How Your Diet Contributes to Strong Connective Tissue

Connective tissue, as the name implies, is a term given to several different tissues of the body that serve to connect, support, and help bind tissues in the body. They can be found in many parts of the body including the muscles and the nervous system (as a protective sheath for the nerves). Connective tissue can be broken down further into three categories: loose connective tissue, dense connective tissue, and specialized connective tissue. These tissues are comprised of tendonous structures, fascia, ligaments, vessels, the capsule of most organs, cartilage, bone, adipose, and mucus-secreting epithelia. Elastin and proteoglycans are responsible, in part, for the elastic properties of tissues. During growth, and at each step of development, there are changes in the distribution and deposition of connective tissue proteins and glycosaminoglycans. [1,2] In other words, these tissues play a significant role in the human body. So, what will happen if they are not taken care of?

One outcome of it will be Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD): an autoimmune connective tissue disorder characterized by an autoantibody to ribonucleoprotein (RNP). It is also known as systemic sclerosis, SLE, and polymyositis. Symptoms of this disease include cough, dyspnea, or pleuritic chest pain. Pulmonary hypertension is the most severe pulmonary consequence and often leads to premature death. Another outcome is Rotator Cuff Injury. The rotator cuff is comprised of four tendons localized in the shoulder region. These tendons originate from the muscles – subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. Rotator cuff injuries can present as debilitating pain, reduced shoulder movement and function, and shoulder weakness. Physical therapy can be used to treat this injury as well as corticosteroid injections. Other ways to treat are surgical techniques, but studies have proven an equivocal benefit with the surgical approach. Patients with rotator cuff tendon injuries are also at high risk for repeated tears throughout their lifetime. [1] With this in mind, it is imperative to ensure that our connective tissues remain strong and healthy; and it should be of no surprise that the most effective way to do so, is by managing our diet.

Diet has a great effect when it comes to modifying connective tissue metabolism. Often, there is a strong genetic interaction between diet and the expression of connective tissue lesions. [2] Posttranslational modifications are particularly influenced by diet because many vitamins and minerals are cofactors in steps such as the extracellular formation of covalent cross-links between polypeptide chains or various transfer reactions. [2] Nutrients that help maintain strong connective tissues are copper, manganese, zinc, ascorbic acid, pyridoxine thiamine, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K). Their descriptions, functions, metabolic defects, and food sources are as follows:

- Copper

o Copper is an essential mineral

o Copper contributes to collagen and elastin cross-linking, perhaps in sulfation or glycosylation of proteoglycans

o A deficiency in copper will result in skin friability, aneurysms, bone fragility, and loss of coat color and structural integrity

o Some food sources high in copper include bee