Osteoarthritis happens when the cushions and covers of the bone joints degenerate. This in turn causes the bone ends to grind against each other causing excruciating pain especially in the hips and joints. Little can be done to reverse the cartillage degeneration but folk wisdom says that glucosamine can repair the damage.
Types of Glucosamine
Glucosamine is not a prescribed drug and it comes in various forms in the market.
- Glucosamine hydrochloride
- Glucosamine sulphate
- N-acetyl glucosamine
In a 1999 study(Cochrane Review), showed glucosamine was safe and effective for a short term period but in an updated 2005 Cochrane Review(16 good studies done) concluded that glucosamine hydrochloride was ineffective in treating osteoarthritis. In August 2010, the US National Institute of Health(NIH) published their two year study on glucosamine hydrochloride and another supplement called chondroitin. Taking one or both of these is no different than taking a painkiller or a placebo.
Glucosamine sulphate was deemed more effective(only in industry funded studies) than placebos in improving joint function and pain relief in osteoarthritis. Suspiciously, glucosamine sulphate from only a particular manufacturer seemed to provide that therapeutic effect.
Industry Financed Studies vs Non Industry Financed Studies
In 2007, Boston University scientists found out that they were two types of studies done. The industry financed studies on glucosamine sulphate appeared to be more positive as compared to the non financed studies.It is widely suspected that industry funded or industry affiliated authors who gave the positive reviews to glucosamine sulphate were biased in their findings. Although glucosamine sulphate appeared effective in some studies, there is little evidence to show that it behaves any better than glucosamine hydrochloride in tackling osteoarthritis in our bodies.
So what am I to do with this new found knowledge? Elderly folks still pop their glucosamine pills for the placebo effect. The only good news is that glucosamine have no dangerous side effects as compared to pain killers. You can still pop the glucosamine pills if it makes you feel good but it does not improve or regenerate the cartillages in your joints.