Arthritis: Glucosamine Treatment
University of South Carolina
to this month’s Mind and Body newsletter.
Our topic is experts still looking for glucosamine attributes. Millions of people with arthritis who want to
relieve joint pain and repair the cushioning between bones reach for
glucosamine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Despite its popular use, studies looking at
the effect of this natural therapy have yielded mixed results. Glucosamine is a type of sugar that the body
produces and distributes in cartilage and other connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate, often taken in
combination with glucosamine, is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage
retain water. These substances are
derived from animal sources. Glucosamine
is extracted from crab, lobster or shrimp shells. Chondroitin sulfate comes from cow or shark
Steven Vlad performed a study to determine why the results of glucosamine
trials differed so widely. Of the 15
studies reviewed, there was one clear finding:
a particular glucosamine preparation called glucosamine hydrochloride
does not work. Results among clinical
trials involving another type of glucosamine sulfate showed wide
variation. A follow up study of a
previous glucosamine study looked at four possibilities for arthritis
patients: taking glucosamine, taking a
combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, taking the anti-inflammatory drug
Celebrex, and taking a placebo.
were taken of the study participant’s knees before the clinical trial began and
at one and two years later. They wanted
to see whether glucosamine alone or in combination with chondroitin would slow
the loss of cartilage. Lead author Dr.
Alan Schwitzky says the results were inconclusive. Dr. Jason Theodosakis says the study was
flawed in many ways, including the small sample size, short duration and
imprecise x-ray methodology. Like many
physicians though, Dr. Theodosakis continues to recommend glucosamine and
chondroitin to his patients and adds that the study does nothing to discourage
that. Dr. Steven Dahmer says trying
glucosamine for 60 days makes sense, especially for patients who cannot
tolerate ibuprofen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
the experts agree that there is some merit in the supplement for pain relief,
but there’s a lot less evidence to support glucosamine as a way to slow
cartilage damage. Dr. Vlad, however,
tells his patients he’s doubtful the supplements work very well, if at
all. He doesn’t discourage patients from
using them since they are considered safe, but does remind them that insurance
won’t cover the cost.
For more information, always consult your
doctor. Thank you for listening. Please visit our website for more information
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