Canadian Glucosamine Study
Glucosamine, a popular dietary supplement for osteoarthritis, has shown no long-term beneficial effect according to a study conducted by a researcher from the University of British Columbia working at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada. The effectiveness of glucosamine has been questioned for years. The results of the Canadian study renew the controversy.
What Is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is derived from shellfish and is sold as a dietary supplement. Glucosamine is not a prescription drug. The ingredients in commercial products sold as glucosamine can vary widely because health agencies do not regulate nutritional supplements. Glucosamine is often seen in combination with other supplements such as:
The cost per month for the supplement can also vary greatly between brand names.
About the Canadian Study
Dr Jolanda Cibere, rheumatologist and lead investigator for the study, followed the progress of 137 patients. The patients were from 44-88 years old and lived in four Canadian cities. All of the study participants had been taking glucosamine for knee joint pain for an average of two years and had reported at least moderate improvement with the use of glucosamine.
The study was a six-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, during which time researchers documented the arthritic flare-up of the study participants. For the purpose of comparision, a flare-up was defined as increased arthritis pain and reduced activity.
No significant difference was found between the percentage of participants who flared in the placebo group versus the glucosamine group. Study results indicated that:
- 42% of participants in the placebo group flared
- 45% of participants in the glucosamine group flared
The Canadian study results conclude that even if glucosamine was initially perceived to be helpful by people taking it, there is no benefit for maintenance. Continued use of glucosamine was not effective for controlling flare-ups.
The Bottom Line
Cibere reported that despite the study results:
- Some participants planned to continue taking glucosamine because they believed in it.
- Other participants chose to stop taking glucosamine and noticed no difference in how they felt.
Related Resources - Glucosamine
Related Resources - Osteoarthritis
- Guide to Osteoarthritis
- Fast Facts About Osteoarthritis
- Osteoarthritis Screening Quiz
- Test Your Knowledge: Osteoarthritis
Sources: Debate Over Popular Arthritis Supplement Heating Up, HealthDayNews, 11/24/04; Researcher finds no long-term benefit of using glucosamine for knee joint pain, Medical Research News, 11/01/04; UBC researcher finds arthritis aid not beneficial over long-term, University of British Columbia Media Release, 10/27/04