Friday, July 3, 2009

Can any of my readers tell me about Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements?

Yet another supplement that I would really love to see studied further. It is maddening to find that there is a great deal of information out there - almost uniformly positive, yet be unable to find more than a couple of NIH studies that are cautiously optimistic. One of them was pretty much focused on the actual amount of these substances in various products, compared to the amount the label claimed they contain.

I am going to try it since my doctor let me know that there is no reason to think it would mix badly with my meds, but I would love to know if anyone can give me some more information. I didn't actually get to talk directly with my doctor, but his head nurse let me know that he has recommended it to patients and thought it might be helpful for me. At the same time, she emphasized that it's unlikely that he knows of more information about these supplements than I am (they know how I tend to be about this sort of thing).

I have spent a while on medline and pubmed. I have yet to spend much time in the databases of full papers I have access to. If any of you know of something you would point me to, please feel free.

Thanks for all the fish!!!


MGS said...

Look up Methylsulfonylmethane. I think between chondroitin, glucosamine, and MSM, it was the only one to show an effect. I remember reading a study in humans that showed it alleviated arthritis. I think the dose in that study was about 6 grams/day. The wikipedia entry about it lists some pertinent studies.

Toaster Sunshine said...

That all depends. What do you think you want it for? Glucosamine and chondroitin are both molecules commonly found in connective tissue, such as that lubricating joints and holding together tendons. I've primarily heard of it being used to support joint health.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Sorry, I should have been clear that I have totally fucked many of my joints - most especially my knees. I haven't an official diagnosis of osteoarthritis, but I have unquestionably done significant damage to the connective tissues.

Ambivalent Academic said...

Here's what I know...though it may take me a while to come up with the references.

For optimal effect you need appropriate ratios of G to C. The "dose" varies from "therapeutic" to "maintenance" use, and the "appropriate ratio" also varies depending on the species that it using it. Basically, you need sufficient C to absorb G (or maybe it's the other way around?) harm done if the ratios are off, but you're paying for stuff you'll just piss out.

I have to say I'm most familiar with dosing horses and dogs, but let me see if I can unearth some other info.

Also, I wouldn't normally advocate this, but if you're looking to save some cash, you can get these supplements in pill/tablet form for pets much much cheaper than you can get the supplements as designed for humans - in some cases the appropriate ratios are the same. G/C is a "neutraceutical" meaning that it's not going to have any wacky side effects or drug interactions, so my feeling is that you don't need to pay hand over fist for special people packaging. You do need to be sure that you buy it from a distributor that has the ingredients (and amounts thereof) of their supplement independently verified so you know you're paying for G/C and not fillers - pet products are not subject to this by law. Cosequin does independent verification, as does Dynamite.

I prefer Dynamite because they also make human-formulated products. They can be a little harder to get ahold of - you have to purchase through a distributor because they generally don't retail. The reason being that they don't want their product sitting on the shelf at GNC going stale. You can find them online. They sell a lot of other supplements too. Some of it is woo. Don't be put off of the G/C or MSM product because of it. Those effects have been backed up by scientific studies, and having used it on a LOT of washed up performance horses (who presumably don't exhibit placebo effect) I can attest that it really does make a difference. Hope it makes you feel better.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Thanks AA, I will check them out. I actually got some from my parents to try it initially, but I have noticed it tends to be fairly expensive and have had some concerns.

And I suspect that most sources for this stuff are likely also selling woo - that kind of goes with the territory. This is one of the things that bugs the shit out of me with this stuff - there are a lot of products that get lumped in with the woo that are entirely viable, reasonable products to use.

Ambivalent Academic said...

The other thing to keep in mind is that it may take several weeks to see an effect, so give it at least a month until you make a decision about whether you're liking it.

