It’s been an interesting few years watching the back and forth on glucosamine and chondroitin. Some of pharma’s biggest sellers are NSAID drugs and the pharma-university industrial complex has tried hard to tar and feather glucosamine and chondroitin as their very existence is bad for business. However, is the data finally good enough that these two need to be recommended by every family physician in America over drugs like Celebrex or Motrin?
Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Natural Components of Cartilage
Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural components of cartilage and connective tissues, and as supplements they are typically made either by breaking down shellfish (glucosamine) or other animal by-products, like cow cartilage (chondroitin). Glucosamine is a structural component of cartilage, while chondroitin helps it retain water, making it essential as lubrication for joints. Many studies have found both to be safe and effective supplements to use long term, which makes them ideal for patients with arthritis who may require symptom relief and functional support on an ongoing basis.
We have seen study after study supporting glucosamine and chondroitin as effective for both relieving arthritis pain and improving arthritis function, and now there’s another adding to the burgeoning body of literature. Let’s first review what we already know about glucosamine and chondroitin.
Time to Toss the NSAIDs: Glucosamine and Chondroitin Can Do the Job…and More
Sudden-death heart attack or stroke, worsening arthritis, serious skin or allergic reactions, liver and kidney failure, fatal intestinal bleeding, and so on…these answer the question, What are the risks of taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)? NSAIDs, whether it’s the over-the-counter type, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, or the prescription type, such as Celebrex, are powerful drugs often used to treat arthritis inflammation to relieve pain, but they are dangerous drugs (just take a look at the FDA-required warnings on an NSAID label).
This is the reason we follow the research so closely on glucosamine and chondroitin and report on it here on this blog often. We see time and time again that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements taken together can provide arthritis relief and without all of those dangerous NSAID side effects. One study pitted glucosamine and chondroitin against prescription Celebrex and found that both improved pain, but glucosamine and chondroitin, taken together, also improved function and reduced joint-space narrowing in arthritis.
Glucosamine and chondroitin also went head to head with Celebrex in another study, this time to investigate arthritis pain relief. While we have seen various study results on pain relief with these supplements, which this link likely explains, the evidence supporting glucosamine and chondroitin, even outperforming powerhouse drugs like Celebrex for pain relief, are now beyond overwhelming and shouldn’t be ignored. Being natural cartilage components, we also see many studies showing that glucosamine and chondroitin slow arthritis progression (evidenced by X-ray) by protecting the cartilage that is there.
Now, another study scores yet another win for glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis relief.
Another Victory for Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Arthritis Relief and Safety
The new study was an analysis of data from 30 different trials to create a number of comparisons on arthritis relief: chondroitin vs. placebo, glucosamine vs. placebo, and chondroitin and glucosamine vs. placebo. In other words, did these supplements provide arthritis relief when compared to doing nothing? Researchers concluded that chondroitin both relieved pain and improved function while glucosamine relieved stiffness in the joints.
In addition, the safety of glucosamine and chondroitin was also assessed. With no significant differences in adverse effects from the placebo group, researchers concluded the supplements were safe, well-tolerated supplements.
While the new study isn’t particularly telling us something other studies haven’t already shown, it continues to confirm and validate that using glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis relief supplements are safe and effective.
The upshot? These are supplements that everyone who suffers from arthritis should try. The research is good enough that every family doctor out there should seriously consider substituting safe dietary supplements for dangerous NSAID drugs!