Health

Rheumatism: do green mussel remedies help?

The green lipped mussel owes its name to its beautiful color.

The ingredients of the green lipped mussel are said to help against inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, however, the claimed effect has not been proven.

Stiff, aching joints: This is what people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, or “rheumatism” for short, have to struggle with. In Germany and Austria, the disease affects around one percent of the population [6].

The number of food supplements advertised as a remedy for joint problems is correspondingly large. These include the three-winged fruit, cat’s claw, rosehip powder, brown millet, or turmeric.

The alleged remedies also include food supplements containing green mussels. A reader asked us what these products can do for rheumatoid arthritis.

Does rheumatism help from the sea?

The theory behind the advertised antirheumatic effect: The mussel species, native to New Zealand, contains a whole range of substances that are said to have beneficial effects on the joints. These include omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and chondroitin. Green mussel is available in the form of freeze-dried mussel meat, in capsules, tablets or in powder form [10].

Of course, a theory is not proof. That’s why we went looking for studies [1-5]who studied the benefits of green lipped mussel in rheumatism.


Insufficient studies do not allow any conclusions

We found five. However, the result is disappointing: in most studies, the funds had no greater benefit than a placebo. Only in an investigation [2] the study group reports a positive effect of the green lipped mussel. How the team came to this conclusion cannot be understood from the confused analysis of their data. For us, therefore, this statement is not very credible. However, the four studies that found no effect on the mussel also have severe deficiencies. At the moment it cannot be said for sure whether green lipped mussel helps with rheumatism or not.

Ads for “healthy joints” not allowed

By the way: There is no evidence that green mussels have a protective effect on healthy joints. The European Food Safety Authority EFSA came to this conclusion in 2009. Therefore, claims such as “for healthy joints” or “helps keep joints healthy” are not allowed on food supplements [7]. However, this doesn’t seem to have reached everyone on the internet.


Rheumatism: out-of-control inflammation

When people talk colloquially about “rheumatism,” they usually mean rheumatoid arthritis. In this joint disease, inflammatory processes gradually destroy the affected joints. Inflammation is triggered by the body’s immune system when immune cells attack the cartilage tissue in the joints. For those affected, this usually means pain and, depending on the extent of the disease, reduced mobility [8].

Numerous drugs are now available to stop the immune response and inflammation. However, how they work can vary greatly from person to person [9].

Detailed and scientifically based information on rheumatoid arthritis and how it can be treated can be found at www.gesundheitsinformation.de.

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Studies in detail

What studies did we consider?

For investigations into the therapeutic benefits of a drug, randomized controlled trials are the most significant. To find them, we searched three searchable databases. We found five of these studies [1-5]who studied the benefits of green mussel supplements in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Most of the participants were women, in whom this joint disease is much more common than in men. They were randomly assigned to receive either a green lipped mussel supplement or a placebo. In two studies [1,3] participants were given one remedy first, then the other. The studies each lasted between 2 and 6 months.

The same New Zealand product was used in all studies, but sometimes in different dosages. It is unclear whether the results could be carried over to other products or to other assays.

How significant are the studies?

It is not possible to draw reliable conclusions from the studies found. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The studies were relatively small, each with 6-47 participants.
  • The studies are all poorly performed by today’s standards – it is unclear how reliable the measures of treatment success are. In all studies, data from some participants were missing from the analysis. In publications, research teams often do not report full details of the study’s implementation, which would be important for our evaluation.
  • The studies also come from a time when rheumatoid arthritis was treated very differently. Nowadays, those affected are given medications relatively soon after diagnosis that slow the progression of the disease [9]. It is unclear whether rheumatism patients would still benefit from green mussel preparations.

Scientific sources

[1] Hightton (1975)
Highton TC ua Pilot study on the effect of New Zealand green mussel on rheumatoid arthritis. NZ Med J 1975; 81: 261-262 (Zusammenfassung der Studie)

[2] Gibson (1980)
Gibson RG et al. Perna canaliculus in the treatment of arthritis. practitioners 1980; 224: 955-60 (study summary)

[3] Huskisson (1981)
Huskisson E et al. Seatone is ineffective in rheumatoid arthritis. BMJ 1981; 283: 1358-9. (study summary)

[4] Caughey (1983)
Caughey DE et al Perna canaliculus in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Eur J Reumatolo Inflamm 1983; 6: 197-200 (study summary)

[5] Larkin (1985)
Larkin JG ua Seatone in rheumatoid arthritis: a six-month placebo-controlled study. Ann Rheum Dis 1985; 44: 199-201 (Study in volleyball Länge)

[6] IQWiG (2020)
Rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from www.gesundheitsinformation.de

[7] EFSA (2009)
Scientific Opinion on the merits of health claims relating to green mussel extract and maintenance of joints, bones and muscles (ID 1571, 1813) pursuant to Article 13 (1) of Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2009; 7 (9): 1265

Retrieved 5/31/2022, from www.efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com

[8] UpToDate (2022)
Pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved 05/31/2022 from www.uptodate.com (for a fee)

[9] UpToDate (2022)
General principles and notes on the management of rheumatoid arthritis in adults. Retrieved 05/31/2022 from www.uptodate.com (for a fee)

[10] Consumer Center North Rhine-Westphalia (2021)

Retrieved 08/06/2022 from www.Verbraucherzentrale.de

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