Mussels are a popular culinary treat around the globe, yet many Americans have not take the chance to experience the variety of ways mussels can be added to main dishes, or even used as the centerpiece of a meal. Of late, the results of research on a specific type of mussel (the green-lipped mussel, or Perna Canaliculus), add an interesting health twist to the discussion.
Mussels provide protein and vitamin B-12, and are low in fat provided preparation doesn't include high fat sauces.
Extracts of the green-lipped mussel (now there's a visual for the imagination!) appear to offer some benefit to people with osteoarthritis (the type of arthritis that typically occurs with overuse or repetitive motion). While the number of studies completed is small, the results are intriguing, at least for mild-to-moderate forms of the disease. Side effects are possible, especially for people with shellfish allergies, so it's best to speak with your doctor about this agent before running out to buy it. But, in part, that's why we talk about EATING the mussels.
It's almost always better to eat foods that contain important nutrients than to pop pills in order to get them. Getting our nutrients from food is typically safe, and even though the nutrient concentrations present are often less than would be found in a supplement, more is not always better.
The challenge with respect to green-lipped mussels is that the research has mainly been done using an extract of the mussel, with no identifiable data on the effects of eating the mussel on the discomfort of osteoarthritis.
What should we do?
My take - if you have osteoarthritis follow the recommendations of your doctor. Do what you can to maintain an optimal weight for height, follow an anti-inflammatory style diet (perhaps a Mediterranean diet), and exercise gently to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint(s). You might even look into Tai Chi, a practice that is both enjoyable and health-promoting. You can ask your doctor about select supplements, like glucosamine, or even the green-lipped muscle extract.
As far as eating the mussel goes, do so for the best reason of all - it can be prepared in a really tasty fashion. In addition, you just might be giving your joints a little extra help, too.
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