‘Musseling Up’ clinical study confirms mussels reduce knee pain in post-menopausal women 

23 March 2023

A new clinical study facilitated through the Cawthron-led ‘Musseling Up’ research programme has confirmed that Greenshell mussels can help reduce knee pain in post-menopausal women.

Researchers at Massey University carried out the study, finding that after 12 weeks of taking mussel powder, participants reported significantly less joint pain in their knees. The study has been published in the global journal Frontiers in Medicine.

The women who took part in the study, funded by the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, were aged between 55 and 75 years and had BMIs of 25-35. Half the group of 55 took three grams of Sanford’s Greenshell mussel PERNAULTRA® powder each day and the other half took a placebo. The scientists concluded that taking the PERNAULTRA® powder may slow down the degradation of type II collagen in post-menopausal women who have knee pain or discomfort.

Musseling Up Programme lead Dr Matt Miller of Cawthron Institute says the benefits would equally apply to whole mussels and other mussel products.

“This work is the accumulation of 6 years of collaborative research through the ‘Musseling Up’ research programme to understand the benefits of Greenshell mussels – we’ve completed a series of studies that explore the effects of the bioactive compounds the mussels contain on people of different demographics, for different purposes” Miller says.

“We’ve discovered exciting new information about how these compounds can protect cartilage, which has the potential to reduce pain and enhance mobility of millions of people.”

The study was a collaborative effort between Massey University, New Zealand’s leading seafood company Sanford, the Cawthron Institute in Nelson, and the Crown Research Institute Plant & Food Research.

The Massey University doctoral student who carried out the study, Ms Maryam Abshrini, and lead scientist Professor Marlena Kruger both say the results are important.

“We studied a range of biomarkers in the trial participants. Some did not change, but we found that for women who had symptomatic knees, the marker that measures collagen breakdown was lowered as was joint pain for women taking the Greenshell mussel powder.”

“Anecdotally, study participants were telling us the mussel supplements enabled them to carry out daily life activities without pain. Our study captured clinical and personal evidence that the pain reduction was real for these women,” Ms Abshrini says.

Sanford’s GM of Innovation, Andrew Stanley, says this latest result validates what his company has known about mussel powder for some time.

“The study was done specifically with our PERNAULTRA® mussel powder, so we can only speak for that product, but this clinical work backs up what we are being told regularly by people taking our powder – that Greenshell mussel powder has significant health benefits which can be life changing for some people.”

“The Greenshell mussels are unique to New Zealand and we screen the ones we use in our powder production to select those with the optimum levels of bioactive ingredients. Its pleasing to know that what we’re doing can help women who may be experiencing knee joint issues as they age.”

Miller says this work has fantastic implications for New Zealand’s mussel industry.

“We could be one of the first seafood products in the world to have a health claim, which would create positive health benefits for so many people and create new opportunities for our seafood export sector to take advantage of.”

“That’s really been the motivation for Cawthron in acting as leaders of this Musseling Up programme – we’re keen to support New Zealand’s food industry to produce sustainable and high-value products and we’ve been thrilled to work with our partners at Sanford, Massey University and Plant and Food Research on research that will have an immediate real-world impact.”



Matt Miller with greenshell mussels in lab
Image: Cawthron Institute. Dr Matt Miller, Leader of the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge funded Musseling Up research programme.
Two women
Image: Massey University. PhD student Maryam Abshrini and Professor Marlena Kruger.
Man standing in laboratory
Image: Sanford Ltd. Sanford’s GM Innovation Andrew Stanley.
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