The following article reports the now scientifically "proven" effects of glucosamine on arthritis, what many have now known and experienced for a few years now.
By Adam Marcus
THURSDAY, Jan. 25, 2001 (HealthScout) –– In what one arthritis expert calls a
"landmark" study, researchers say regular treatment with glucosamine can ease
the pain, swelling and stiffness of osteoarthritis and lead to measurable
improvements in joints.
Glucosamine is a natural supplement whose advocates claim it relieves the
symptoms of osteoarthritis, a cartilage–eroding ailment that strikes roughly
one in three Americans over age 63. However, few reliable studies have found
any benefit from the treatment until now.
In the latest study, reported in the upcoming issue of The Lancet, a team
led by Dr. Jean Yves Reginster of the Bone and Cartilage Metabolism Unit of
the CHU Centre Ville in Liege, Belgium, tested the supplement on 212 people
with osteoarthritis in their knees. Subjects were given either a dummy drug
or 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine daily over three years.
The patients had their knee joints X–rayed at the beginning and the end of
the trial to measure how much protective cartilage shielded their joints from
friction and impact.
By the end of the study, patients on glucosamine reported a 20 percent to 25
percent improvement of their symptoms, while the placebo group reported
slight deterioration. The X–rays showed that joint spaces in the untreated
patients had narrowed by an average of 20 millimeters, compared to no change
among those who took glucosamine.
Reginster says, "We demonstrate that we have significant differences in the
number of patients who experienced a significant, relevant loss" in their
joint space. "It's the first [study] that shows that it's possible to
demonstrate an effect both on the symptoms and the structure" of joints, says
Reginster. He says a recent Czech study found similar results.
Not sure how it works
The study, which was first reported at a 1999 meeting of arthritis experts,
was sponsored by the Rorta Research Group, an Italian company that makes much
of the glucosamine available in Europe. While several European countries have
officially approved glucosamine as an arthritis remedy, the compound is
available in the United States only as an over–the–counter therapy.
Reginster says that's problematic because different versions of the product
vary widely in the amount of the active chemical.
Dr. John Klippel, medical director of the Arthritis Foundation, says The
Lancet paper should have an "extraordinary" impact on the treatment of
osteoarthritis. "I think this is a landmark study of major importance."
Klippel says not only does it show symptom relief, but it offers evidence
that glucosamine leads to beneficial physiological changes.
What the work doesn't explain, however, is how glucosamine works with
arthritis. Glucosamine is a building block of cartilage, and some experts
have proposed that it might spur formation of new cartilage in affected
joints. But so far no one has proven that, he says.
Many patients in the Belgian study reported improvement within about a month
of starting treatment, suggesting glucosamine might have anti–inflammatory
properties, Klippel says.
SOURCES: Interviews with Jean Yves Reginster, M.D., Ph.D., Bone and
Cartilage Metabolism Unit, University Hospital, Liege, Belgium; John Klippel,
M.D., medical director, Arthritis Foundation, Washington, D.C.; Jan. 27,
2001, The Lancet
Although this article can be accessed for free at Lancet, you must first register with them for that free access. The article is located at:
Long–term Effects of Glucosamine Sulphate on Osteoarthritis Progression: A Randomised, Placebo–controlled Clinical Trial
Lancet 2001 (Jan 27); 357 (9252): 251-256