Glucosamine and Osteoarthritis

Glucosamine and Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis (OA) is an arthritis type that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage of one or more joints. The main areas, which are affected by OA, include fingers, spine and weight-bearing joints including hips, knees and feet. The condition of osteoarthritis is typically characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a protein substance that serves as a ‘cushion’ between the bones of the joints. Also known as degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, afflicting more than 20 million Americans, with most of them being over the age of 50. The most affected areas are the hips and knees, causing pain and limitation of motion.

Glucosamine – The Basics

Glucosamine is a sugar, a sulphated amino-monosaccharise, one of the constituents of the disaccharide units present in articular cartilage proteoglycans. In other words, it is a modified sugar that is formed by the human body and is used as a precursor to form larger molecules called glycosaminoglycans, which are involved in the formation and repair of cartilage. Glucosamine is indicated for the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis, either independently by itself, or in combination with chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine derivatives are found in hyaluronic acid, keratin sulfate and heparin sulfate. Chondroitin sulfate also contains derivatives of galactosamine. Glucosamine is available from a number of manufacturers under various trade names. The most common branded products include:

  • Aflexa (McNeil Consumer)
  • Natures Blend Glucosamine (National Vitamin Co.)
  • GS-500 (Enzymatic Therapy)
  • Glucosamine Complex (Schiff)
  • Maxi GS (Maxi-Health Research)
  • NAG (Twinlab)

In the recent years, it has become an important substance in the building of cartilage and is now one of the most widely used dietary supplements. Since there are a vast number of glucosamine products available in the market, experts suggest that the following parameters be taken into consideration when analyzing and selecting a glucosamine product.

  • Amount of glucosamine per daily dose
  • Type of glucosamine
  • Quality of ingredients
  • Delivery System
  • Synergistic ingredients
  • Price Per Day

Glucosamine is normally available in the form of capsules, powder, liquid and tablets. While the capsules are administered in the dosages of 500 mg, 550 mg, 750 mg and 1000 mg, the liquid form is available in dosages of 500 mg/5 ml. Meanwhile, tablets are available in the forms of 340 mg, 500 mg and 1000 mg.

Glucosamine and Osteoarthritis

The repeating sugar units of glucosamine form a major constituent of bones, ligaments, tendons and fluids in the joint. Their low compressibility makes them ideal lubricants and is used as shock absorbers by the joints. Experts indicate that synthetically produced and ingested glucosamine may be beneficial in correcting the imbalance between production and destruction of naturally occurring glucosamine in osteoarthritis cartilage, thereby repairing damaged joints. Glucosamine is stated to have the following therapeutic benefits:

  1. Provides osteoarthritis pain relief
  2. Facilitates articular joint pain relief
  3. Assists in rehabilitating damaged cartilage
  4. Helps in slowing deterioration of cartilage from osteoarthritis
  5. Assists in improving mobility
  6. Helps in stimulating the production of proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans and synovial fluid

The glucosamine drug reportedly takes at least a month to exert its full therapeutic effect.

Research Findings

Research shows that glucosamine considerably reduces the pain of osteoarthritis, assists in rehabilitation of cartilage, renews synovial fluid and repairs joints that have been damaged from osteoarthritis. In a recent study in Belgium, 212 patients suffering from osteoarthritis were examined over a span of three-year period, most of them being women. Throughout the three-year study period, a section of patients were given 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine everyday. This section of patients reported no progression of the arthritis and also reflected an improvement in symptoms. However, there were conflicting reports as well. 15 percent of those on glucosamine still developed marked progression of their disease.

Nevertheless, symptom relief of some degree was found in almost all of those on glucosamine and appeared to last for the entire three-year study period. In addition, during the progression of osteoarthritis, exogenous glucosamine also had a beneficial role. Glucosamine has also been found to have antioxidant activity and beneficial in animal models of experimental arthritis. Benefits of glucosamine have also been seen in the cases of long-term, mild to moderate osteoarthritis.