Glucosamine - The Arthritis Cure?
By Bill Morrison
Glucosamine sulphate has been around a long time now and as each year goes by more and more claims are made telling us about this miracle joint lubricant. Are all the claims true? Will it cure Arthritis? What is Glucosamine anyway? And what about Chondroitin?
Glucosamine is a naturally produced amino sugar which is found in small amounts in foods. It plays an important role in maintaining the cartilage gel-like material between our joints. The body also produces a carbohydrate called Chondroitin, which is thought to promote water retention and elasticity as well as blocking the enzymes that break down cartilage.
As we get older the body's ability to manufacture and synthesize Glucosamine and Chondroitin decreases. This probably contributes to the joint problems we have all come to associate with growing old, a fact that health food companies did not take long to latch on to.
Although studies have been carried out in numerous countries to try to prove conclusively that Glucosamine is effective in treating arthritis and joint problems there have been an equal number of questions raised about the methodology of many of these studies. One such study, in Europe, took X-rays to measure the size of the gap in the knee joint before and after taking Glucosamine. Even though the results showed that the size of the gap was significantly larger, in a group of people taking Glucosamine compared to a group taking NSAIDs, critics said that the study was not large enough to draw firm conclusions. They also claimed the X-ray evidence was too difficult to interpret.
Many Vets and pet owners have been using Glucosamine to treat joint problems in horses and dogs for a number of years now. They swear by the effectiveness of this form of treatment for their animals. While there is no placebo effect in animals it is equally difficult to find well documented, and conclusive, scientific evidence to confirm the effectiveness of Glucosamine.
While there might be limited good, accredited, scientific proof as to the effectiveness of Glucosamine there is an abundance of people as well as pet owners who swear by the effectiveness of Glucosamine. Even though Glucosamine is often used in combination with other supplements, or treatments, the general feeling among most users is that it does help. Results of empirical studies in various countries have shown that arthritis sufferers report significant improvements when taking Glucosamine supplements. The same is also true for people who have other types of joint injuries or back problems. Some countries now sanction Glucosamine as a treatment for people with mild to moderately severe osteoarthritis.
To date no study has found any serious side effects from either Glucosamine or Chondroitin when taken as a supplement in humans. However people with diabetes are advised to keep a check on their blood-sugar level. While there have been no reports of allergic reactions to Glucosamine, since it's made from shellfish shells, it may not be suitable for people with seafood allergies. It may also increase a person's daily salt intake level - something people with high blood pressure may want to watch. Chondroitin on the other hand may sometimes cause bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or taking blood-thinning drugs. Like many supplements insufficient data is available about the long term effects and hence it should be not be taken by children, or pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
The United States Food and Drug Administration embarked on a study involving 1500 people earlier in 2005 to determine the effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin on people with arthritic problems.
There are many claims that taking Glucosamine will slow and possibly halt osteoarthritis-related damage to joints, speed healing of strains and sprains, control back pain and help promote healthy aging. Whether this is true or not, the overall rhetorical evidence is probably stacked in favour of the use of Glucosamine as a supplement - so maybe it's worth a try - for a trial period anyway!
This information in this article should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. You should always consult with your health care professional especially relating suitability of supplements or drugs and on all health matters that may require diagnosis or medical attention.