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Even JAMA admits glucosamine is effective against osteoarthritic pain.

A 2000 study (1) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that glucosamine and chondroitin, 2 food supplements, do appear to help with symptoms of osteoarthritis.

glucosamine

The authors of the study analyzed 15 previously published studies on the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin on osteoarthritis.

The findings of the study, adjusted for variability and quality in the supplements, showed a significant benefit from glucosamine supplements as well as from chondroitin supplements.

In March 2000, the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded:

"Trials of glucosamine and chondroitin preparations for osteoarthritis symptoms demonstrate moderate to large effects, but quality issues and likely publication bias suggest that these effects are exaggerated. Nevertheless, some degree of efficacy appears probable for these preparations." (1)

 

The reason why this study is so important is that it was published in the largest medical journal in the world, JAMA. When JAMA reports that an alternative treatment works, you'd better believe that it works, because they only reluctantly publish findings which promote natural treatments.

In 2001, the "Lancet" published the results of a 3-year double-blind clinical trial involving 212 people with osteoarthritis who took either glucosamine or a placebo. The researchers found that symptoms improved 20% to 25% in the glucosamine group but worsened slightly in the placebo group. The x-ray examinations showed that serious narrowing of the knee-joint space - a sign of progression of the disease - occurred in only 50% as many patients taking glucosamine as in those receiving the placebo. (2)

However, it is important that one use high quality products. There is evidence showing that these cartilage precursors do help with osteoarthritis (not rheumatoid arthritis). The likely explanation for some of the conflicting previously-published research likely has to do with the quality of the supplements which were used.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar, which chondroitin - a carbohydrate - is a cartilage component which  promotes water retention and elasticity and inhibits the enzymes which break down cartilage. Both compounds are manufactured by the body.

Glucosamine supplements are derived from shellfish shells, while chondroitin supplements are generally made from cow cartilage. Human studies have shown that either one may help with arthritis pain and stiffness with fewer side effects than conventional arthritis drugs.

 

Osteoarthritis and glucosamine

Chronic joint problems and arthritis affect close to 1/3 of American adults  according to a self-reported survey conducted in 2001 (1). Osteoarthritis, the most widespread type of arthritis, is a degenerative disease of the joints. Although sometimes capable of causing acute inflammation, osteoarthritis is most commonly a 'wear-and-tear' disease involving degeneration of joint cartilage and the formation of bony spurs within various joints.

osteoarthritis

When cartilage becomes worn, exposed bones can rub together and the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis may appear.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, including those throughout the spine. Repetitive occupational usage, trauma to the joints, and obesity are risk factors.

Most people over 60 years of age suffer from osteoarthritis to some extent. Conventional medicine does not yet have a proven treatment to stop or slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Traditional medical treatment includes drug therapy to control the pain associated with osteoarthritis.

NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Orudis) are the traditional drug solutions for arthritis.

Glucosamine is the subject of research in numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.

Many companies use medium grade glucosamine so you must be careful to look for the highest quality. Look for the highest quality form of glucosamine, pharmaceutical grade.

Because dietary supplement manufacture is not regulated, product quality (especially of chondroitin products) is not assured.  You want to make sure you choose a high quality supplement.

As far as dosage is concerned, if you choose to take glucosamine in capsule form, you will need at least 1500mg per day. If taking glucosamine in liquid form, because of the reported higher absorption rate, you will likely not need a full 1500mg. 1000-1250mg per day of high quality glucosamine in liquid form is optimal.

Also crucial to the effectiveness of the glucosamine supplement is the other ingredients which may be included in the product. I would recommend you look for products which combine glucosamine with other arthritis-fighting ingredients such as chondroitin. The synergy between these different compounds makes for a more effective supplement.

 

 

Safety considerations for glucosamine

No study so far has found any serious side effects from either glucosamine or chondroitin. The most common side effects are increased intestinal gas and soft stools.

However, an editorial in the British publication the "Lancet" (Volume 354, Number 9176 July, 31 1999) suggested that glucosamine might contribute to insulin resistance in diabetics or those at risk for diabetes. Insulin resistance - a decrease in the body's response to the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin - is a condition which is a precursor to type-2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Increasing insulin resistance may result in more difficult to control blood sugar levels.(3)

So it would seem prudent to monitor blood sugar levels in anyone taking glucosamine regularly who is at risk for diabetes. A simple fasting blood sugar test will show whether there is a need for concern. The normal should be 87. Any values over 100 are suspicious of pre-diabetes. Any value over 120 is generally considered to be diabetes. Of course, following the healing diet and exercise recommendations on this site will be helpful in moderating any effect on insulin resistance which glucosamine might have.

There have been no reports of allergic reactions to glucosamine. But since glucosamine is made from shellfish shells, people who are allergic to seafood should use it cautiously, watching for reactions. As for chondroitin, it can cause bleeding in people who have a bleeding disorder or take a blood-thinning drug.

I spend a lot of time researching the best prices for high quality supplements on the internet.  In my opinion, the lowest price for high quality glucosamine/chondroitin supplements in capsules form is hereicon.

I also like Puritan Pride's special "Buy 1 Get 2 FREE" promotions on glucosamine.

It may take up to 2 months for glucosamine to produce any significant improvement. If you see no effect by then, it's probably best to try a different approach.  Some people obtain relief from joint pain with the organic sulfur MSM.






 



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References

(1) McAlindon TE and others. Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: A systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis JAMA 283:1469-1475, 2000.

(2) Reginster JY and others. Long-term effects of glucosamine sulfate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 357:251-256, 2001.

(3) Experimental Biology 2000 Conference San Diego April 18, 2000

 

Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

2002 Healing Daily