Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Fix or Fraud?

Here in South Georgia, the weather has already begun to warm, and the joggers are out in full. The gyms are filled with people still working on their New Years Resolutions, and everyone is rediscovering aches and pains they'd forgotten over the winter. Last month, I did a post on Fish Oil and Omega 3 Fatty Acids and what doses and benefits you can expect from it! This month, I want to look at another commonly-touted supplement, glucosamine and chondroitin.

Glucosamine is a combination molecule of a sugar (glucose) and an nitrogen group (amine). Chondroitin is likewise strings of nondigestible sugars linked together. Both molecules are thought to act on and decrease inflammation within the joint itself and decrease the activity of enzymes which break down cartilage. Common side effects are typically GI upset including diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. These are due to the fact that while you cannot digest these specialized sugars, your gut bacteria can!

Figure 1. Chondroitin sulfate. Notice the ring-shaped structures which are those nondigestible sugars mentioned above. They're linked to one another in chains.

Figure 2. Glucosamine sulfate. Similar to chondroitin, the backbone of glucosamine is nondigestible sugar.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are, as a combination, one of the most highly-purchased supplements in the health care industry! Also, the supplement is exceptionally safe and well tolerated, but does it work? Multiple studies have examined the safety and efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin with mixed results. Liu et al performed a meta-analysis of commonly taken supplements for osteoarthritis and concluded that "glucosamine and chondroitin are not clinically effective in reducing pain and function at short term in patients with OA." However, "our review reveals that chondroitin demonstrated small but statistically significant effects when compared with placebo..."

So while it appears that the short term benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin are equivocal, there appears to be consistent evidence of long term benefit for at least chondroitin's supplementation.

Above is my recommendation for your glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplement, not only because of the potential long-term benefits of chondroitin but also because this brand likewise includes type 2 collage, a review for which I will be writing in a future, which has shown benefit in osteoarthritis pain and function!

What do you think? Have you have success for glucosamine and chondroitin? Another supplement you'd like me to review? Comment below!

Keep moving!


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