Supplements Made Simple - Glucosamine

This is adapted from the book, Eat Smart, Play Hard, by RW USA Nutrition Editor Liz Applegate.

Glucosamine is an amino acid sugar that acts as the structural component of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Chondroitin is a component of cartilage. According to the manufacturers’ claims, when taken together, these two supplements protect joints and tendons and relieve osteoarthritis pain.

In the past few years, orthopedists and other physicians have increasingly advised patients to take both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to ease the inflammation and pain of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition caused by overuse, traumatic injury, or old age. One of the hallmarks of osteoarthritis is an erosion of the cartilage that cushions your joints. Chondrocytes – the cells in your joints that make cartilage – need glucosamine to function optimally. According to several studies, about 1,500 milligrams each of supplemental glucosamine and chondroitin daily helps soothe pain, possibly by stimulating cartilage growth. Animal studies also suggest that supplemental glucosamine may speed the repair of injured joints.

Glucosamine also helps produce substances in ligaments, tendons, and joint fluids called glycoproteins, so it may speed healing in those areas as well. Research has yet to test that theory, however.

My recommendation: Consult your physician if you want to give glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate a try. Few studies have looked at the safety of this supplement. In one small study, a group of people with diabetes who took glucosamine experienced lower insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, so if you have diabetes, I strongly urge you to talk with your doctor before taking this supplement. These pills come with a hefty price tag, and you may have to take them three times a day. If you decide to take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, take 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of each per day.