Arthritis: Glucosamine Treatment

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Arthritis: Glucosamine Treatment

 

Transcript:

 

Host:  Medical University of South Carolina

 

Welcome 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 cartilage. 

 

Dr. 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. 

 

X-rays 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.

 

Most of 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 on health and wellness topics. 


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