Open Accessibility Menu

Glucosamine And Chondroitin: Worth The Hype?

  • Category: Arthritis
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Alan H. Beyer, MD, FACS
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 of cartilage.

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 attention.