As we age, our muscles, bones, and joints fall victim to the familiar villains of:
- Oxidative stress
- Damage to DNA
- Changes in hormones
- Wear and tear
- Build-up of toxic substances
General anti-aging interventions include an excellent diet and avoidance of environmental toxins—this will prevent and reverse some of these changes but let’s look at a few specific aspects of musculoskeletal aging and see what we do about them.
One of the most common age-related changes in the musculoskeletal system is osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease involving degeneration of bone and cartilage and is caused by many factors including genes, overweight, and weakness of the muscles that support the joint.
It is the most common form of arthritis in adults and can be quite painful and debilitating. You probably know that weight loss, exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., NSAIDs) are the mainstays of treatment for osteoporosis. But you may not have heard that some alternative treatments are very effective.
I want to talk about of these little-known gems: curcumin. Curcumin is the principle component of turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Curcumin has long been a staple of Eastern medicine, but Western medicine has recently found early evidence that it can fight:
- The accumulation of amyloid plaques
Since curcumin has been shown in animal, in-vitro, and human studies to fight inflammation, researchers hypothesized that it could treat osteoarthritis. Belcaro et al. (2010) conducted a randomized-controlled trial to test 200 milligrams per day of Meriva (a complex of curcumin and phosphatidylcholine) in 100 patients with osteoarthritis. The Meriva group had decreased pain and decreased inflammatory markers in the blood.
Curcumin has some potential side effects, so it’s best to talk to your doctor before using it.