Glucosamine sulfate is a natural compound formed within the body that plays a role in proper formation of cartilage. Because of this, glucosamine is sold as a supplement to decrease the pain associated with osteoarthritis—a type of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage between bones is wears away, producing pain.
Some studies do exist showing that glucosamine is effective in alleviating the pain associated with osteoarthritis. In spite of the research however questions still remain. It is unfortunate that considering the popularity of glucosamine, that questions still remain unanswered regarding its use.
For example, some studies did not specify how long people had osteoarthritis. Thus, we don't know if glucosamine works as well in someone who's had osteoarthritis for 20 years as in a person who has had osteoarthritis for just one year.
Another unknown is how glucosamine works. Currently it's anybody's guess. What we do know is that glucosamine does seem to work in some people. However, the pain relief from glucosamine use is mild and has been compared to what would be expected from aspirin. Thus, glucosamine is not a miracle cure.
One thing to remember about glucosamine is that it only seems to be effective on osteoarthritis. It does not seem effective on rheumatoid arthritis.
People who have rheumatoid arthritis can probably save their money on glucosamine.
Can Glucosamine Regrow Cartilage?
There is no good scientific evidence that glucosamine can re-grow cartilage. This myth seems to stem from one poorly designed study in the early 1980's.
Update. For more glucosamine myths and insights also read 4 facts about glucosamine you dont know. These are Bombshell facts that most people have never been told.
Glucosamine Side Effects
Overall, the side effects associated with glucosamine seem to be mild and range from constipation to nausea and heart burn. Over the past few years there has been concern that glucosamine might alter blood sugar and insulin levels and thus, may not be appropriate for diabetics. While controversial, diabetics should consult their physician before using glucosamine.
What About Chondroitin Sulfate?
Another substance that seems to go hand in hand with glucosamine is chondroitin sulfate. Like glucosamine, chondroitin also helps with cartilage integrity. Currently, there seems to be little evidence that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is better than glucosamine alone. Chondroitin has been theorized to be inappropriate for those on blood thinner medications because of its chemical similarity to some prescription blood thinner medications. Other research links chondroitin sulfate to prostate cancer.
Quality of Glucosamine Supplements
According to a report in the Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association (JANA), many glucosamine products (especially the cheaper brands) contained less glucosamine than their product labels indicated. Like all supplements it is in the interest of consumers to only do business with companies that they trust. As a general rule, it may take about 8 weeks to see results from glucosamine. Failure to see results after 8 weeks may be a cause to try another brand. Consumers should consult their physician for a list brands they recommend.
Glucosamine may hold promise for some of the estimated 16 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis. Because of the difficulty in finding a quality product coupled with concerns for diabetics and those who are on blood thinner medications, I would consult your physician, who can help you find the best glucosamine supplement, as well as determine if glucosamine is right for you.