by Mike Arnold
Over the last 10 years, the grim reaper has visited our community more times than I care to remember. In fact, more post-millennium professional bodybuilders have died in their 30’-40’s than in the previous 3 decades combined. While it is true that not all of these deaths can be attributed to the bodybuilding lifestyle, an alarmingly high percentage can be either directly or indirectly linked to PED use. A difficult statistic to ignore, bodybuilders are no longer able to casually dismiss the relationship between ill health and what they put into their bodies. As I see it, the days of “ignorance is bliss” are long gone.
This increase in awareness, combined with a growing body of supportive scientific research, has jolted many into action. As a result we witnessed a surge in health-based supplementation, with more and more people turning to OTC products in an attempt to mitigate the side effects of their chosen bodybuilding drugs. Although hepatic care initially took precedence, a shift towards cardiovascular protection soon followed, making it the number one health concern of bodybuilders worldwide.
At this point there are a number of compounds available with clinically proven cardiovascular benefits. Among these are curcumin, vitamin k2, pomegranate juice/extract, hawthorn berry, citrus bergamot, fish oil, ubiquinol, tocotrienols, and resveratrol, to name a few. However, there is one other rarely discussed compound with compelling scientific evidence for its effectiveness. This is chondroitin sulfate. Claimed to not only reverse arteriosclerosis (if true, it would be one of only four compounds in the world proven to do so), but to actually repair damaged heart tissue and blood vessels, I became immediately intrigued by this compound.
Most of you will recognize chondroitin as a companion product to glucosamine; a connective tissue repair agent used by those with aching joints. But what most of you probably don’t know is that chondroitin has a long history of use as a treatment for cardiovascular disease, being first mentioned in the medical literature over 70 years ago. However, before we get into its potential benefits, let’s take a look at what this stuff actually is.
Referred to as a GAG (glycosaminoglycan) in conventional medicine, chondroitin sulfate is an important and abundant structural component in many different bodily tissues, including cartilage, skin, hair and blood vessels. Diminished levels of this substance can result in the development of numerous unwanted conditions, such as hair loss/discoloration, wrinkled skin, joint problems, and poor cardiovascular health. It is most commonly used in those who suffer from degenerative diseases affecting the joints, such as arthritis, as well as weight trainers and other athletes whose joints and connective tissues have taken a beating over the years.
The idea that chondroitin sulfate might be critical to the preservation of cardiovascular health wasn’t recognized until 1861, when Rudolph Virchow was the first to suggest a possible link between chondroitin deficiency and arteriosclerosis. Despite this emerging hypothesis, not much research was conducted in this area until the 1960’s, when Dr. Lester Morrison and his team of Japanese collaborators conducted a series of clinical trials detailing the effect of chondroitin sulfate on various aspects of the cardiovascular system.
In terms of credibility, Dr. Morrison was at the top of the heap (he passed away in 1991). Sitting as Chairman of the Department of Atherosclerosis Research at Loma Linda University and a published researcher in 8 different medical journals, he was internationally recognized for his expertise in the field of arteriosclerosis. As an area of special interest, Dr. Morrison devoted a substantial portion of his life to studying the effects of chondroitin sulfate on cardiovascular health in both humans and animals…with startling results.
Following accepted protocol, all initial research was conducted on animals. In one particular study involving animals with advanced heart disease, pre-treatment screening showed a near complete obstruction of the coronary arteries. After a period of daily chondroitin sulfate administration the arteries were re-examined. Amazingly, cross section photos revealed the complete removal of arterial plague. For the first time ever, it appeared that the effects of arteriosclerosis could be reversed in full. Witnessing the results firsthand, Dr. Morrison was convinced to proceed with human testing.
In a 6 year double blind placebo controlled study involving 60 test subjects, the chondroitin sulfate group showed a whopping 350% reduction in fatal heart attacks compared to the control group. When analyzing the data for non-fatal cardiovascular events, the control group experienced non-fatal heart attacks at a rate of 16%, while those in the chondroitin sulfate-treated group came in at 0%. Dr. Morrison also treated 134 individual patients between 1944 and 1955, which were divided into 3 separate groups. With an improvement rate of 74-80% and results ranging from moderate to dramatic, these individual cases lend further credibility to the effectiveness of chondroitin sulfate in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to chondroitin sulfate’s potent anti-arteriosclerotic effects, it was also shown to possess powerful anti-clotting properties on par with the popular pharmaceutical drug, heparin. When compared head-to-head, chondroitin beat our heparin in several areas, prompting Dr. Morrison to remark “chondroitin did the job just as well as heparin, and the effect lasted longer. The anti-clotting property of heparin only lasts about 5 hours. In animal studies, chondroitin prolonged anti-clotting for up to two full days.”
In total, chondroitin sulfate was shown to have 10 primary biological properties, with several of them being of particular interest to bodybuilders. In addition to its anti-arteriosclerotic effect, it also possesses a positive lipid modifying effect, an anti-inflammatory effect, an anti-coagulant (clotting) effect, the ability to grow additional coronary artery branches and increase collateral circulation, and the ability to accelerate the healing, regeneration and repair of myocardial tissues.
It is interesting to note that in several of Dr. Morrison’s individual case studies involving prior heart attack patients, all evidence of heart damage, which had been visible on EKG readings for years, could no longer be detected after treatment with chondroitin sulfate, indicating the regeneration of previously dead heart tissue. Considering the sheer scope of cardiovascular disease in modern society, Dr. Morrison believed this to be one of chondroitin’s most important, if not it’s most important benefit.
For many years the medical community refuted the notion that heart cells could be regenerated; that once they died, they weren’t coming back. Since then it has reversed its position on the issue, acknowledging that the heart does indeed replace about 50% of its cells over the course of a lifetime, but to my knowledge no drugs have yet been developed which are capable of duplicating the results seen in Dr. Morrison’s research.
Given the relevance and importance of this research, one must wonder why it has been completely ignored by the medical community for so long. It just seems awfully odd that no one is saying a word about it even decades after it was first published. Lest you think that Dr. Morrison stands alone in his research, think again. Many others, such as Dr. N. Rowan Richards, have since taken up the torch and corroborated these findings in their own work, yet the AMA seems to be oblivious to all of it.
Now, I don’t want to get into conspiracy theories, but I find it hard to believe that any compound with such an impressive body of research in treating (and correcting) the #1 health problem in the U.S. has gone unnoticed by those who rule the roost. It’s also common knowledge that Big Pharma adamantly opposes anything they can’t patent, especially natural therapies which work just as well or better than currently available prescription drugs. Considering the lengths they have already gone to keep the general public in the dark regarding their own health, it seems more likely that this oversight is intentional rather than innocent.
Still, the advent of the Internet has made it almost impossible to stop the dissemination of information; a reality which tends to benefit the people more often than not. If you are at risk due to the use of AAS, growth hormone, or insulin, I urge you to look into this natural cardiovascular health aid. With secondary benefits in the area of joint health, this stuff seems to be a near-perfect fit for the chemically enhanced weight trainer.