get asked this question a lot. If you have osteoarthritis, you might have heard about these two supplements: Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate. If you've read or listened to any of the mainstream media, you've probably also have heard that neither of these supplements are effective for people with osteoarthritis.
The media latched onto an article published in Arthritis & Rheumatism in 2008 and declared that the supplements were ineffective even though the lead author, Allen Sawitzke, said that the study had significant limitations, like a small sample size, and that the study couldn't determine whether glucosamine and chondroitin are effective for patients with arthritis. Sawitzke also admitted that the study needed a better method for measuring the joint space. Some critics have argued that the method used was not sensitive enough to detect meaningful change.
Here's my suggestion. Chondroitin Sulfate is a disease modifying agent for osteoarthritis. It slows the progression of the disease and deterioration of the joint cartilage. If you have osteoarthritis and have clearance from your doctor (people who have diabetes, are allergic to shellfish or take blood thinners need to visit with their doctor first), you should be taking at least 800 mg of Chondroitin Sulfate for at least two years. This is how long it takes for the supplement to slow the deterioration of the cartilage and the disease modifying effects are independent of symptoms. So, take it even if you feel fine.
Stephan Reichenbach, Rebekka Sterchi, Martin Scherer, Sven Trelle, Elizabeth Bürgi, Ulrich Bürgi, Paul A. Dieppe, and Peter Jüni Meta-analysis: Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis of the Knee or Hip
Ann Intern Med 2007; 146: 580-590
Michel BA, Stucki G, Frey D, et al. Chondroitins 4 and 6 sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 2005 Mar;52(3):779-86
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