GLUCOSAMINE AND CHONDROITIN: WORTH THE HYPE?
The vitamin and supplement industry is a billion dollar enterprise in this
country. The Food and Drug Administration has reported that approximately
one-third of all adult Americans have used some form of complementary
or alternative medicine, and estimates that nutritional supplement sales
total about $5 billion a year in America. Glucosamine and chondroitin
are two such substances that are enormously popular among people with
joint pain. But do they actually work?
A number of studies have suggested that glucosamine and chondroitin do
seem to create an environment within the joint that protects the cartilage
and in some instances, helps re-build cartilage. This has never been scientifically
proven. However, we do know that glucosamine and chondroitin are nutrients
that are naturally occurring substances and are vital to the production
In my practice, I have seen a great deal of benefit in using glucosamine
and chondroitin in my patients. I am using these substances as natural
anti-inflammatories. In medicine, we have gotten away from long-term use
of anti- inflammatories because there can be deleterious effects–on
the GI tract, on the liver, even on healing. Anti-inflammatories can even
mask injury so a person can almost hurt themselves more. These days, we
try to use them only for flare-ups. That’s why glusosamine and chondroitin
are so beneficial—there are no ill long-term effects and they are
natural anti-inflammatories. I not only use these substances in my arthritis
patients, but also in injured athletes and even in pre-operative patients,
because they build an environment in the joint that is more conducive
to healing itself.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are available in both liquid and tablet form,
are relatively inexpensive and easy to find in stores and online. Because
the FDA does not have regulatory control over supplements, however, it
does become a ‘buyer beware’ situation. The quality and actual
dosages can vary significantly from one product to the next. I have am
careful to use only pharmaceutical grade glucosamine and chondroitin.
Two that I feel meet this requirement are Nutriex and Cosamine DS. Both
are available online. Most people should aim at taking 1500 milligrams daily.
If you suffer from joint pain, glucosamine and chondroitin may help. But
be sure to consult with your doctor before starting on any new supplements.
There may be causes of your symptoms that may require more immediate medical