Glucosamine and chondroitin provide no benefits

By Sheryl Kay • Published: December 10th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

They’ve been touted as the best natural way to combat joint pain for more than two decades, but a new study now shows there are no measurable benefits to taking supplements that contain glucosamine [glue KOE sah meen] and chondroitin.

Derived from the shell of crustaceans, glucosamine has traditionally been combined with chondroitin, a substance made from animal cartilage. In the past the thought was that the two substances together would help synthesize new cartilage while blocking enzymes that destroy healthy cartilage. But the evidence shows otherwise.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed ten randomized clinical trials involving almost 4,000 patients who had hip or knee osteoarthritis. All the trials compared reported levels of pain for one group taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, for a placebo group, and for a group taking nothing. Time after time, the investigators found no medical advantage to taking chondroitin, glucosamine or both together when it comes to reducing the space within painful joints, or even a slight decrease in joint pain.

Researchers concluded there is no reason for patients who already take the supplements and feel better to stop taking them. But because there is no demonstrable benefit, researchers recommend that those who haven’t started the regimen shouldn’t bother. And they have informed insurance companies there is no proven medical reason for approving claims associated with taking glucosamine and chondroitin.

That might be painful news for those coping with the pain and swelling osteoarthritis can cause. But there are alternatives… including exercise, weight control, rest and pain-relieving medications.