In biochemical terms Proteoglycans are described as a family of complex macromolecules consisting of a core protein with covalently attached glycosaminoglycan chains. In respect of their function in health proteoglycans are a part of the connective tissue forming the body’s joints.The connective tissue in the joint is cartilage which is made up of collagens and proteoglycans.
Joint connective tissue is subjected to two forms of degradation, one is normal wear and tear with regular use of the joint and the other is the natural metabolic breakdown process that takes place in all cells in the body. In the case of the natural metabolic process the breakdown of the joint tissue is balanced by a rebuilding process thus maintaining a healthy cushion of cartilage separating the surfaces of the respective bones. In youth and early middle age the joint cartilage can absorb normal wear and tear without significant damage. However, after the age of 50 to 60 years both wear and tear and metabolic degeneration exceed the regenerative functions resulting in deteriorating cartilage integrity. If not controlled this eventually leads to complete breakdown of the cartilage in the joint, no buffering between the bones and restricted, painful movement. However, it is possible to slow down these degenerative processes and consumption of proteoglycans has been predicted to help to maintain the structure of the body’s joint cartilage thus countering the aging effects in joints.
Aging of the skin is another area in which proteoglycans can help delay and counter effects such as reduced hydration, increased erythema and long term exposure to ultraviolet radiation damage. An example is that anti-aging effects of the skin have been investigated using oral administration of proteoglycan from salmon nasal cartilage. Physiological and histological analysis of the skin indicated that this orally administrated proteoglycan inhibited UVB-induced skin aging when defined as increased erythema. It was suggested that proteoglycan acts on gut immunity and improves skin health by inhibiting the inflammatory cytokines (triggers) produced by UVB irradiation.