Q: Should I take glucosamine chondroitin for knee arthritis?

A: Good question… Unfortunately, there is no 100 percent sure fire answer on the efficacy of glucosamine chondroitin for knee arthritis….

In case you are not familiar with this supplement, glucosamine/chondroitin are natural substances found in cartilage in your knee and other joints. Your body produces glucosamine and chondroitin to keep the cartilage in your joints healthy. The theory behind supplementation is to provide an adequate source of glucosamine and chondroitin that your body can redistribute to the cartilage in your joints. A major problem; however, is that glucosamine and chondroitin, the products of shellfish shells, are poorly absorbed in your digestive tract. Thanks to researchers, a 2006 study was designed to provide more evidence for or against supplementation.

The GAIT (Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial) was a large-scale, $12.5 million study over 6 months to determine the effectiveness of glucosamine/chondroitin in reducing pain.

From the National Center of Complementary Medicine, of the National Institutes of Health:

People with osteoarthritis should work with their health care provider to develop a comprehensive plan for managing their arthritis pain: eat right, exercise, lose excess weight, and use proven pain medications. If people have moderate-to-severe pain, they should talk with their health care provider about whether glucosamine plus chondroitin sulfate is an appropriate treatment option.

However, they did find weak evidence to show that glucosamine/chondroitin may help relieve pain in those with moderate-severe arthritis:

For a subset of participants with moderate-to-severe pain, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief compared with placebo—about 79 percent had a 20 percent or greater reduction in pain versus about 54 percent for placebo. According to the researchers, because of the small size of this subgroup these findings should be considered preliminary and need to be confirmed in further studies. For participants in the mild pain subset, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate together or alone did not provide statistically significant pain relief.

Quite interesting that placebo improved pain in more than half of the subjects who took glucosamine chondroitin for knee arthritis.

Further, the side effects were mild and mostly involved an upset stomach. Hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar, was a previously reported side effect of glucosamine that was not shown to occur in this study.

So, should you take glucosamine chondroitin for knee arthritis?

As the NIH recommends, this is really a decision you and your doctor must make.

I personally am not a proponent of supplements unless absolutely necessary. I will also bend my recommendations if a particular supplement has strong research backing, shows significant benefit and has a low side effect risk. At this point in time, the research behind glucosamine/chondroitin does not show enough benefit for me to recommend. Not only is the supplement expensive, there are better methods for prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis. As the NIH recommends, eating right, exercising, strengthening your quadriceps muscles, losing weight and using appropriate pain medications are the standards of treatment.

Supplement your knees with the Fight Arthritis Workouts, and walk pain free for many years to come!

What are your experiences with glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation for knee arthritis?