New Study Shows Chondroitin and Glucosamine Effective Treatment for OA

A new study verifies that the combination of the dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is effective in the management of joint pain in the knee. The results were published in the September 2000 issue of Osteoarthritis Cartilage and represent the first US study of its kind.

Glucosamine, derived from the shells of shellfish, is an amino sugar that stimulates the substances necessary to manufacture proper joint function and joint repair. Chondroitin, found in the gristle of animal joints, draws fluid to the joints to provide lubrication for bones to glide smoothly.

The randomized, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed study of 93 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, evaluated the effectiveness of an oral combination of glucosamine hydrochloride and sodium chondroitin sulfate. A standardized pain index was used to measure joint pain. The patients were monitored immediately and then every two months for a total duration of six months.

Taken together or separately, glucosamine and chondroitin are among the top-selling joint supplements in the USA. Despite the increasing attention being paid to them, only this year have serious scientific studies been published or begun. In sharp contrast, the Europeans have been using the combination for over 10 years, with over three dozen scientific studies completed supporting the use of these substances for OA.

Fortunately, the gap in scientific research is about to narrow. The National Institutes of Health is currently conducting its own two-year study. Also, in April 2000, the University of Utah School of Medicine was awarded a 4-year research contract totaling approximately $6.6 million to coordinate a nine-center effort to study the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.

Osteoarthritis (OA), also called degenerative joint disease, is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, which is the connective tissue that cushions the ends of bones within the joint. It is characterized by pain, joint damage, and limited motion. The disease generally occurs later in life, and most commonly affects the hands and large weight-bearing joints. Although the disease can impact several joints, the knees are often affected.

An estimated 21 million adults in the United States are affected with OA. Age, female gender, and obesity are risk factors for knee OA, which is associated with progressive reduction in function, including difficulty in changing from the sitting to the standing position, and with a decrease in mobility. In 1994, advanced OA accounted for 85 percent of knee joint replacement surgeries among Medicare recipients.

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