Updated: Apr 17, 2019
Happy New Year to everyone and best wishes for your 2019 health! We all know the touted foods to eat for prosperity in the new year: beans and greens for coins and money respectively, pork for a fat wallet, pomegranate for fertility, etc. But what do you eat for healthy knees? Earlier in the blog, I ran a post on glucosamine and chondroitin discussing some efficacy in the long term for supplementation of chondroitin; however, it appeared at that time that the data for glucosamine was equivocal.
A recent meta-analysis out of the Journal of the American Medical Association has suggested that there may be some long-term benefit from the supplementation of glucosamine as well! Though the effect is small, it is both statistically and clinically significant. Statistical significance is the ability of a study to prove that outcome measures of an intervention are indeed likely and not just due to chance. Clinical significance means that an intervention's outcome is large enough to be beneficial to patients. In short, a result can be statistically significant but not clinically significant. The data in the journal article referenced below suggests a *clinical* benefit, not just a statistical one!
As a refresher glucosamine is a complex sugar-based molecule that has anti-inflammatory effects and is also a partial precursor to cartilage. There is thought that supplementation of glucosamine could both decrease inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis as well as perhaps contribute to cartilage preservation by providing building blocks for its synthesis (it's production by the body).
So what does this mean for supplementation? First, it's important to note that the benefit exists only for higher doses of glucosamine. This is approximately 1500 mg total daily. Second, it's key to remember that these are long-term benefits and are more important in the preservation of knee cartilage and improvement in pain than for the immediate relief of pain. Like many supplements, the data is evolving and doesn't constitute a treatment but rather a non-pharmacologic means of giving the body means and mechanisms to heal and protect itself. Last, know that the supplement is safe up to the aforementioned 1500 milligrams daily, so I think it's reasonable to take this for long-term potential benefit.