Do glucosamine and chondroitin supplements actually work for arthritis?

A label on a bottle showing "Supplement Facts" for two popular health supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin

In terms of well being dietary supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin are among the many hottest. Worldwide, annual spending on these dietary supplements is predicted to succeed in $3.5 billion by 2025. So that you’d suppose they should be extremely efficient.

And but, that’s not so clear.

Glucosamine and chondroitin, taken individually or together, are touted not solely as relievers of joint ache but in addition as therapies to forestall joint illness. But plenty of previous research have come to blended conclusions; some small research, most osteoarthritis of the knee, discovered that folks felt modestly higher taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin, however not less than as many have discovered no profit.

For instance:

  • A 2018 evaluation of earlier analysis discovered that treating knee or hip osteoarthritis with glucosamine and chondroitin led to small enhancements on a ache scale, however it wasn’t clear that the ache reduction was truly significant.
  • A 2022 evaluation of eight research that included practically 4,000 individuals with knee osteoarthritis discovered no convincing proof that glucosamine and chondroitin offered main profit.
  • The case for these dietary supplements defending joint well being or stopping arthritis from worsening is equally weak.

A landmark research of glucosamine and chondroitin

A 2016 research of glucosamine and chondroitin enrolled 164 sufferers with knee ache as a result of osteoarthritis and gave half of them a mixture of glucosamine and chondroitin; the opposite half obtained an equivalent placebo tablet. The research was stopped early for an uncommon motive: these taking the complement truly reported worse signs than these taking a placebo. This raises the chance that taking glucosamine and chondroitin would possibly make your joints really feel worse than doing nothing.

Did this research or subsequent analysis spell the tip of individuals taking glucosamine, chondroitin, or each? By no means! Whereas the proof of profit is actually not compelling, some research have discovered that these dietary supplements present modest profit, and individuals who really feel it’s serving to them might not care a lot about particular person research anyway. Even when a remedy shouldn’t be efficient on common, there could also be people who, for no matter motive, get actual reduction from it. Lastly, individuals are taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin for plenty of causes and situations aside from osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, so these research might not apply to them.

And what in regards to the downsides?

Basically, glucosamine and chondroitin are regarded as secure. Nonetheless, as with all medicine, there are potential dangers. In some medical trials, individuals taking the glucosamine-chondroitin mixture have reported

  • heartburn or stomach ache
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • complications
  • allergic reactions (particularly if in case you have an allergy to shellfish).

One other concern is drug interactions, which can be an issue with any mixture of medicines. For instance, chondroitin might work together with blood thinners resembling warfarin, so the mixture might improve the chance of bleeding.

Verify together with your physician or pharmacist earlier than taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin. Many medical doctors warn sufferers that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements resembling glucosamine and chondroitin, so they could not comprise the quantities said on the label, or there might be contaminants in them.

And, after all, there’s price to contemplate — medical health insurance normally doesn’t cowl these dietary supplements. (I discovered a number of glucosamine-chondroitin dietary supplements on-line for about $12/month at a preferred on-line retailer).

The underside line

Must you give glucosamine/chondroitin a attempt? I’ve tried to maintain an open thoughts. I like to recommend that you simply test together with your physician about interactions with different medicines you’re taking. Additionally, understand that the FDA doesn’t regulate these merchandise, that are thought of unproven. When you take these dietary supplements with out noticing clear enchancment inside a number of months, I counsel you cease utilizing them.

For advocates of glucosamine and/or chondroitin, research discovering no profit or solely slight enchancment are unlikely to be the final phrase. There are differing kinds and doses out there, and they’re taken for plenty of completely different situations (resembling osteoarthritis of the palms or backbone, for which there’s even much less supportive proof). There might be sure conditions through which they’re significantly useful. We’ll want extra analysis to know what they’re.

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