With the horses I've treated, we were seeing positive effects in 4-6 weeks...sometimes 8 for those who were really hurting before we got ahold of them. I saw positive effects with my post-knee-op dog in three weeks (climbing stairs without a limp!) with the Dynamite product called "free and easy" (G/C, MSM, plus some plant-derived anti-inflammatories). I was really really pleased with how he responded to this product. I'll keep him on maintenance dosing for the rest of his life most likely.

My dad took G/C and MSM after bi-lateral knee replacements, and said that he felt that he was having an easier time getting around in about 2 weeks as compared to his previous menisectomy surgeries. That of course could be an effect of the very different procedure or placebo effect as well.

I will look up articles on human dosing maybe Monday - I'm taking the holiday weekend off from science.

Abby Normal said...

I can't give you any studies. But from personal experience they seem effective to me, at least for my purposes. I take Glucosamine 1500mg, Chondroitin 1200mg, and a pinch of Hyaluronate 13mg. (Name brand: Trigosamine)

Last year I started training for a marathon and was having a lot of knee and ankle pain. So I started taking them. I didn't notice anything for the first three weeks. But over the next couple weeks the pain gradually subsided. After a total of 5 to 6 weeks the knee pain vanished entirely and the ankle pain was markedly reduced.

I continued to take them until my supply ran out, a total of 3 months. Rather than spend the money on more, I stopped. Over the next few weeks the pain gradually returned.

Hardly conclusive, I know. It very well could have been the build up of muscles and other supporting structures that caused the pain to subside. And it could have been my increasingly intense regiment that brought it back. But I'm now training again and this year I know I'll be taking them throughout. So take that as you will.

Kelly said...

Completely anecdotal, but they did *nothing* for me and I have moderate to severe osteoarthritis in all of my joints to to genetic collagen issues. My orthopedic at the time told me that it seemed to be about 50/50 whether it would help his patients. Standard disclaimer: anecdotes /= data etc.

Ktbug Ladydid said...

All I can offer is my own opinion. I'm too lazy to go back to research mode right now. I take glucosamine chondroitin for my joints. Wear and tear from dance was causing me pain, so I started taking it after reading some stuff on arthritic dogs, actually. I find it helps a lot. I'm in significantly less pain, enough that I can run several times a week, dance, and stretch. My hips and knees don't yell at me when I want to move now.

Ktbug Ladydid said...

Oh, and Trader Joe's has a decent version that's cheaper than the stuff you can find at Walmart. I think the level of relief you'll feel depends on the damage you've sustained.

Jen Phillips said...

sorry man, but it's bunk. The most comprehensive, well-designed studies have failed to show an effect above placebo. See
for example, and save your hard-earned $$$

DuWayne Brayton said...

Thanks for the link - I have been taking it for a week and haven't been able to tell much. I have felt better, but I am also working out and working on a healthier diet. I have a whole bottle, so I figure I might as well, but that definitely takes some wind out of the sails...

I will also go ahead and post that link on the front page...Thanks again.

Jen Phillips said...

Glad to help. This is one of those 'natural remedies' that has gotten so much good press that I think people just assume it's a proven medical treatment. It seems that most MDs either aren't sure themselves or don't want to lose patient confidence by telling them it won't work--the placebo affect is a real phenomenon, after all, and the standard treatments for degenerative joint disease are pretty limited.

My mom was a professional dancer and is now suffering the after-affects of many years of joint abuse --she's had bilateral hip replacements, and her knees ankles and feet are pretty beat up, too. She began taking G/C supplements as a 'preventative measure' and asked for my opinion, so I've been following the studies for a while now.

As these things go G/C is technically 'harmless' (leaving aside for a moment the risks associated with the lack of regulation of the ingredients in supplements) but she's approaching 70, and on a fixed income, so it didn't seem 'harmless' in the more general sense. I leveled with her, and thankfully she took the news well (I'm guessing she wasn't noticing any difference in her joints, but was likely feeling the pinch in her pocketbook).

Sorry for babbling on. I'm glad the info was helpful to you. SBM is a truly stellar blog. And I like yours, too (found you via ERV), so I'll be back.