Last week the Archives of Internal Medicine reported on a clinical trial using the nutrient glucosamine sulfate. Two-hundred two patients with osteoarthritis of the knees were randomized to receive either oral glucosamine sulfate 1500 mg daily or placebo. The study was double-blinded and was three years in duration. The patients were studied with serial x-rays of the knees.
At the end of the study, there was statistical significance shown in regard to both the changes on x-rays and symptoms. Patients treated with glucosamine sulfate were noted to have overall stabilization on their x-rays whereas patients treated with placebo had significant progression and deterioration. Likewise, those patients treated with glucosamine sulfate had a significant improvement in overall reduction in pain and stiffness along with improvement in function. The conclusion was that long term treatment with glucosamine sulfate retarded the progression of knee osteoarthritis, possibly determining disease modification.
This study is a follow up to a prior study published in Lancet in the last couple of years, likewise, showing radiographic evidence of benefit with glucosamine sulfate over placebo. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that are prescribed in this country do not purport to stabilize joint function but merely treat symptoms. In fact, some studies indicate the NSAIDS actually promote the destruction of the joints which leads to surgery and joint replacement.
Further, the NSAIDS including the COX-2 versions have significant side effects with many patients developing GI bleeding and other complications including death.
Glucosamine sulfate, on the other hand, has an excellent safety profile. There is a second nutrient called chondroitin sulfate which has also been studied in the medical literature, although not to the same extent as glucosamine sulfate. This nutrient has added benefits for healthy joint function. It is important when taking glucosamine, that the potassium stabilized sulfate form be utilized. The potassium stabilized sulfate form contains sulfur that is critical to support healthy joints.
The hydrochloride (HCL) form does not contain sulfur. This sulfate form also provides potassium which has been proven to promote healthy heart function and blood pressure. Other forms contain sodium that is harmful to your blood pressure and heart function. Many companies choose to use much cheaper HCL forms. DO NOT BUY THESE PRODUCTS. The vast majority of clinical trials have used the sulfate form which is the superior form of the nutrient. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate work by increasing chondrocyte function, proteoglycans and improving fluid retention within the joint which is critical to maintain joint function.
The glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, I believe, is a product I personally use. It comes in capsule form with each capsule containing 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate and 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate. Taking three capsules daily provides the recommended dose for most individuals. Capsules are vastly superior to rock hard tablets that contain fillers and binders. I have always been a strong proponent of prevention as the best means of treatment. Those individuals who already suffer with osteoarthritis would clearly benefit by the glucosamine/chondroitin combination. However, I would recommend this combo be taken by ALL adults – even before the onset of symptoms to preserve normal joint function to avoid the inevitable deterioration of joint function that occurs with aging.
On a personal note, about three or four years ago I had developed pain in one of my knees and clicking in one of my hips. I started taking glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate on a regular basis at that time. I am happy to report that I no longer experience any pain in my knee or any clicking in my hips.
Other excellent nutrients for promoting healthy joints include SAMe and fish oil.
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