1 December 2007

Move It & Lose It with Prof Trim

Does glucosamine work?
Getting active can really be a pain for some people. Here’s a common question I get asked: ‘I’d love to become a bit more active and do my 30 minutes brisk walking a day, but I have troubles with knees and hips hurting. I’ve heard that glucosamine is good for arthritis and friends that say they have been helped by this. Is this true or is it all in the mind?’ Putting one’s facetious hat on, one could reply who cares if it is all in the mind – provided it works. But then that might be an expensive lesson. Now putting back the professorial hat, I can state the facts as they are now known.

Dr Garry Egger aka Prof Trim

Glucosamine has been found in some studies to have a better effect than placebo in reducing joint pain from arthritis. This has led medical practitioners working in the area from having a healthy scepticism, to actively promoting the product. However, since that happened, there has been one major meta-analysis (a combination of all the major studies done on the topic), to show that it may not be as successful as is often proposed. It is possible though that this is because of a wide variation in effect between different individuals.

The bottom line that comes out of this is that some individuals may, and do, indeed get significant relief from arthritis and joint pain from the use of glucosamine. Variations in the active ingredient in different formulations may make comparisons odious, so potential users are advised to seek reputable manufacturers. The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin is also thought to provide best benefits.

Another over-the-counter preparation with published benefits for joint pain, is a substance known as SAMe (s-adenysol methionine). This is promoted more as a mood enhancing substance – for which it also has some evidence – and is sold in products with names like ‘Mood Enhancer’ and ‘Mood Lift’. Again however, while there is reputable published support for SAMe, the results may be in the eye (or knee, or hip) of the beholder.

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Anonymous said...

I have also heard that the glucosamine/chondroitin SULFATES work better than the HCl forms of the compounds.

That might also explain some of the discrepancies in the test results.

Anonymous said...

I was told by my GP that glucosamine will adversely affect my blood sugars and so I must not use it!

So why are you recommending it in a newsletter used by diabetics amongst others?

Anonymous said...

I have used glucosamine sulfate for over five years to help address a weakening in my right knee. In my judgment this has helped to stabilize the knee. I have not noticed significant improvement but, on the other hand, I have not noticed any further deterioration. My research has indicated that various studies have found that chondroitin is not easily absorbed, that when taken with glucosamine provides no measurable benefits, and that glucosamine sulfate is the better choice.

GI Group said...

It is a much debated topic and we believe it's important to air issues and give people some background so that they can make informed decisions. There is some evidence that hexosamines increase insulin resistance – though most of the research is in rodents. Diabetes Australia advises people to check their HbA1c before trialling glucosamine for say 3 months, and keeping lifestyle and medications the same, then re-checking HbA1c. If it has gone up, then discontinue it.