Chondroitin and glucosamine sulfates are natural components of healthy joint tissue, and are readily available as dietary supplements. They work by supplying the natural raw materials cartilage needs to repair and rebuild itself, and by suppressing the natural enzymes that break cartilage down in the first place. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body, synthesized in the chondrocytes. In osteoarthritis, this synthesis is defective and insufficient, and supplementation with glucosamine has proven to be useful.
The body uses supplemental glucosamine to synthesize the proteoglycans and the water-binding glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in the cartilage matrix. In addition to providing raw material, the presence of glucosamine seems to stimulate the chondrocytes in their production of these substances. Glucosamine also inhibits certain enzymes that destroy the cartilage, e.g., collagenase and phospholipase. By blocking pathogenic mechanisms that lead to articular degeneration, glucosamine delays the progression of the disease and relieves symptoms even for weeks after termination of the treatment.1
Chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage. It is a very large molecule, composed of repeated units of glucosamine sulfate. Like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate has the ability to prevent enzymes from dissolving cartilage.
Glucosamine alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate is becoming recognized as the treatment of choice for osteoarthritis in the United States. Its ability to actually repair and improve joint function in addition to providing pain relief gives it a significant advantage over conventional treatment. Extensive studies have proven the ability of these natural tissue components to stimulate new tissue growth and suppress the enzymes that otherwise break down cartilage.
A new study analyzed glucosamine and chondroitin clinical trials for knee osteoarthritis from 1980 through early 2002 through a sophisticated statistical technique known as œmeta-analysis. Glucosamine studies demonstrated a highly significant efficacy on all outcomes, including the WOMAC scale (Western Ontario MacMaster Univ. Osteoporosis Index) and joint space narrowing. Chondroitin was found effective on mobility, visual analog scale pain, the Lequesne Index of severity for osteoarthritis and responding status.2
In order to maintain optimal joint health well into your later years, it’s important to maintain healthy weight and to exercise regularly. Overtaxed joints and weak muscles are a dangerous combination. Chondroitin and glucosamine sulfates can safely halt and reverse structural damage to joints, and promote the building of healthy new cartilage. Just as arthritis is not one condition, no single treatment is likely to yield satisfactory results. A systemic approach targeting pro-inflammatory cytokines, the dual inflammatory pathways and cartilage destruction should more effectively address the multifaceted nature of the host of conditions that are known as arthritis.
- Qiu GX, et al. Efficacy and safety of glucosamine sulfate versus ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Arzneimittelforschung. 1998; 48:469-474.
- Richy F, et al. Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis a comprehensive meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med 2003; 163:1514-1522.