the addition of Boswellia, White Willow Bark, Ginger, Cayenne, and Turmeric (each of which have shown atleast preliminary efficacy). So, while the formula itself may be sound, the price is where Instaflex loses serious points. At about $70 per bottle containing 30 servings, Instaflex values its formula at $2.33 per dose. However, Infinite Labs sells the exact same formula for $13 a bottle, or 43 cents per dose. So, it appears Instaflex is trying to capitalize purely on brand reputation/loyalty.
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