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Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Six reports from Europe show that chondroitin sulfate is a safe and effective treatment for osteoarthritis (1,2,3,4,5,6), while three reviews from the United States show that glucosamine is not (8,9,10). Two common types of arthritis are reactive and degenerative. Reactive arthritis, such as rheumatoid, may be caused by infection or an overactive immune system and can often be controlled by taking antibiotics for many months (See my reports on Reactive and Rheumatoid Arthritis).

However, one in 10 Americans suffers from osteo or degenerative arthritis, a disease in which the currently used medications, acetaminophen, aspirin and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, do not slow or reverse the progressive destruction of joints and no cause is known. Over the last decade, reports have shown that pills containing chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, two components of cartilage, may help alleviate the pain. Three major reviews in the scientific literature claim that the three studies showing that glucosamine relieves pain were poorly designed and therefore cannot be offered as proof of benefit (8,9,10). On the other hand, 6 recent studies from Europe (1,2,3,4,5,6) and another from the United States (7) show that chondroitin sulfate does help to slow joint destruction and pain caused by osteoarthritis. While most doctors are still skeptical of the benefits of chondroitin sulfate, it appears to be safe and may help relieve osteoarthritis.
Also see: Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate for Arthritic Pain
Glucosamine: Safe? Effective?.

1) Lancet, January 27, 2001

2 )Mark Adams: editorial The Lancet, July 31, 1999, 354(9176):353-354.

3) Muller-Fabbender et al. Glucosamine compared to ibuprofen in osteoarthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 1994;2:61-69.

4)Bassler et al. Stimulation of Proteoglycan production by glucosamine sulfate in chondrocytes isolated from human osteoarthritis articular cartilage in vitro. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 1998;6:427-434.

5) Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 1996;270:C803-11.

6) Diabetes 1995;45:1003-10089.

7) Proc Assoc Am Phys 1998;110:422-432.

Checked 6/19/15

May 29th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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