Verdict on Glucosamine & Chondrointin

Herbal remedies and natural supplements provide 10’s of millions of Americans with non-prescription solutions to their health concerns.  For me, I’m typically healthy, much thanks to my daily yoga practice.  However, the wear and tear of physically exertion has been accumulating making certain poses less enjoyable than they used to be.  In response, I’ve recently started taking glucosamine & chondrointin in order to help nourish my knees and hips.  Glucosamine is naturally found in synovial fluid and is thought to work by increasing a joint’s natural balance of anti-inflammatory molecules, such as hyaluronic acid.  Chondrointin, on the other hand, is a necessary building block for the cartilage.  According to a NIH poll, among those who took dietary supplements within the last 30 days, 19.9% of customers admit to taking glucosamine while 11.2% took chondrointin.  When compared to other supplements on the  these two account for the 2nd and 8th most commonly used supplements on the market.  I’d like to share a share a little bit of research on these supplements in order to help you decide if these are worth using for yourself.

healthy_joint
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/OqPvU8XKvZI/hqdefault.jpg

Study investigators typically are eager to show the benefits of the latest-greatest therapy by conducting a placebo controlled trial.  However, judging by the multitudes of drugs on the market, what matters even more to me is that a drug therapy appears efficacious when compared to a known standard of care.  The MOVES Investigation Group sought to do just that when they conducted a trial comparing glucosamine & chondrointin to prescription Celebrex.  Knee arthritis patients were randomly assigned into each treatment group and were followed by the investigators for 6 months.  Periodically, participants were given a survey used to assess their level of pain relief with either the the natural or prescription product.  What the MOVES Group discovered was that on a joint function scale (WOMAC) of 0 to 500, subjects taking glucosamine & chondriontin reported an average decrease of 185.7 compared to 186.8 for those taking Celebrex.  The basic conclusion being that in terms of pain, stiffness, swelling and mobility, the supplement product performed just as well as the prescription strength drug.

Glucosamine
Picture of the glucosamine molecule. It is highly similar in structure to its namesake parent molecule glucose.  The picture below shows a the chondrointin polymer

Chondroitin_Sulfate_Structure_NTP

In attempts to provide a refined picture of the results of the trial, it is important to note that the full benefits of glucosamine & chondrointin did not manifest right away.  During the first 120 days Celebrex out-performed the combo supplement.  But unlike the prescription drug, glucosamine & chondrointin provided increasing relief several months after initiation.  For me, this feature beautifully captures why it is so very important to be consistent with one’s medication regimes.  Another benefit which I tend to believe favors the natural product is its overall safety.  Celebrex is an NSAID pain reliever like Advil, therefore taking it for months on end does increase one’s likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases.  Glucosamine & chondrointin on the other hand is generally safe for long term use provided that the user does not have an allergy to shell fish.   Even though I know I do not have osteoarthritis, the positive results of the the MOVES Group tells me that the potential benefits of taking the supplement duo is truly worth it for me & my vinyasa practice.  These data also remind me that natural products when used purposely are true medicines, and therefore require the same sort of cautious respect which prescription drugs have earned.

Reference:

Hochberg MC, Martel-Pelletier J, Monfort J, Möller I, Castillo JR, Arden N et al. Combined chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for painful knee osteoarthritis: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, non-inferiority trial versus celecoxib. Ann Rheum Dis, 2016; 75(1):37-44.

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