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Should you take glucosamine for arthritis?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Is glucosamine a waste of time?

Glucosamine is marketed for helping relieve arthritis pain that comes from wear and tear on the joints, known as osteoarthritis (OA). The pain associated with the condition comes from deterioration of the bone cartilage and often leads to joint replacement that most people try to postpone by taking the supplement. But does glucosamine work or is it a waste of money?

Findings published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) journal is the first to test whether glucosamine halts the destruction of cartilage in the knees from osteoarthritis.

Past studies have been conflicting.One study that cost 12.5 million and was published in the October 2008 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.showed only a subset of people given glucosamine and chondroitin, with moderate to severe osteoarthritis knee pain obtained relief. Those with mild pain fared no better than people given placebo.

What is glucosamine?

Yet, in 2007, glucosamine supplements generated $2 billion in sales worldwide. Ten percent of the U.S. population over age 18 take the supplement as an alternative therapy.

The study

Dr. C. Kent Kwoh from the University of Arizona in Tucson and and his team looked at knee cartilage damage over a 16 week period among 201 people enrolled in the study. The researchers used MRI to discover glucosamine, 1500 mg a day given in lemonade didn't do anything to stop the destruction from the arthritic condition, compared to placebo.

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The knees and hips are the primary joints affected by the type of arthritis. Knees in particular are vulnerable to injury that can destroy cartilage and cause pain. Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on the joints.

Eighteen percent of people studied got worse. The finding showed no worsening in bone marrow lesions of the knee with or without glucosamine. The placebo group improved, compared to those given the supplement.

"Our study found no evidence that drinking a glucosamine supplement reduced knee cartilage damage, relieved pain, or improved function in individuals with chronic knee pain," Kwoh said in a press release.

Speak with your doctor about taking supplements of any kind. The newest study shows glucosamine may be a waste of money for stopping cartilage destruction that is associated with the pain of osteoarthritis.

"The Joints on Glucosamine (Jog) Study: The Effect of Oral Glucosamine on Joint Structure, A Randomized Trial." C. Kent Kwoh, Frank W. Roemer, Michael J. Hannon, Carolyn E. Moore, John M. Jakicic, Ali Guermazi, Stephanie M. Green, Rhobert W. Evans and Robert Boudreau. Arthritis & Rheumatology; Published Online: March 11, 2014 (DOI: 10.1002/art.38314).


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