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Glucosamine & Chondroitin: Beneficial for Osteoarthritis?

By Chris Terrell, Merchandising Manager, CSCS

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, will affect 65 percent of people over 55 and a whopping 85 percent of people over 75 years old. There are two types of osteoarthritis: primary and secondary. Primary arthritis is seen mainly in the elderly due to advanced age. Secondary arthritis is seen in individuals that have experienced an injury to a joint. With so many people living with arthritis, natural remedies are in high demand.

Glucosamine, an amino monosaccharide that naturally occurs in the body, is available as a supplement in the form of glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine HCL. The form of glucosamine is important as most of the positive research has been done on the sulfate form of glucosamine.

Chondroitin is found in cartilage and is important for binding collagen together. It is available as chondroitin sulfate in supplement form.

Many different studies have been done in regards to glucosamine and chondroitin and its effectiveness for treating osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown glucosamine and chondroitin to be beneficial for preventing the narrowing of the space of the joint, or to put it another way, it helps to keep cartilage in the joint, which acts as a cushion. Studies showing that glucosamine does not benefit joint space narrowing have used the HCL form of glucosamine and not the sulfate form. Some studies have also shown that glucosamine and chondroitin are as beneficial as over the counter pain relievers for osteoarthritis. A recent study, know as GAIT, received a lot of press for showing no difference between glucosamine, chondroitin, a prescription pain product, and a placebo. The interesting thing to look at in this study is that it had an unusually high placebo effect of 60 percent compared to other studies that look at osteoarthritis where the placebo effect is approximately 30 percent. Furthermore, some studies that have had marginal effects have not tested for the quality of the glucosamine and chondroitin that was administered in the study.

So, remember if you choose to take glucosamine and chondroitin, use glucosamine sulfate from a company that is reputable. When choosing a company, look for either GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) or USP (United States Pharmacopeia) certification.

Chris Terrell is currently the Merchandising Manager for New Leaf Market. In addition he is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and pursuing a masters degree in sport nutrition and dietetics from Florida State University.

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