Glucosamine and chondroitin are dietary supplements used for relieving joint pain and restoring cartilage. They have been widely promoted as treatment for osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease of the joints, though their efficacy remains to be clearly demonstrated in clinical trials. Learn about the potential beneficial effects of glucosamine and chondroitin in osteoarthritis.
What are glucosamine and chondroitin?
Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural components of the cartilage. Glucosamine is a major building block of the cartilage that protects the end of the bones and is involved in the elasticity, resilience and shock-absorbing properties of the cartilage. Glucosamine supplements are usually made of seashells though it is also available in synthetic forms. Chondroitin is also found naturally in the body and its function is to provide water and nutrients to the joints, which helps the joints to resist compression. Chondroitin can be obtained from shark or bovine cartilage or synthesized.
Who should take these supplements?
Glucosamine and chondroitin are used as a dietary supplement in patients who suffer osteoarthritis to relieve the pain and prevent or slow the breakdown of cartilage. Osteoarthritis, also called the “wear and tear” arthritis, is characterised by joint degeneration and loss of cartilage. It is usually related to getting older but being overweight or injuring a joint also increase the risk of developing this degenerative joint disease. People of certain age who have a family history of bones and joints problems, as well as people being sport active could take these supplements to prevent joint problems.
Clinical trials findings
Evidence to support the efficacy of these supplements for joints comes from studies of knee osteoarthritis with very few studies of their use in other joints.
· Glucosamine has been found to improve pain from osteoarthritis and slow cartilage breakdown in the knee in most studies.
· Chondroitin has been shown to relieve pain in some studies and to slow cartilage breakdown or repair damaged cartilage from knee osteoarthritis.
· Combination of glucosamine and chondroitin has been shown to reduce moderate to severe knee pain from osteoarthritis. Clinical trials have demonstrated the safety of glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together. Glucosamine is usually derived from seafood and thus, is not recommended to people allergic to shellfish. To date, only glucosamine hcl has been granted a marketing authorisation by the European Medicines Agency. Overall, encouraging results have been obtained in recent studies indicating that patients with osteoarthritis taking glucosamine and chondroitin had an improvement in their symptoms of pain. These supplements have few side effects, and thus, if their efficacy is clearly demonstrated, they would be beneficial over other currently available treatments.