The joint supplements glucosamine and chondroitin provide marginal benefit, but are considered safe. They may be worth considering if you can justify the expense. Other supplements such as Omega 3 oils and Vitamin C/E may be worth considering.
1 Glucosamine and chondroitin
Chondroitin is an important component of joint cartilage and glucosamine is building block for other joint structures. Both chondroitin and glucosamine taken orally reach the joint space. There have been over 500 studies of glucosamine and chondroitin, and analysis of the best of the studies show only a marginal benefit or provide benefit only to a subgroup of suffers. These benefits do not meet the requirements to be generally considered clinically important. One review noted that the benefit of these suppliments is confused by a high rate of response to placebos, suggesting that the belief in their efficacy is important. However, given the safety of these supplements, they may be worth considering if your income is sufficient.
Doses of less than 800 mg/day of chondroitin or less than 1500 mg/day of glucosamine are considered sub-therapeutic, but there is no indication of appropriate dose. The Mayo Clinic suggest 500mg Glucosamine sulfate three times a day or 20mg per Kg body weight and 200-400mg chondroitin 2-3 times daily. These doses are based on those commonly used in studies.
I found glucosamine and chondroitin available online for about $10/month. Look carefully at the ingredients to check how many capsules make up the stated dose when calculating the daily cost.
3 Cancer Risk
One study found a small reduction in the rates of colorectal cancer from glucosamine and chondroitin based on the review of two large groups of healthcare professionals. Another study of found reduced rates colorectal cancer from glucosamine. One theory is that glucosamine and chondroitin act as an anti-inflammatory.
4 Food for joints
There have been over 2,000 studies of related to nutrition and Osteoarthritis, but only 53 are of sufficient quality to be useful. Some options that may be worth considering include:
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a less well known joint supplement than glucosamine and chondroitin, with far less studies available. There is some support for MSM helping with joint pain, but not enough to give confidence as to its effectiveness or safety. MSM does cross the blood/brain barrier and may cause headaches. (I believe MSM was a trigger for my migraines.)
- The supplement "avocado/soybean unsaponifiables" has shown positive results in studies. However, this supplement has not been widely studies for effectiveness or long term safety.
- There is some suggestion that Omega 3 oils may help with Osteoarthritis. Given the other health benefits of Omega 3 oils, supplementation should be considered.
- Higher Vitamin C intake may reduce Osteoarthritis and 1000mg/day of Vitamin C reduced joint pain, though by less than half what would be expected from NSAIDs. Like Omega 3 there may be other benefits to Vitamin C supplementation that make this worthwhile.
- Some, but not all studies have shown benefit from Vitamin E supplementation. Like the above two supplements, Vitamin E should be considered as there may be other health benefits.
- Devil's Claw, a South African plan extract, may help with joint pain (60mg harpagoside). However, there is little known about its safety.
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