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Glucosamine and Chondroitin

for Pain Relief, Cancer and Longevity

We've long known that glucosamine and or chondroitin are good for supporting healthy, comfortable joints. Numerous studies from highly regarded journals prove this point over and over. Even more importantly, hundreds and hundreds of my patients swear by the stuff.

Detractors point to the recent GAIT trial funded by the NIH as proof that glucosamine/chondroitin doesn't work; however, let’s examine the results of this study more carefully:
In most studies 30-40% of the placebo group (the group that took the sugar pill) glean benefit. In the GAIT study however, 60% of the placebo group saw at least a 20% improvement. The authors write about this in the discussion section of the study: "Our study has a number of limitations. First, the high rate of response to placebo (60.1 percent) and the relatively mild degree of pain from osteoarthritis among the participants may have limited our ability to detect benefits of the treatments."

Even with this high rate of response from placebo takers, 4% more people taking glucosamine alone achieved a 20% decrease in pain, 5% more people taking chondroitin achieved this result and 7% more of the people taking both achieved at least a 20% pain reduction. In other words 64% of glucosamine takers, 65% of chondroitin takers and 67% of those taking both achieved at least a 20% reduction in pain; hardly what I would call "no benefit." Most interestingly, in the subgroup of patients with moderate to severe arthritis symptoms of the knee, a whopping 79% of those taking the combined therapy received benefit vs 54% of those taking placebo. In other words, if you have moderate to severe knee pain you have about an 80% chance of feeling better if you take glucosamine and chondroitin! Now those are my kind of odds.

Glucosamine supplementation has also been shown to reduce arthritic thinning and destruction of the cartilage at the knee joint:
Back Bridge NeilFrom the Archives of Internal Medicine: Glucosamine sulfate 1500mgs once daily for 3 years significantly decreased progression of joint space narrowing measured by X-ray in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 202 patients with moderate knee osteoarthritis lasting longer than 10 years. Symptoms, assessed by the Lequesne index, improved 20% over baseline with glucosamine compared with placebo. Fewer patients taking glucosamine than those taking placebo experienced severe joint damage progression. (Pavelka et al, 2002).

From the Journal Lancet: Glucosamine sulfate 1500 mgs once daily significantly prevented knee joint structural changes, as measured on x-ray in subjects with osteoarthritis over a three-year period in this randomized, double- blind, placebo-controlled study. The placebo group had a mean loss of joint space at the knee of .31mm after 3 years while the glucosamine group had no significant joint space loss. Symptoms, assessed by WOMAC got slightly worse in the placebo group but improved 20% to 25% in the glucosamine group. The authors suggested that glucosamine sulfate may be of use as a disease modifying agent for osteoarthritis (Reginster et al, 2001).

Recently I have been noticing that along with the joint benefits supplied by glucosamine and chondroitin there seem to be several studies indicating that these nutrients may protect us from some varieties of cancer:
From the Journal: Cancer Cell Int. 2009 Sep 10;25: Glucosamine suppressed proliferation of human prostate cancer DU145 cells by reducing DNA transcription and inducing apoptosis (cell death) of the cancer cells. These scientists also found that glucosamine caused cell death in cervical cancer cells. However some other types of cancer did not respond. PMID:19744341

In another study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention: 2009 May;18(5):1419-28: scientists used information from the VITAL study of 77,000 men and women between the ages of 50-76. They quantified their use of supplements and compared the results with their risk of lung and colorectal cancer. Use of glucosamine reduced lung cancer risk by 26% while use of chondroitin reduced risk by 28%. Colorectal cancer risk was reduced by 27% with the use of glucosamine and 35% by the use of chondroitin. Colorectal cancer risk was also reduced by fish oil 35%, by MSM 54% and by St John’s Wort 65%. PMID:19423520

And finally, as if better joints along with the possibility of reduced risk of cancer were not enough, researchers have found that use of glucosamine and chondroitin seem to reduce risk of death. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June 2010 vol. 91 no. 6 1791-1800), subjects taking low dose glucosamine (3 or fewer times per week) had an 8% reduced risk of death over a 6 year period while those taking higher doses (4 or more times per week) had a 17% reduced risk. For chrondroitin, risk was reduced by 12% in low doses and 17% for higher doses. Researchers point out that "Animal studies suggested that glucosamine and chondroitin impede the progression of cardiovascular disease and that both glucosamine and chondroitin have therapeutic effects in colitis." They also point out the inflammation modulating effects and the improvement of cartilage matrix with glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation as positive factors. Accumulating experimental evidence indicates that chondroitin and glucosamine may inhibit nuclear transcription factor NF kappa beta, the master switch of inflammation pathways. This makes sense because these glucosamine/chondroitin findings are similar to findings of the Iowa Women’s study of an 18% decrease in mortality for women who supplemented with aspirin (J Natl Cancer Inst 2007;99:881–9).

Neil hunt tri bikeOn a more personal note, I have been taking glucosamine/chondroitin due to right knee pain for years with incredible success (I have lost 60% of the cartilage in that knee). During that period I have stopped supplementing on 2 or 3 occasions just to see if the pain would return. Within about 4-6 weeks my knee would get "cranky" again.  Restarting glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation would get me back to normal within about a week. Prior to supplementation my knee pain was so bad that I couldn't run or play sports without limping for a couple of weeks afterward. Now I'm back to exercise and sports without pain (that's me on the bike to the left).

If you haven't tried it yet…get started. If you have in the past without success, try the brand I use: Purity Products – GC Flex. It has glucosamine and chondroitin at research grade levels along with a natural anti-inflammatory from the Boswellia plant called 5-Loxin which also works great and has several positive pain studies. Take the full dose, 3 capsules all at once, every day and give it at least 3 months to notice benefits. Many of you will notice improvement in 1 month but for others in can take longer.

Good luck.

To Your Excellent Health,
Dr Neil Levin, chiropractor, nutritionist, Fitness Trainer.
Dr. Levin Practices in East Northport, Long Island.