Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements popularly used for treating the pain and
inflammation associated with arthritis. But what are glucosamine and chondroitin? And do they really help?
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound found in healthy cartilage and in the fluid around our joints; it is vital for building cartilage. As we age, our naturally occurring
glucosamine levels can go down, thus the frequent suggestion of taking some form of
glucosamine as a dietary supplement. Glucosamine can come in different forms, but most studies that have examined the health benefits when used as a dietary supplement have focused on glucosamine sulfate. To make a dietary supplement, glucosamine sulfate is typically harvested from the shells of shellfish, although it can also be made in a laboratory.
Chondroitin also occurs naturally in the body and is a major component of cartilage and
other connective tissue; it is believed to help the body maintain fluid and flexibility in the
joints. Chondroitin supplements are sold as chondroitin sulfate and are normally
manufactured from the cartilage of sharks or cows. They can also be made in a laboratory.
While many people say the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is helpful, according to the National Institutes of Health, there is no scientific proof to indicate this is true. What is more, the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) - the most comprehensive long-term study of any supplement - found that glucosamine plus chondroitin sulfate did not provide significant relief from pain associated with hip or knee osteoarthritis. The combination appeared to be no more effective at preventing joint damage caused by osteoarthritis than placebo. It’s interesting to note, however, that a smaller subgroup of the study (patients with moderate-to- severe pain) did report significant pain relief from the glucosamine/chondroitin combination. But there was no effect in the group with mild pain.) These results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006.
In 2008, the next phase of the GAIT was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. This phase focused on preventing joint damage in the knee, and again, the glucosamine/chondroitin combination appeared to be no more effective than placebo.
Lastly, in 2010, the journal Annals of Rheumatic Disease published the third phase of the GAIT, reporting again that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, in combination or alone, were no more effective at knee pain relief than placebo.
Here’s the bottom line: if you have seen legitimate improvements from taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, do not stop taking them. BUT, if you’ve found that glucosamine and/or chondroitin do not work for you, you need to know: you are not alone. Studies show that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are safe, but as described above, scientific research has repeatedly cast doubt on their effectiveness.
If you’re still looking for healing and relief from joint pain and inflammation, we would love to help. Visit us here to see what so many are discovering: high quality, pure, and natural products that bring real results.
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