Glucosamine and chondroiton - snake oil or the real deal?

My mother swears by glucosamine and chondroiton tablets. I’ve seen various articles saying everything from “wonder supplement” to “super-placebo.” Is there an authoritative source that is written in simple language for a non-medical person?

I was taking the supplement for a couple of years, but I ran out a month ago and haven’t gotten any more. (My primary care physician didn’t say anything either way when I told her I was taking it.) I didn’t really think about it till I started feeling lots of pains in my feet, including some foot cramps at night. I don’t know if it’s cause and effect or coincidence.

In any event, I’d love to know if any serious research has been done and reported in non-technical terminology. I’d also be interested in anecdotal evidence either way. I’m going to make an appointment with my Dr to discuss my pains, so I’m not looking for a diagnosis here - just wondering what others think or know.


Thanks, coach. Unless I misread, the studies dealt with arthritis relief only. I don’t think I have arthritis, except for maybe a bit in one finger. So I’m guessing it’s not supposed to help maintain joint health and such. Which means my sudden onset foot pain is just coincidental.

Getting old sucks.

Anecdotal: We had an old kitty with arthritis, and when we started her on the glucosamine and chondroitin (G & C), she got a lot more agile and stopped limping around. We started giving the other kitty a dose every day, too, and she is 14 years old with nary a limp in sight now (she runs around like a mad fiend, in fact).

I have some chronic hip problems, and they seem to be much better when I take G & C regularly. It’s one of the cheaper supplements, so I’ll keep on taking it.

I have post-traumatic arthritis in one ankle resulting from an old fracture. I tried the supplements for a few months and didn’t notice any difference, so I stopped taking them.

I cat sit a 16 year old cat on a fairly regular basis and she takes glucosamine although her problems seem to have gotten worse. She has a completely dislocated hip :(, but she is able to walk around without too many problems. I’m not really in a position to ask the owner about what the vet recommends- for all I know the vet is the one who said to give her glucosamine.

Helps my dog. She gets around better than her younger, smaller cousin who should be taking it but doesn’t.

Hey, FCM, how’s the foot? I was all the way through the thread before I realized it was you. :slight_smile:

My one (60 lb. G Retriever) dog’s previous vet recommended CosaminDS (500mg, with 400mg Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate), and ONLY CosaminDS–he said the other brands on the market were “inferior,”–and he never steered us wrong. One cap/day mixed into food. She also takes one fish oil pill (1000mg/300mg Omega-3) daily, and Tramadol for pain with occasional Meloxicam if she overdoes it. Plus 1 PhycoxHA chew with breakfast and I with dinner (Phycox is not for humans). Bad hip on the right side, triggered by, I believe, the previous previous vet injecting heartworm treatment into the wrong area in the hip. I can’t say if the joint is better or if she’s experiencing less pain (those are not really the same thing), but she does get around a lot better than she used to (she’s 13 YO next Sunday), which accounts for the Meloxicam. I don’t know if humans need to take more due to the weight difference.

Re: your foot: I’ve always heard that cramps (I’m leaving out menstrual) are due to potassium deficiency and if you load up on OJ and bananas they should slack off. Again, IANADr. Here’s a little trick I learned from an ex-coworker if you’re having Charley horses at night: Hang your feet off the end of the bed (if you’re a stomach or 3/4 sleeper). Keeping your feet at 90 degree angle arrests CH–I can vouch for that personally. If you’re a side sleeper, do not extend your toes while you sleep. If you sleep on your back, I think that takes care of itself.

I think very little concerning the human body is ever coincidence, just very undetectable sometimes.

Good luck with the foot.

Helps me, although I can’t do a double-blind on myself.

I also don’t have arthritis (or, at least, I have a specific kind); I have chondromalacia (English - not enough cartilage in certain joints - both knees, right shoulder).

I was talking with a pharmacist friend about this the other day. He stated glucosamine has some odd characteristics - works for cats, but does not work for dogs or people. I’ll have to look for some cites to back this up.

Umm, I think you have that backwards? Bananas & orange juice are very rich in potassium, so someone who’s deficient should imbibe more, not less.

This is purely anecdotal (so it’s perfect for posting on the Internet) but I’ve found that a daily magnesium supplement helps prevent general aches & cramps, esp. chronic back pain – at least, if I’m absent-minded & neglect to take it for a few days, I start feeling like a cop beat me with a nightstick. I don’t have any experience with glucosamine or the other thing, sorry.

Buddha: I had to re-read it three times before I saw a possible English infraction which I will not debate with anyone else: “…they (should slack…)” refers to the cramps, not the “you” in “…load up on OJ.”

Ain’t English great? :slight_smile:

I tried them for joint aches. Zero results. Utterly useless.

Regular intensive exercise and losing weight was 100% more effective.

Aha, now I see it. (those crafty pronouns!) :smack:

A double-blind study on horses at Michigan State used the product Corta-flx and found a measureable effect vs. placebo.

While it was done at a reputable institution, it was a small study.

Worked wonders on my dog (who was unlikely to experience a placebo effect).

Totally anecdotal obviously, but we have had two dogs on G&C. We only notice the difference when they don’t get the pills. But it is a very noticeable difference.

And it takes a week or two to get back to their “old” self when we re-start them.

I can certainly see why, if they do work on humans, one would think they’re not working. Their effect does not seem to be instantaneous.

According to any doctor I’ve talked to, if it works for you, then go ahead. In other words, it’s a placebo effect. The dosage would have to be huge and sustained for it to have any effect on a human. This is yet another product hyped by the vitamin supplement industry (acai berries, anybody? vitamin C megadoses?), most of which do nothing at all for you except drain your wallet.

I find interesting that it seems to work on animals but not so much for people, but it could be the dosage required. In any event, I’ll talk to my Dr about it - I’ve seen too many people get themselves in trouble by self-medicating with just a *little *bit of information they picked up somewhere. I would prefer to avoid that route from here on out. I don’t think one high school biology class qualifies me to make such diagnoses and choices…

Evidence for glucosamine and chondroitin is mixed, but there’s some justification for trying them based on comprehensive reviews of the scientific literature. One study suggests that quality of supplements is more variable in the U.S. than in Europe (where the stuff is available by prescription); in the U.S. supplements (largely unregulated under DSHEA) may not have the active ingredients promised on the label, or they may be of poor quality.

In my family, both man and beast have not noticeably benefited from glucosamine/chondroitin. Our Labrador did a lot better on an NSAID.