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Glucosamine and chondroitin are part of normal cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones in a joint.
Glucosamine, also called chitosamine, is a natural substance that is found in the covering of shellfish. It is available in different forms, including glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG), and glucosamine sulfate, which is a combination of glucosamine and mineral salt. Glucosamine is also available in synthetic forms. The body absorbs glucosamine well.
Chondroitin can come from natural sources, such as shark or bovine cartilage, or it can be made in a lab. Chondroitin is also known as chondroitin sulfate, chondroitin sulfuric acid, and chonsurid. Chondroitin sulfate is a combination of chondroitin and mineral salt.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are available in tablet, capsule, powder, or liquid form and are often taken in combination with each other or in combination with other dietary supplements. Glucosamine may be taken separately as a dietary supplement for joints.
Many people take glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, for osteoarthritis. Some people believe this helps. But an analysis of studies looking at glucosamine or chondroitin for osteoarthritis in the hip or knee did not show that these supplements slow joint destruction or relieve pain.footnote 1
It appears that glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, are safe and have few side effects. But they cost money and will not help you more than a placebo. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about taking glucosamine and chondroitin.
If you are allergic to shellfish, do not take glucosamine unless you have talked to your doctor. Some glucosamine is made from shellfish covering.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following:
Wandel S, et al. (2010). Effects of glucosamine, chondroitin, or placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee: Network meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online September 16, 2010 (doi:10.1136/bmj.c4675).
Other Works Consulted
Chondroitin (2015). Facts and Comparisons eAnswers. http://online.factsandcomparisons.com/MonoDisp.aspx?monoID=fandc-np5090&quick=-316792%7c20&search=-316792%7c20&isstemmed=True&NDCmapping=-1&fromTop=true. Accessed April 28, 2016.
Clegg DO, et al. (2006). Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(8): 795-808.
Drugs for osteoarthritis (2014). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 56(1540): 80-84. http://secure.medicalletter.org/system/files/private/TML-article-1450b.pdf. Accessed April 28, 2016.
Gabay C, et al. (2011). Symptomatic effects of chondroitin 4 and chondroitin 6 sulfate on hand osteoarthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 63(11): 3383-3391.
Glucosamine (2016). Facts and Comparisons eAnswers. http://online.factsandcomparisons.com/MonoDisp.aspx?monoid=fandc-np5144&book=NP&fromtop=true&search=-513952%7c5&isStemmed=True&asbooks=. Accessed April 28, 2016.
Scott D (2009). Osteoarthritis of the hip, search date May 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Scott D, Kowalczyk A (2007). Osteoarthritis of the knee, search date October 2006. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerStanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
Current as ofOctober 10, 2017
Current as of:
October 10, 2017
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
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