Glucosamine is one of the most popular natural supplements used to manage arthritis pain and inflammation. Approximately 10% of Americans over 18 years of age have tried glucosamine. A recent trial investigated its use in 201 subjects with mild to moderate osteoarthritis over a 24 week period. Participants were randomly assigned to drink a diet lemonade beverage containing either 1500 mg of glucosamine or placebo. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and urinary cartilage markers were used to assess knee cartilage deterioration in subjects. Investigators found no difference in bone marrow lesions in those taking glucosamine compared to placebo. Furthermore, there was no difference in urinary cartilage markers that indicate cartilage destruction between placebo and glucosamine. Researchers concluded that short term use of glucosamine does not improve cartilage structure.
In our opinion the jury is still out on using glucosamine to manage arthritis pain. The aforementioned study showed no apparent benefit from glucosamine supplementation over placebo in patients with osteoarthritis. However this study had some serious limitations that could influence its results. There were only a small number of participants enrolled in this trial. Also, the investigators only followed subjects for 24 weeks which may not be long enough to show cartilage changes from glucosamine use. Previous glucosamine studies followed patients over a three year period have showed improvement in cartilage structure. Additionally, researchers did not investigate the effectiveness of glucosamine on subjects’ perceived pain which is arguably a more relevant endpoint for individuals with arthritis. Another shortcoming of this trial is its use of diet lemonade to administer the glucosamine supplement. Many experts believe artificial sweeteners can actually increase inflammation in our body which could potentially worsen arthritis. Further research is necessary to evaluate glucosamine for arthritis management. Individuals with arthritis pain should consider adopting an anti-inflammatory diet as part of their pain management plan. This includes eating foods rich in omega-3 fats and limiting sugar intake. Book a consult with one of our team members to get you started on the right path.