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Glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis

LIEGE, BELGIUM. Osteoarthritis of the knee is a painful, progressive, fairly common disorder among the elderly. Supplementation with glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, both natural components of healthy cartilage, has long been advocated by natural health practitioners as an effective therapy for osteoarthritis. The medical community, however, has been slow to acknowledge the beneficial effects of these two natural (non-patentable) compounds. This may now be about to change.

Belgian medical researchers have just released the results of a meta-analysis of 15 randomized, placebo-controlled studies involving 1020 patients treated with glucosamine and 755 treated with chondroitin. One of the main symptoms of osteoarthritis is a reduction in the joint space between the bony parts of the knee resulting in pain and eventual erosion of the bone. The researchers found that treatment with 1500 mg/day of glucosamine sulfate for 3 years resulted in a 0.27 mm smaller decrease (narrowing) in joint space than did treatment with a placebo. Pain was also found to be significantly decreased in patients supplementing with glucosamine or chondroitin. Both were well tolerated.

The researchers conclude that daily oral supplementation with glucosamine sulfate slows the degenerative process of joint cartilage and that oral supplementation with glucosamine or chondroitin significantly decreases the symptoms (pain and joint immobility) in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The beneficial effects of the two compounds are often felt within 2 weeks of the start of supplementation.
Richy, Florent, et al. Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 163, July 14, 2003, pp. 1514-22

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