Glucosamine may impede the progression of osteoarthitis.




Arch Intern Med

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Glucosamine Arthritis, Osteo
Professional Data: Glucosamine Arthritis, Osteo


The most common joint disease in humans and all vertebrate animals, osteoarthritis is a universal affliction: virtually everyone who lives past age 75 has it to some degree. Nearly 50 percent of the population suffers from osteoarthritis by age 65.1 Known to doctors by the simple acronym "OA," osteoarthritis hits hard on the hardest working joints: the knees, the hips, the hands, and fingers. The weight-bearing joints and the spine are especially vulnerable. It is a fundamental fact of life that as we age, our joints lose their youthful flexibility and range of motion. Movement eventually becomes difficult and painful as we slowly, year by year, become less supple and more stiff.

Glucosamine is a substance produced by the body that is now a widely popular dietary supplement. Healthy joint cartilage is rich in glucosamine. As a key component of the glycosaminoglycans discussed earlier, glucosamine is vitally important for maintaining strong, flexible joints. The body can use orally taken glucosamine to make new glycosaminoglycans. Glucosamine is described as a "chondoprotective" substance, an agent that protects the structure of joint cartilage. Chondoprotection is a rather new approach in the medical world; treatment for OA has traditionally centered around relieving pain with anti-inflammatory drugs.

Although there are many treatments available to treat the symptoms of OA, most do not affect the progression of this disease. Researchers in Italy wanted to investigate the long-term effects of glucosamine sulfate on osteoarthritis of the knee and the progression of the disease. Two hundred OA patients were recruited for this study and were randomized to receive placebo or 1500 mg of glucosamine daily. After three years of treatment, the results showed that those who received glucosamine had fewer symptoms of stiffness and pain and also reported more functionality when compared to the placebo group. Development of the disease also seemed to slow in the glucosamine sulfate group. Researchers stated that in this group, long-term supplementation with glucosamine sulfate stunted the progression of OA of the knee.2


1. Fife RS. Epidemiology, pathology, and pathogenesis. In: Klippel JH, ed. Primer on Rheumatic Diseases, 11th ed. Atlanta, Arthritis Foundation. 1997:216-217.
2. Pavelka K, et al. Glucosamine Sulfate Use and Delay of Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis. Arch Intern Med. Oct 2002;162:2113-23.