Glucosamine supplements fail to improve knee osteoarthritis

knee x-ray

A previous meta-analysis of clinical trials had suggested that the benefits of glucosamine supplements were exaggerated, and noted that most of the studies had been carried out by manufacturers of the supplements.1

Now, a recent study called “Joints on Glucosamine,” presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology has concluded that glucosamine has no beneficial effects on osteoarthritis of the knee. The 201 participants, given either glucosamine or placebo, were subject to MRI at baseline and after 6 months to structurally assess arthritic conditions. The odds of worsening of the cartilage were the same in the control and treatment groups, indicating that glucosamine did not slow the damage to the cartilage.2

In a news story covering this study, Eric Matteson, MD, chair of rheumatology and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, commented:

"We do know that glucosamine therapy does not appear to be harmful, but there is no evidence it is helpful."3

In October, in a review of the literature on glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, the Center for Science in the Public Interest reported that the evidence for each of these supplements (and combined glucosamine and chondroitin) were inconclusive.4 They also note that for arthritis symptoms, the placebo effect is particularly strong – the author of the article, David Schardt states:

“Studies show that a sugar pill relieves arthritis pain in up to 60% of patients.”

This fact highlights the importance of the results of this new study – the scientists quantified cartilage damage via MRI, rather than relying on the subjects’ reports of knee pain.

Like so many other diseases, the best way to prevent and treat osteoarthritis is to remove the cause. A recent meta-analysis of 85 studies on the risk factors for osteoarthritis found that being overweight posed the greatest risk.5 For most of us, reaching and then maintaining a healthy weight with nutritional excellence is the best protection against osteoarthritis.

 

References:

1. McAlindon TE et al. Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: a systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2000 Mar 15;283(11):1469-75.

2. http://acr.confex.com/acr/2009/webprogram/Paper15123.html

3. http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/ACR/16561

4. Schardt, David. “Do arthritis supplements work? Don’t bet your joints on it.” Center for Science in the Public Interest: Nutrition Action Healthletter, October 2009

5. Blagojevic M et al. Risk factors for onset of osteoarthritis of the knee in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2009 Sep 2. [Epub ahead of print]

 

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Comments (6) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Nancy - November 17, 2009 12:44 PM

I'm not so sure I totally agree with this study as after giving Glucosamine & Chondroitin to my dogs, their arthritic condition totally improved. I, am personally taking Glucosamine, Chondroitin & MSM and found that it does nothing until I take sufficient amounts and then the pain subsides greatly. So not so sure I totally agree.

john polifronio - November 17, 2009 4:03 PM

Clearly, outcomes must be deemed inconclusive, unless: each nutrient is evaluated after being administered in a variety of doses from the smallest to the reasonably largest, in all its forms, in all appropriate combinations with closely or co-related nutrients, and administered, ideally, to the largest number of randomly selected individuals, and, finally, the matter of the duration of the analyses should remain open-ended, i.e. last for varying times, starting with a week or two, and extending to a month, two months, 6 months, a year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. It may be true, that such a process is expensive, perhaps prohibitively expensive. Well then, we should be unwilling to consider our findings conclusive, and call them tentative, at best.

Deana Ferreri - November 17, 2009 6:07 PM

Ideally, yes, one study should be able to measure all those parameters -- several concentrations, several time points.

But please note that a meta-analysis takes into account all of the studies done on a particular subject and pools the data in order to make the most accurate conclusion possible.

The meta-analysis mentioned above included 15 separate studies, and even with all of that data, the authors concluded that there was no clear benefit to taking the supplements.

tabsmagic - November 30, 2009 9:20 AM

Glucosamine Supplements
http://tabsmagic.co.uk/glucosamine-supplements/

discussion at the above link

HappyCat - January 10, 2010 6:24 PM

I've heard about this study before and I disbelieve based on personal experience with my 18 year old cat. She was in so much pain from arthritis that it would take her several minutes and many attempts to lie down. Awful. Then I put her on Cosequin for Cats and after 6 weeks she was able to jump off the sofa onto the floor with no problems. I kept her on it for over a year until she passed away. I doubt that she was experiencing a placebo effect.

"Amazon.com Product Description
Cosequin for Cats is a nutritional supplement to help your pet maintain healthy joints. As your pet ages, it’s common for his joints to become less flexible, which impacts his mobility and quality of life. Cosequin is the top recommended brand of veterinarians to support and maintain the health of your cat’s joints. The only joint health supplement brand that has been shown safe, effective, and bioavailable in peer-reviewed, published, controlled, U.S. veterinary studies, Cosequin for Cats helps support cartilage production and protect existing cartilage from breakdown. It’s manufactured following standards similar to those practiced by the pharmaceutical industry. It’s also recommended to help support urinary bladder health. It contains tasty natural chicken- and tuna-flavored capsules specially formulated for cats. Each capsule contains at least 125 milligrams of Glucosamine Hydrochloride, 100 milligrams of Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate, and 1 milligram of Manganese. Please read all label information on delivery. "

AdamC - February 19, 2011 2:04 AM

I am on my second bottle of the Joint Support + Vitamin B12 (from Dr. Max Powers) and have been using it regularly. I was afraid that I was going to have to stop exercising, which I knew wouldnt be good for my stress level or health. After a couple of weeks of using this, my knee pain has stopped and my left shoulder feels much better when I am moving it. I plan to use this regularly and recommend it to other folks with similar issues.

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