Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
About 30 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, an often painful condition in which the cushioning cartilage between bones wears away. Many people are trying new therapies and dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in their search for relief.
What are they?
Glucosamine is found naturally in the body. It stimulates the formation and repair of articular cartilage. Over-the-counter supplements come from animal sources.
Chondroitin sulfate is another natural substance found in the body. It prevents other body enzymes from degrading the building blocks of joint cartilage. The type sold in health-food stores and pharmacies is derived from animal products.
Do they work?
People who use these nutritional supplements hope that they will relieve the pain of osteoarthritis, and perhaps even repair or restore the joint cartilage. Recent evidence seems to support the first claim. Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been used in Europe for several years, with few reported side effects. Both supplements also have some anti-inflammatory effects that may account for the pain relief.
But there is no proof that either substance, taken singly or in combination, will actually slow the degenerative process or restore cartilage in arthritic joints. All studies done to date have been short and focused on pain relief. A long-term study, sponsored by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is just beginning.
Dietary supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are not tested or analyzed by the Food and Drug Administration before they are sold to consumers. That means you cant be sure youre getting what you pay for when you purchase bottles labeled "Glucosamine/ Chondroitin." In fact, a recent study by ConsumerLab.com showed that almost half of the glucosamine/chondroitin supplements tested did not contain the labeled amounts of ingredients.
If youre considering taking nutritional supplements to help your arthritis, you may want to follow these guidelines:
Your Orthopaedic Connection: is the patient education Web site of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.