Protecting and Repairing Cartilage

Chondroprotection is a term that you’ll be hearing more about in the upcoming years as mainstream medicine begins to look at nutrition in joint repair. The word “chondro” means joint or cartilage. So a chondroprotective agent is an agent that protects existing cartilage and encourages repair.
One of the most important (chondroprotective agents) is chondroitin sulfate. Multiple studies in Europe and the United States have shown that chondroprotective agents make a difference.
Chondrocytes are the cells that make proteoglycans and the cells that make the cartilage “chewing” enzymes. If, because of injury or stress, the chondrocytes make more of the cartilage “chewing” enzymes, the cartilage is being destroyed faster than it is being rebuilt or replenished. By adding additional chondroitin sulfate in the joint space where these enzymes are present, free or added chondroitin sulfate can “take the hit” or become denatured. The chondroitin sulfate protects existing cartilage for premature breakdown by inhibiting the action of certain cartilage “chewing” enzymes.
Some people feel the result of chondroprotective agents quickly, and this can be one of the reasons. Some people report positive effects very quickly, yet cartilage builds very slowly; there’s no way anyone could have received relief so fast by the creation of new cartilage. But the pain and swelling of the existing cartilage could be reduced. Our goal is to feed the body, to create new cartilage, but we would also like to protect what is already present.
We’ve already mentioned that chondroitin sulfates act as shock absorbers. Due to the sulfate part of the molecule, chondroitin sulfate can absorb water up to 100 times its weight. We used the analogy earlier, that with proper hydration, the chondroitin sulfates act like a sponge, a cushion or a shock absorber. Here’s another picture that may bring the point across. If you own a waterbed and it’s filled to its capacity, and you fall face-first into the sheets, you will experience relief. You may have fallen four feet, if you’re six feet tall, and yet you experience no pain. What would happen if someone were to drain your waterbed while you were at work, and you came home at night and fell face-first into your soft sheets? That would not be a pleasant experience. Without the water, you would experience intense pain.
As we age, chondroitin sulfates are replaced by another type of glyco-amino glycan, called keratin sulfate. It does not have the ability to absorb water the way chondroitan sulfate does. Therefore the degree or quality of cushion we have become accustomed to is no longer present. Small bumps and bruises become a big event; whereas 20 years ago they were no big deal.
Read:

Understanding Joint Care and Repair
The make up of Cartilage Part 1
The make up of Cartilage Part 2
Protecting and Repairing Cartilage
Hyaluronic Acid for Joint Health
Can Supplementation Help