If you’re a member of the aging population of baby boomers, you might have heard of heard of the supplement glucosamine sulphate, more commonly just referred to as glucosamine. Glucosamine is a natural compound found in healthy joints in cartilage and synovial fluid. There is evidence that from randomized controlled trials that show that glucosamine is actually beneficial for osteoarthritis (the form of arthritis that occurs when the lubricant in your joints basically wears out). It has been found to be particularly useful in treating osteoarthritis of the knee.
So if you’re a runner and you’re finding that your joints are grinding or not functioning properly, whether you’re old or young, consider taking glucosamine. The dosage is generally 1500 milligrams daily, either split into 3 doses throughout the day or just as one big dose in the morning. According to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, patients that took glucosamine for mild knee pain showed no significant benefit in comparison to a placebo. However 26% those that were in the category of moderate to severe knee pain found benefit from taking glucosamine.
Granted 26 percent doesn’t really sound like that good of odds. Right now in the medical field, glucosamine is somewhat controversial. Some studies say that it works well, but a lot of those are funded by the makers of the supplement (a bit of a conflict of interest don’t you think). However according to some organizations including the Mayo Clinic, and the Somanabolic Muscle Maximizer by Kyle Leon, which is generally regarded as reputable, claim that there is good evidence from human trials that it helps those with mild to moderate osteoarthritis related knee pain.
For general osteoarthritis in more areas than just the knees, according to the Mayo Clinic, it has been shown to be beneficial, though less than for knees. It is thought that perhaps glucosamine exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on joints. However the Mayo Clinic also points out that most of these studies on general osteoarthritis have not been well designed. All of this points to a general consensus that nobody is entirely sure whether it’s helpful or not, and that more studies should be done.
So is the jury still out on glucosamine? That depends on who you ask. In America it is still classed as a dietary supplement instead of a drug. This could have something to do with the lack of effects in some studies, and beneficial effects in others. This is because in the US, if something is classified as a “dietary supplement” you can list whatever you want as the ingredient on the bottle, but it is up to the company to actually put that into the pill that you take. There have been numerous tests of various supplements besides glucosamine in the US that show that the amount of the active ingredient in the supplement can vary wildly from company to company, so that you’re never quite certain if you’re actually taking something, and at what dosage you’re taking it.
However if you were to go to most European countries, you will find that glucosamine sulphate is labeled as a drug. In these countries it is recommended as a safe and effective drug for osteoarthritis. So this obviously means that Europeans have enough faith in glucosamine’s ability to help with osteoarthritis that they will prescribe it to you. Why does this happen if both continents have the same access to the same medical research? Who knows? But the safety scale assigned to glucosamine by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) granted it a toxicity rating of 5 in a scale to 1 to 100. So for the moment, at least we know it’s safe. So if your knees bother you, give it a try. If it works, great! If it doesn’t, just throw it away. It’s as simple as that.