Eating NZ Greenshell mussels may help in combatting early stages of osteoarthritis


Professor Marlena Kruger will be leading the study involving Sanford.


Sanford collaboration with Massey University and High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge focuses on the impact of consuming NZ Greenshell™ mussels in combatting early stages of osteoarthritis.

This latest project led by Massey University's Professor Marlena Kruger will examine the role of mussels in assisting a significant part of the Aotearoa New Zealand population who are healthy, but living with early stages of osteoarthritis. Associate Professor Pamela von Hurst is a co-investigator and Casandra Slade is the Doctoral candidate involved.

These mussels are New Zealand’s leading aquaculture species, but is undervalued. This project funding is for $350,000 over 24 months and will add value to the food products by adding to evidence of two previous High-Value National Science Challenge Green Shell Mussel projects (see here).

The first of these provided evidence in pre-clinical models of the ability of Greenshell mussels to have protective effects against cartilage damage. The second study aims to evaluate this in healthy individuals. The latest research being announced will evaluate effects among those with early signs of osteoarthritis.  

Collectively this research could inform the consideration of health claims not only for osteoarthritis symptoms like functionality and pain, but also for physiological signs of osteoarthritis such as cartilage breakdown. It will also contribute to the understanding of the mechanism causing recession of symptoms such as inflammation and cartilage degradation.

An estimated 18 per cent of women and 9.6 per cent of men worldwide have symptomatic osteoarthritis, making it the leading cause of disability in older adults. Progress and presentation of the disease can vary among individuals, but there is a common pathway of joint structure pathogenesis suggesting the possibility of a common treatment in the early stages of the disease.

The research team will build on the successful collaboration between industry and leading New Zealand scientists established previously. The team will incorporate the expertise of scientists from Massey University, the Cawthron Institute, with the support of Sanford, bringing together experts in bone and joint health and nutrition. 

Sanford Limited is New Zealand’s largest Greenshell mussel producer, generating more than 35 per cent of the country’s output, and is actively working to improve all aspects of the mussel's breeding, production, processing and food innovation.

In addition, the overall programmes of work seeks to bring together knowledge holders of different iwi and hapū to explore and record traditional health uses and applications for Kūku/Kūtai, which will provide greater insight into traditional practices that have led to consumption of mussels for these particular health outcomes. 

“Regular consumption of the mussels may be a simple way to reduce inflammation and protect cartilage in joints,” says Professor Marlena Kruger. “This study will produce clinical evidence demonstrating the impacts of consuming New Zealand Greenshell mussels in combatting early stages of osteoarthritis. Results of the study will increase our understanding of the cause of osteoarthritis, while taking another step towards clinically validated health claims for this food.” she says.

Joanne Todd, Director of the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge says "The importance of this research will round out previous years of investigations, with the potential for new health claims that will lead to all GSM processors being able to utilise the results of research and increase the value of their products."

The High-Value National Challenge is a mission-led programme of innovative research into the health and wellbeing attributes of New Zealand produced foods for our major export markets. The challenge will over the next five years fund a number of projects through a competitive contestable funding process, and has recently approved other contestable funding projects that will be completed together with businesses partners.

The Contestable Fund Request for Proposals remains open for applications. Read more here.

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