GLUCOSAMINE: Helpful or hopeful?
November 25, 2020 • 1 min read
-- Multi-billion-dollar glucosamine market based on conflicting evidence and questionable efficacy
Touted as arthritis pain relievers and treatments, glucosamine and/or chondroitin are a triumph of marketing, generating multiple billions of dollars in sales despite their unproven efficacy.
For instance, in a large study of glucosamine, published in 2006, more than 1,500 adults with knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned the supplement, a painkiller, or a placebo. After 24 weeks, only those participants taking the painkiller reported less knee pain. Glucosamine was no more effective than a placebo.
Two years later, researchers checked in again on 600 of the participants, each of whom had continued to take glucosamine, painkillers, or a placebo. They still found no “clinically important” benefit from the glucosamine, though a few of the volunteers reported less soreness (as did some of those taking the placebo). In effect, they concluded, glucosamine provided little pain relief to most, helped a few, and did no harm to anyone, as side effects were rare.
A 2010 analysis of multiple studies found that among more than 3,800 people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, treatment with glucosamine and/or chondroitin was no better than placebo. The case for these supplements protecting joint health or preventing arthritis is similarly weak.
Is this the end of people taking glucosamine? Unlikely.
Even if treatment is ineffective on average, there are people who, for whatever reason, experience real relief. Even if it stems from the placebo effect, the benefit is real and hard to ignore.
If it works for you, keep taking it.