May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, and with recent exciting research on some of the leading natural supplements for helping arthritis symptoms, what better time to delve into the details?
One in two people in the U.S. may develop knee osteoarthritis by age 85, while two in three obese individuals are at risk. With scary statistics like these, it’s nice to know that certain nutrients can help our bones and joints stay healthy and supple as we age. Glucosamine and chondroitin have long be hailed as amazing nutrients for supporting healthy bones and joints, and the promising research just keeps rolling in.
Glucosamine Found to Prevent Joint Space Narrowing
Glucosamine sulfate was found to prevent joint space narrowing in two randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, 3 year trials of knee osteoarthritis. The first, which split subjects into either a placebo group or a glucosamine group that received 1500mg per day, revealed that 106 patients on placebo had developed progressive joint-space narrowing, with a mean joint-space loss of -0.31 mm. Meanwhile, no significant narrowing was observed in the glucosamine group, with the average being -0.06 mm.
A second study followed 605 subjects who were given either glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, both, or a placebo and monitored for 2 years. A 2-year later analysis of joint space narrowing found that the greatest reduction (by a lot!) was observed in the combination glucosamine and chondroitin group – a significant 45% reduction in joint space narrowing.
The two compounds appear to have a synergistic effect on joint health when used in tandem. Glucosamine’s effects have been notable at doses as low as 1,500mg daily and researchers believe that exercise may enhance the effects of this combination.
Fast Facts: In an eight-year follow-up study, 136 patients were given either placebo or glucosamine sulfate for three years. Subjects in the glucosamine sulfate group decreased their need for joint replacement in the future by a whopping 73%!
Natural Joint Combo as Effective as NSAIDS?
Here’s the real kicker: Research published back in January compared the effects of a glucosamine/chondroitin combo to the effects of the popular NSAID used to treat OA symptoms, celecoxib.
Over 600 subjects with knee osteoarthritis resulting in moderate to severe pain received either 500mg glucosamine hydrochloride plus 400 mg chondroitin sulfate three times daily or 200 mg celecoxib daily for six months. Before and after the trial, researchers measured participants’ pain, function, stiffness, swelling, and fluid buildup.
After six months, subjects in the celecoxib group and the glucosamine/chondroitin group rated their pain very similarly. Additionally, joint stiffness decreased by 46.9% in the glucosamine/chondroitin group and by 49.2% in the celecoxib group and both reported at least a 50% reduction in swelling and fluid buildup.
A similar study found that after monitoring symptom changes in subjects with osteoarthritis for 6 months while taking either acetaminophen, glucosamine, or a placebo, researchers found that the difference between acetaminophen and placebo was not significant, while glucosamine was found to reduce symptoms.
The news that these natural alternatives are as effective as NSAIDS for managing OA symptoms is very exciting for OA patients concerned with the safety of long term NSAID use, which has been associated with cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health problems.
Fast Facts: Other studies in animal models have shown that glucosamine can increase lifespan! In roundworms, lifespan increased by 5%, while glucosamine supplementation lengthened the lives of 100-week old mice by 10%.
The Final Word on Chondroitin’s Effectiveness
And, finally, to bring all this amazing research on glucosamine and chondroitin home, a February review by the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration sought to silence the chondroitin sulfate doubters.
Combining data from 43 clinical trials involving over 9,000 people, the researchers determined that chondroitin sulfate not only delivers big benefits for osteoarthritis patients, but it does so without risk of adverse effects.
Real Questions Lie With Quality
Supplement suppliers are hoping that this news helps shift the focus to the real controversy surrounding chondroitin and other natural supplements: adulteration. Researchers point to poor quality, fake or unlisted additives, and lower nutrient concentrations as reasons that consumers may not find their chondroitin supplements effective.
Sadly, not all companies test their products for quality and potency, and even those who do test may not test every production run. In 2011, Nutra-Ingredients reported that chondroitin sulfate is one the “most adulterated supplements in the market.”
While the fake components aren’t usually harmful, they are deceptive and ineffective, and that’s just plain wrong. That’s why it’s so important to choose companies you trust who use independent third-party labs to test every batch, every time.