- Here's what to know about the capabilities of glucosamine and chondroitin for osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative disease that affects millions of people worldwide, occurs when joint cartilage wears down as you age. Since cartilage acts as a protective cushion for the ends of your bones, its being worn down means your bones will end up rubbing together, leading to issues like joint pain and decreased mobility.
If you’re dealing with osteoarthritis (OA), it helps to know that you’re not alone. In fact, the United States CDC says that it affects over 32.5 million adults in the US. Aside from pain and difficulty in movement, you may also experience stiffness and swelling when you have OA.
What to do if you have osteoarthritis?
Now, just because OA is a fairly common condition doesn’t mean you have to suck it up and just accept it. Although there is no cure for OA, there are a multitude of approaches you can take to slow down its progress and enjoy healthier joints for longer.
One of the simplest (but also one of the hardest) ways to manage osteoarthritis is to regularly exercise and maintain a healthy weight. The heavier you are, the more pressure you constantly exert on your joints. Also, weight loss in overweight persons has been shown to lead to a reduction in the inflammatory processes that worsen OA.
Many people also take supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to help with OA. As natural components of cartilage in the body, glucosamine and chondroitin are believed to help maintain healthy joints.
If you’re currently working on maintaining a healthier weight and are implementing lifestyle changes to fight OA, these supplements can serve as a reinforcement in the fight against joint damage.
What are glucosamine and chondroitin?
Before we dive deeper into how glucosamine and chondroitin could contribute to healthier joints, let’s briefly talk about the nature of these two compounds.
As mentioned before, glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally found in the cartilage. The former also naturally occurs in the covering of shellfish, while the latter is also found in shark and bovine cartilage.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are well-absorbed by the body. Typically, you’ll find these compounds in sulfate form, formulated together in pills, capsules, powders, tablets, and even in liquid form.
How do they help with osteoarthritis?
Glucosamine serves as a building block for numerous important molecules in the human body. Most importantly, it’s known to play a role in the development and maintenance of healthy cartilage within your joints. Likewise, chondroitin is involved in the production of cartilage and is equally important in keeping your joints healthy.
People take glucosamine and chondroitin to manage and prevent joint disorders like osteoarthritis. In one study, it’s been shown that glucosamine may have a significant anti-inflammatory effect on the cells involved in bone formation. This anti-inflammatory effect may help counter the effects of chronic degenerative diseases like OA.
Aside from being found in cartilage, glucosamine and chondroitin are components of synovial fluid, which is the lubricant that allows your bones to move freely while reducing friction at your joints. Without the synovial fluid, your joints are bound to experience accelerated wear and tear because of friction.
Glucosamine and chondroitin also contribute to joint health by slowing down cartilage breakdown and collagen degradation. A 2013 study, for instance, found that daily glucosamine supplementation resulted in reduced collagen degradation in the knees among cyclists. Research published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine also found similar results.
Are they safe?
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are deemed safe for human consumption. One of the best things about these supplements is that their safety has been studied pretty extensively. Because of this, people are able to take glucosamine and chondroitin without having to worry about side effects.
Osteoarthritis, while common, is a tricky condition. There is no cure for it, so everyone has to do their due diligence in managing and preventing it from worsening. That said, aside from a healthy lifestyle and conscious weight management, supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can assist your efforts in combating OA and maintaining healthy joints for as long as possible.