LIEGE, BELGIUM. Alternative medicine practitioners have long advocated glucosamine sulfate (GLS) for the treatment of osteoarthritis. It would appear that conventional medicine is now also realizing the benefits of this safe nutritional supplement. A team of Belgian, British and Italian medical researchers report that daily supplementation with glucosamine sulfate can markedly reduce pain and other symptoms and actually repair cartilage damage in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Their study involved 212 patients who were randomized to receive either a placebo or 1500 mg/day of GLS for three years in a double-blind clinical study. The researchers measured the joint space between the tibia (shin bone) and the femur (thigh bone) at the beginning and end of the study by digital x-ray analysis. They also assessed the symptoms of osteoarthritis (joint pain, stiffness, and limitation of physical function) using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) osteoarthritis index.
After three years the patients on the placebo had experienced a further
narrowing of their joint space (an indicator of disease progression) of 0.31 mm.
The patients in the GLS group, on the other hand, saw their average joint space
widen by 0.07 mm indicating an improvement. The difference in disease
progression was even more impressive when looking at the minimum joint space.
Here a 0.40 mm narrowing was observed in the placebo takers as compared to a
0.11 mm widening in the GLS group. This group also reported an average 24.3 per
cent reduction in the severity of their symptoms (WOMAC scale) as compared to
the 9.8 per cent worsening of symptoms observed in the placebo group.