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What Is Glucosamine And How Does It Benefit Arthritis Sufferers?

Feb 20, 2008
Glucosamine is a common treatment for osteoarthritis and is an amino sugar. It is a major component of the skeletons of many crustaceans and other arthropods.

Glucosamine helps arthritis sufferers by reducing inflammation in the joint areas which causes stiffness, swelling, and pain. Glucosamine may also help rebuild damaged cartilage since glucosamine is a precursor to glycosaminoglycans which form a major part of the cartilage in human joints. Glucosamine is often used in combination with other popular arthritis supplements such as chondroitin and Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM).

Many studies have been conducted on the safety of glucosamine with most concluding that glucosamine is safe even at very high levels of consumption. Those with a seafood allergy should be careful before taking a glucosamine supplement since commercial glucosamine is derived from the shells of crustaceans and arthropods such as shrimp, lobster, and crabs. Furthermore those with diabetes should monitor blood glucose levels carefully as there is evidence that glucosamine may adversely affect blood sugar levels among some diabetics.

Studies on the benefits of glucosamine have been mixed. While some studies have found that glucosamine relieves the symptoms of arthritis such as joint pain and swelling, others have found that glucosamine offers no benefit over a placebo. Some studies have suggested glucosamine only benefits arthritis sufferers when used in combination with chondroitin.

The largest such study is known as the Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) and involved over 1,500 participants. The study found that a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin did offer some pain relief amongst those experiencing moderate to severe pain but neither chondroitin nor glucosamine or the combination of the two benefited arthritis sufferers experiencing only mild pain.

Another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 1500mg of glucosamine taken daily significantly slowed the progression of osteoarthritis over a three year period. Patients who received the glucosamine also had reduced pain and stiffness compared to the placebo.

Glucosamine is currently recommended as a secondary arthritis treatment by several organizations such as OsteoArthritis Research Society International (OARSI) and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR).

Typical glucosamine dosages vary from 500mg to 2000mg per day and it is usually consumed in tablet form, typically in 500mg dosages.

Glucosamine is currently not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use by humans in the United States but is instead classified as a dietary supplement which means it cannot be advertised as a treatment for a medical condition (in this case arthritis).

Glucosamine supplements are widely available in nutritional shops, pharmacies, drug stores, and supermarkets. Typical prices are around US$15 to US$20 for 90 500mg tablets.

If you have osteoarthritis symptoms you may well benefit from glucosamine in combination with your regular osteoarthritis medication and given its excellent safety record it is unlikely you would suffer any adverse reaction. Many health care providers will recommend a course of glucosamine supplementation for a three month period with the patient discontinuing use if they experience no reduction in arthritis symptoms. It is recommended that an individual consults his doctor before beginning a glucosamine regimen.
About the Author
Anthony Wilson is the owner of Health Hubs, a health news and articles website dedicated to health topics such as cancer, diabetes arthritis, and cancer.
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