Healthy living

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements: Are they beneficial?

In this short post we will look at glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, a common ‘joint care’ supplement available in high street pharmacies, supplement shops and most supermarkets.This will not be a review of specyfic product, just summary of evidence for use of glucosamine and chondroitin products.

There is a huge variation in prices in this product, starting from about £5 for own supermaket branded version up to £20 pound for other brands. Are they really worth it?

No.

Both glucosamine and chondroitin occur in the body where they are the cartilage components within our joints. Their role relates to the repair and renewal of cartilage which constantly becomes used. Cartilage is type of flexible connective tissue located in different parts of the body including joints. The main role in relation to joint structure is cushioning of bones that form the joint.

Many people believe that oral consumption of glucosamine and chondroitin can help to maintain the good health of our joint. Most producers for glucoamine products claim that regular consumption of their products will help with joint pain, comfort, weight loss and even improvement in glaucoma.

All claims are theoretical only as there is lack of any solid evidence that oral consumption can help with the above. Different studies have shown that taking both supplements do not increase availability glucosamine and chondroitin in our joints. I used glucosamine supplements for a couple of months whilst training for a marathon. Personally, I did not experience / felt any difference in relation to my joints.

Some studies have shown that consumption of glucosamine and chondroitin can lead to pain reduction in patients with osteoarthritis, which compare to results when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen with fewer side effects. Osteoarthritis usually develops in people over 50 years of age and affects the knees, hips and other small joints. It is characterised by pain and short-lived stiffness of joints.

Overall, over the last twenty years little research has been done to support effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin and the above results were observed in small size studies which took in 1980s among patients who suffered from arthritis / osteoarthritis. More recents studies show conflicting results, snd there is no evidence that suggest glucosamide and chondroitin supplementary benefits (over placebo) or help in recovery after knee injury, for example caused by running.

References:

NHS (2010). Osteoarthritis supplement study. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/osteoarthritis-supplement-study/

NIH (2008). Questions and Answers: NIH Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial Primary Study. Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/gait/qa.htm

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.

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