How Effective is Glucosamine for Cartilage Repair?

 

Browse the shelves of any natural health store, pharmacy or even supermarket and you will be bombarded with information discussing the benefits of taking  glucosamine.  Many of those who are struggling to cope with chronic osteoarthritis pain or joint pain caused by cartilage wear and tear are advocating glucosamine supplements (particularly when used in conjunction with chrondroitin).

Does the credible research support the taking of glucosamine and chrondroitin supplements?

The combined findings from a US study of over 1500 individuals and a Spanish investigation have indicated that there is some support that just taking glucosamine on its own or in conjunction with chondroitin may reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis in mild to extreme cases .

Why might Glucosamine might provides benefits for the health of our joints?

The major source of the glucosmaine supplements on the market is chitin (chitin is found in the shells of some shellfish and chemically, it is an amino monosaccharide).  Glucosamine is available in either a liquid, powder or tablet form and chemically can be either glucosamine hydrochloride, glucosamine sulphate or N-acetyl-glucosamine 

Very basically the argument for the use of glucosamine supplementation is that glucosamine is a critical compound present in proteoglycans which are large protein molecules that are known to provide cushioning benefits along with elasticity for connective tissues.  With insufficient glucosamine available in our bodies then the ligaments, tendons and other tissues may not be able to be made properly and also there is the potential for excessive wear and tear for our joints.

Under normal circumstances it is believed we produce enough glucosamine from our diet to form the various building block compounds to produce the connective tissue and healthy cartilage. But either through reduced dietary intake or through the rate at which our bodies use glucosamine (because of activity, injury or age/chronic degradation), then a deficit can occur. When this arises then our bodies may not be able to produce sufficient glucosamine and joint pain can increase.Another hypothesis is that glucosamine may block the action of certain enzymes that may be indicated with osteoarthritis.

Research Results

To date there have been no research studies that definitively answer how glucosamine reduces the symptoms of osteoarthritis . There has been no direct evidence of repairing cartilage or provding supplementation to the synovial fluid by any method. Some champions of glucosamine claim that there is a reduction in pain and inflammation but it is unclear how this happens and may just be a placebo effect.

There may well be some logic behind the view that if people with osteoarthritis are deficient in some component of cartilage formation then attempting to replenish the missing components may provide some benefits.

Much of the existing research is flawed and it is hard to draw definitive conclusions from research reviews because of inadequate sample size, lacking research methodology, different dose sizes, and, in some case, direct conflict of interest with the manufacturers.

The conclusions of research reviews are inconclusive. Glucosamine may have some beneficial effect in lessening the pain of osteoarthritis. Whether it offers advantages over NSAIDs or Cox-2 inhibitors has yet to be determined along whether any benefits are the result of physiological changes or merely placebo effect. Some medical professionals advise that clients take glucosamine sulphate (possibly in combination with chrondroitin) for around 12 weeks. If there are no significant reductions in symptoms after this time period then there is probably no point in continuing the supplementation.

Despite the lack of conclusive proof regarding glucosamine, many health care professionals such as remedial massage therapists recommend its use. There are a wide range of glucosamine products of significantly varying quality on the shelves so please read labels carefully and consult your health care professional before commencing taking any glucosamine and/or chrondroitin supplements.

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