Does ‘NutraJoint’ Support Joint Health, or Does It Merely Support Knox

The company that makes Knox gelatin, a division of Nabisco, is once more plying the airwaves with an advertising campaign, touting the health benefits of Knox NutraJoint. Many senior citizens are familiar with these advertisements from Modern Maturity, the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons. Similar ads have appeared in other magazines, radio, television and food brochures.

According the Knox Company, NutraJoint can “help keep … joints flexible”; but this claim has no basis in scientific fact. The gelatin manufacturer alleges in these ads that “clinical studies” support the claims being made for NutraJoint, advising consumers that after two months of daily NutraJoint use, “you may notice results.”

“This stuff is just gelatin with a few amino acids, calcium, and vitamins thrown in,” says American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) Director of Nutrition, Ruth Kava, Ph.D. “The ads promise far more than the product can deliver.” Kava explained further, that the European studies alluded to in the NutraJoint ads involved small study populations and had vague end-points. “None of these so-called ‘studies’ would have been accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed U.S. journal,” she notes.

NutraJoint supplies its product at a significantly higher price than its individual ingredients sold separately. “Older consumers — Modern Maturity’s target audience — who fall for the Knox Company’s NutraJoint line will be left with false hopes and empty pocketbooks. Retirees won’t find relief from their joint pain, but they will find they have squandered their precious financial resources,” according to Kava.

By advertising this product as a “dietary supplement” while simultaneously alluding to its ability to act as a drug to “improve cartilage health” and “improve joint flexibility,” Knox/Nabisco tries to sidestep Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on health claims. Their advertisements mislead consumers into believing that NutraJoint will alleviate symptoms “in as little as two months.”

Since Congress removed “nutritional supplements” from the regulatory oversight of the FDA, this ambiguous category has become a maze of extravagant health claims. Even major pharmaceutical companies are jumping on the bandwagon of “nutraceuticals,” foods with alleged beneficial health effects.

Kava points out that “they cloak these claims cleverly in a web of other, more valid claims, such as: ‘Certain amino acids and vitamin C are required for healthy cartilage, and calcium is required for healthy bones.'” Knox wants us to believe that the human joint is like a chemical reaction, in which the more amino acids you put in, the more healthy cartilage will grow. Interestingly, the amino acids to which they attribute this stimulus are themselves non-essential: the body produces as much as it requires naturally, without supplementation.

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of ACSH, says, “Of course, this ‘miracle’ comes at a price: the cost of Knox NutraJoint is almost 3-fold what the plain gelatin costs. I doubt the addition of small amounts of calcium and vitamin C explain this difference.”

Dr. Whelan suggests, “Rather than wasting money on this useless product, I would advise senior citizens to seek competent medical advice for their arthritis pain and suffering.”

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