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NEM® - Superior Eggshell Membrane for Joint Health

The incredible, edible egg! This logo was introduced in 1976, as a way of promoting the benefits of eating eggs. Most of us are aware of the nutrients found in the yolk and white (albumin) of an egg. Not only is the egg a complete protein source that is loaded with vitamins and minerals, but the yolk is also one of the best sources of the brain-supporting nutrient, choline.  Even the eggshell is nutritious as it contains one of the best natural, bioavailable, and safe sources of calcium with a few extra bone-supporting nutrients tagging along with it.  

But there is one part of the egg that is often ignored and usually discarded – the eggshell membrane. The eggshell membrane is the tough, fibrous protective multi-layer inner lining of the eggshell. It is composed of fibrous protein, predominantly collagen, along with bioactive components including glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), such as dermatan sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and chondroitin sulfate as well as calcium and some additional sulfur-containing peptides and amino acids. [1] These nutrients are also crucial components of the synovium, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons of joint tissue, making eggshell membrane an ideal joint-health ingredient.

Our joints are constantly exposed to minor traumas, either through exercise stress or simple wear and tear. As a result, small fragments of articular cartilage, containing collagen, other proteins and proteoglycans/glycosaminoglycans break away into systemic circulation. The immune system identifies these cartilage fragments as foreign and can initiate an immune response that includes release of substances (cytokines) that contribute to temporary joint inflammation. The body uses this process to wall off the stressed area and enable healing. Normally, this works and cartilage rebuilding balances the breakdown. But continued degradation of the cartilage can cause this self-healing process to fail, leading to excess inflammation, which then contributes to further breakdown of the cartilage, as well as pain and stiffness.

NEM® is a patented partially hydrolyzed eggshell membrane ingredient that is separated from USDA regulated and inspected chicken eggshells using only steam. Partial hydrolysis through a gentle enzymatic process is used to initiate a pre-digestion of the tough fibrous matrix of the membrane, helping to ensure that beneficial components within NEM® are released from the membrane even in individuals with poor digestion. This partial hydrolyzation is also key to unlocking NEM’s exceptional benefits compared to other eggshell membrane ingredients that are either completely hydrolyzed or non-hydrolyzed. And for those who think they could simply eat the membrane from their morning hard-boiled egg, it would take the membrane from 6 to 12 eggs to equal the daily dose of one 500 mg capsule of NEM®. That’s a lot of eggs!

Within the GI tract, gastric acid and the body’s own digestive enzymes complete the breakdown of the partially hydrolyzed portion of NEM®, releasing smaller molecules of the active components (such as low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, collagen peptides, other small peptides, and individual amino acids). After absorption into circulation, these joint-supporting nutrients help modulate the immune response, reducing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are implicated in joint inflammation, such as TNF-α and IL-1β. [2],[3] Reducing the excess joint inflammation helps decrease cartilage breakdown, demonstrated by the reduction in biomarkers that are indicators of cartilage degradation, such as cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and C-telopeptide fragments of type II collagen (CTX-II). [4],[5],[6]

The portion of NEM® that is unhydrolyzed also contributes to its beneficial effects. Larger fragments of NEM® including longer collagen peptides and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid are detected by the immune system within the small intestine. These collagen/GAG fragments are very similar to the cartilage fragments that break away from joint tissue. When the gut-mediated portion of the immune system “sees” these larger fragments of NEM®, it recognizes them as normal food; and through a process called oral tolerance, it subsequently modulates the immune system’s inflammatory response to the similar cartilage fragments in the rest of the body and no longer identifies them as foreign. [7] This provides a second mechanism through which NEM® reduces inflammation. 

Eggshell membrane that has been fully hydrolyzed through controlled acidic or alkaline exposure may help reduce inflammation in the same way that the partially hydrolyzed portion of NEM® functions, but not through the oral tolerance mechanism, since the components are completely broken down.  Similarly, unhydrolyzed eggshell membrane may help reduce inflammation through oral tolerance, but not efficiently through direct interaction in joint tissue because of the limitations of the digestive system in freeing the nutrients for intestinal absorption. NEM® works through both mechanisms, taking full advantage of the extraordinary blend of components that make up this unique ingredient.

NEM® stands apart from other joint health ingredients not only because of partial hydrolyzation, but also because of the breadth of published research supporting its benefits for joint health. NEM® is backed by independent clinical studies, randomized control trials, veterinary studies in multiple species, and both in vitro and in vivo MOA studies. NEM® is safe and won’t interfere with the functioning of other supplement ingredients or pharmaceuticals. It is truly an unparalleled ingredient for joint health.

 

[1] Shi, Y., Zhou, K., Li, D., Guyonnet, V., Hincke, M.T., & Mine, Y. (2021) Avian eggshell membrane as a novel biomaterial: A review. Foods, 10, 2178.

[2] Benson, K.F., Ruff, K.J. & Jensen, G.S. (2012) Effects of natural eggshell membrane (NEM) on cytokine production in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells: increased suppression of tumor necrosis factor-α levels after in vitro digestion. Journal of Medicinal Food, 15(4), 360-368.

[3] Ruff, K.J. & Jensen, G.S. (2014) Reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines in rats following 7-day oral supplementation with a proprietary eggshell membrane-derived product. Modern Research in Inflammation, 3(1), 19-25.

[4] Sim, B.Y., Bak, J.W., Lee, H.J., Jun, J.A., Choi, H.J., Kwon, C.J., Kim, H.Y., Ruff, K.J., Brandt, K., & Kim, D.H. (2015) Effects of natural eggshell membrane (NEM) on monosodium iodoacetate-induced arthritis in rats. Journal of Nutrition and Health, 48(4), 310-318.

[5] Wedekind, K.J., Ruff, K.J., Atwell, C.A., Evans, J.L., & Bendele, A.M. (2016) Beneficial effects of natural eggshell membrane (NEM) on multiple indices of arthritis in collagen-induced arthritic rats. Modern Rheumatology, 27(5), 838-848.

[6] Ruff, J.J., Theodosakis, J., Mossison, D., Duncan, S.A., Back, M., & Aydogan, C. (2018) Beneficial effects of natural eggshell membrane versus placebo in exercise-induced joint pain, stiffness, and cartilage turnover in healthy, postmenopausal women. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 13, 285-295.

[7] Ruff, K.J., Durham, P.L., O’Reilly, A. & Long, F.D. (2015) Eggshell membrane hydrolyzates activate NF-κB in vitro: possible implications for in vivo efficacy.  Journal of Inflammation Research, 8, 49-57.