NCTV Episode 46
Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-
- What glucosamine is
- How it works and what is it used for
- The evidence for or against it’s effectiveness
- The types of glucosamine available
- Is it safe?
If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-
Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 46 and today’s topic is on the supplement Glucosamine. It’s something I get asked about on a regular basis so hopefully this will help to shed some on what it is, who it’s for and how effective it is.
So first things first, what is Glucosamine? Simply put, it’s a popular supplement used to treat osteoarthritis (or OA for short). Some evidence suggests that Glucosamine can help to relieve joint pain and stiffness associated with OA although others studies are less conclusive. More often than not, Glucosamine is combined with Chondroitin in supplement form which is made up of the cartilage of animals such as cows, pigs, or shellfish and made in a lab.
In many European countries, these supplements are actually a prescribed treatment for OA, although in places like the UK and US, this isn’t the case due to the mixed results of the studies.
So how do they work? In OA, the gradual degeneration of cartilage leads to pain, swelling, and other symptoms. Glucosamine and chondroitin have anti-inflammatory properties and some cartilage-protecting effects so in theory, these supplements have the potential to slow cartilage deterioration in the joints, and reduce pain in the process.
However, the reason why I say in theory is because one of the most comprehensive long-term studies in 2006 showed that Glucosamine with Chondroitin didn’t offer significant relief to participants in general, although it did in those with moderate to severe knee pain. Follow up results in 2010 suggested that these supplements improved pain and function, although no better than a placebo or the Non-Steroid-Anti-Inflammatory Drug celecoxib. Since then a few more large scale studies have shown more positive results. When you look at the evidence on the whole for glucosamine and chondroitin, particularly for osteoarthritis of the knee, it’s actually very strong. A 2016 study found it to be as effective at relieving knee OA pain and swelling as celecoxib, without the side effects, indicating that it could be a good alternative for people who aren’t able to take anti-inflammatories because they have cardiovascular or Gastro Intestinal conditions.
There are also debates over which type of glucosamine is more effective, Glucosamine Sulphate or Glucosamine Hydrochloride. It would seem it’s much of a muchness but some studies do show that the sulphate variety can help to improve joint flexibility and range of motion, indicating that this could be the better option.
In terms of safety, Glucosamine and chondroitin are considered safe, with no serious side effects reported. However, they can interact with blood thinners like warfarin plus if you have diabetes or glaucoma, you may need to avoid taking it and consult your doctor before doing so.
To sum it all up, the evidence on glucosamine with chondroitin shows that it could be helpful for people with OA but that ultimately remains unclear, so the jury is still out. However, they haven’t been shown to be harmful which differs from anti-inflammatories or COX-2 inhibitors, where the relief is fairly immediate, but side effects are much more common. From this, as you may have gathered, it’s worth noting that It can take a number of weeks for the effectiveness of Glucosamine with Chondroitin to fully kick in but if you don’t notice any difference after a few months then it probably won’t be effective for you. That said, it does remain as one of the most popular supplements so even if a treatment is not deemed to be effective on average (according to the trials and evidence), there are still some people who, for whatever reason, get real relief from it. And, even if the benefit is from the placebo effect, that benefit is still real.
So that just about covers most of what you need to know about Glucosamine, hope that helps answer some questions on the matter and I’ll see you next time for some more bitesize bits to help your health flourish. Bye for now!