Most health and fitness writers don’t spend a lot of time on cartilage. As tissues go, it’s fairly isolated. It doesn’t contain blood vessels, so we can’t deliver blood-borne nutrients to heal and grow it. Cartilage has no nerve cells, so we can’t “feel” what’s going on. Doctors usually consider it to be functionally inert, a sort of passive lubricant for our joints. If it breaks down, you’re out of luck, they say.
But that’s what people used to think about bone, body fat, and other “structural” tissues: that they are inert rather than metabolically active. The truth is that bone is incredibly plastic, responding to activity and nutrition, and that body fat is an endocrine organ in its own right, secreting hormones and shaping the way our metabolism works. What about cartilage? Can we do anything to improve its strength and function?
Photo by Muffet