We get this question a lot.
A recent review in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Arthroscopy reviewed the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for knee osteoarthritis. Considering the vast amount of people suffering from knee arthritis and the increasing cost of medical care for these patients, the use of any type of supplement to reduce symptoms is welcome.
Research into the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is certainly not new – studies date back to 1969. However, the literature has been filled with many poorly controlled studies. Some were funded by glucosamine manufacturers themselves! This particular paper reviewed the results of 23 studies that involved double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized control trials as well as several meta-analyses.
The overall results of the review show that there are inconsistent results, but that the results do favor improvement of pain and joint function in patients with arthritis. The authors also note that one of the most consistent trends between studies involved the length of use of the supplement. The best results from glucosamine appear to occur after several months of use. Studies are referenced that show positive results in 3-6 months and even up to 9 months.
A potentially more important finding of the current review was that the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate appears to be safe. The most common side effects occur that have been reported are gastrointestinal in nature, such as upset stomach, nausea, heartburn, and diarrhea. Taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate with food seems to reduce the incidence of the above side effects.
To date, no significant side effects have been reported, although long-term studies on the safety of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements still need to be completed.
Below are guidelines that were developed by the Osteoarthritis Research Society International. These are basic guidelines – so make sure you consult with your personal physician before starting or trying glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.
- Glucosamine should be taken with chondroitin sulfate to maximize it’s effectiveness
- Supplements that include magnesium and vitamin C may help the absorption rate of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.
- To date, the specific brand that has received the highest recommendations appears to be Cosamin DS.
- Dosage should vary based on body weight:
- If less than 120 lbs: G 1000mg + CS 800mg
- Between 120-200 lbs: G 1500mg + CS 1200mg
- If greater than 200 lbs: G 2000mg + CS 1600mg
- Supplements should be taken for at least 3 months for noticeable results. If no response within 6 months, may discontinue.