Question: Should I take glucosamine and chondroitin for my joints?

Glucosamine and chondroitin used for arthritis may provide pain relief but there is no strong evidence for helping damaged joints. The effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin is still controversial, and It is up to you to determine if the benefits outweigh the risk.

What are glucosamine and chondroitin?
  • Glucosamine is a natural component found in shellfish covering and can also be made in a lab. There are multiple forms of glucosamine such as glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride and N-acetyl glucosamine.
  • Chondroitin can come from shark, bovine cartilage or can also be made synthetically.

They are both a natural structural component of cartilage that act as a cushion between bones in a joint. Glucosamine and chondroitin are available as a tablet, capsule, liquid, or powder form and are often taken in combination with each other.

What is it used for?

The combination has been taken for many conditions including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. There is no strong evidence that it reduces inflammation or slows join destruction.

OsteoarthritisThis is what people typically refer to as arthritis or “wear and tear arthritis” and is the most common type of arthritis

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin taken together may provide some pain relief in osteoarthritis. Glucosamine use alone may not be effective for pain relief unless combined with chondroitin. Because of the conflicting evidence The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) recommends against the use of glucosamine for osteoarthritis (not a strong recommendation).

Rheumatoid arthritisThis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. In this case it is the joints.

  • Glucosamine shows slight pain improvement. However, there is no clinical evidence that it improves the number of painful or swollen joints or reduces inflammation.
Is it safe to take?

Glucosamine and chondroitin taken together or separately do not have significant side effects.

  • Glucosamine oral daily intake of 1400-1600 mg is likely safe.
  • Chondroitin oral daily in take of 2000 mg is likely safe.

In general, dietary supplements can still cause side effects and interact with other medications or supplements you are taking. Dietary supplements are not standardized and can differ from brand to brand and the long-term impact of most supplements is not known.

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach upset

There are still safety concerns:

  • Taking glucosamine and acetaminophen together might reduce the effectiveness of both the supplement and medication.
  • Taking glucosamine alone or in combination with the supplement chondroitin might increase the effects of the anticoagulant warfarin which can increase bleeding risk.
  • Avoid glucosamine if you are allergic to shellfish.
  • Diabetic patients should be cautious since glucosamine may increase blood sugar levels.
What brand should I use?

Although there is a wide selection of brands available no monitoring is done to ensure the purity of the products. Try to search for reputable companies and the USP verified mark.

  • The USP verified mark indicates that the product contains the correct potency and amount of ingredient listed on the label, doesn’t have harmful levels of contaminants, will break down properly for body absorption and is made in sanitary and well-controlled procedures.

Prepared by Shannon Tieu PharmD Candidate 2021