Diseases and Remedies » Other

Glucosamine and Chondroitin May Not Be As Good As We Thought

It has long been accepted that Glucosamine, sometimes combined with Chondroitin, is beneficial for sufferers of osteoarthritis. It has the reputation for being able to prevent damage to cartilage and even to rebuild and strengthen this vital substance. It is of particular relevance to knee joints, which are more prone to this problem than some other joints.

There are many millions of arthritis sufferers in the world (about 27 million in the USA) and a large percentage of these patients make regular use of Glucosamine and Chondroitin as they are easily available without prescription. There is, therefore, a multi-billion dollar market in these supplements.

The long-held perception that glucosamine is a proven contributor to the relief of arthritis pain has been challenged by a recent clinical trial, carried out in 2010, by a team of professional researchers. They maintain that there is no evidence that glucosamine reduces joint pain.

These conclusions seem to be directly opposite to the results of a very similar trial, carried out in the USA in 2008 and places some doubt on the effectiveness of these products. This exercise was performed by sixteen universities and hospitals and co-ordinated by The University of Utah School of Medicine.

The study group comprised 1,583 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, average age 59 and two-thirds of whom were women. In a blind trial, some participants were given glucosamine and/or chondroitin and others received a placebo. They were identified in two groups, those with mild pain and those with moderate to severe pain. The group with only mild pain was the much larger, with 1,229 members (78%).

The researchers found that, in the smaller group with moderate to severe pain, for 79% of those tested, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief, versus about 54% for placebo. For patients in the mild pain subset, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate together or alone, did not provide statistically significant pain relief. Therefore, 280 participants out of the total of 1,583 experienced significant pain relief. This is only 18%.

The more recent trial, in 2010, was carried out by Professor Peter Juni and a team at the University of Bern, in Switzerland. This group was more than twice as big, involving 3,803 patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. These researchers decided that there was no clinically relevant effect from glucosamine and chondroitin on perceived joint pain whether taken singly or together. As regards any effect on cartilage, there was no evidence of any impact on narrowing of the joint space.

The results of these two very similar clinical trials, with very different results, carried out by professional medical researchers, would seem to indicate that a relatively small number of arthritis sufferers with severe pain could expect some significant relief but for most other people, glucosamine and chondroitin are not much different to a placebo.

There is, however, a recognition in both cases that the beneficial effect of the placebo administered to some patient was significant. With this in mind, the conclusion is, ” if you think they are doing you some good, then keep taking them, because they will do you no harm”.