The consumption of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate with the goal of alleviating joint pain is booming. Several different forms of this expensive supplement are available on the shelf.
I am sure that you know a few friends or family members who are convinced that this supplement has helped them in managing their aggravating arthritis symptoms and pain. A few of my patients are also totally and genuinely convinced that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have changed their lives, and if, if they forget to take this supplement only for one day, they will be feeling miserable for the entire day.
But how much of this perception is based on substantial and unbiased data?
This question made me to search for the pool of available facts.
Research on Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
One of the major research papers about the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in patients with arthritis (osteoarthritis) of the knee and hip was published in 2010. This study analyzed 10 large randomized trials involving 3803 patients. The study found no significant benefits of taking glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate individually or in combination on joint pain or joint space narrowing.
The above data means that whether you take glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate each individually or in combination, or, you choose to take nothing for your joints the results will be the same.
This analysis also found that –as most of would expect–the industry sponsored studies had a much more positive view of the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin on joint related symptoms than unbiased and independent studies.
Additional study examining the effects of glucosamine chondroitin for painful osteoarthritis of the knees, confirmed that these supplements were no better than taking a placebo. (GAIT study)
A larger systemic review looking at the effects of glucosamine for patients with long-term lower back pain could neither be demonstrated nor excluded (based on lack of high quality studies).
What should we do now? Take it or leave it?
This is a difficult question to answer. The scientific data and research does not support taking glucosamine chondroitin sulfate with the goal of pain relief and joint preservation. Probably, individuals who are taking this expensive supplement and do not see any significant benefits may want to think about spending their hard earned money differently.
However, people who are still convinced that this supplement helps them to manage pain and can financially afford it, then why not. Sometimes we trust and believe in something so much that separation causes more harm than resulting in any benefits.
How about you? What is you experience with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate?