GLUCOSAMINE SAVES JOINTS: New Trial
Finds Measurable Arthritis Improvement
The following article reports the now scientifically "proven"
effects of glucosamine on arthritis, what many have now known and
experienced for a few years now.
By Adam Marcus HealthScout Reporter
THURSDAY, Jan. 25, 2001 (HealthScout) -- In what
one arthritis expert calls a "landmark" study, researchers
say regular treatment with glucosamine can ease the pain, swelling
and stiffness of osteoarthritis and lead to measurable improvements
Glucosamine is a natural supplement whose advocates
claim it relieves the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a cartilage-eroding
ailment that strikes roughly one in three Americans over age 63.
However, few reliable studies have found any benefit from the treatment
In the latest study, reported in the upcoming issue
of The Lancet, a team led by Dr. Jean Yves Reginster of the Bone
and Cartilage Metabolism Unit of the CHU Centre Ville in Liege,
Belgium, tested the supplement on 212 people with osteoarthritis
in their knees. Subjects were given either a dummy drug or 1,500
milligrams of glucosamine daily over three years.
The patients had their knee joints X-rayed at the
beginning and the end of the trial to measure how much protective
cartilage shielded their joints from friction and impact.
By the end of the study, patients on glucosamine
reported a 20 percent to 25 percent improvement of their symptoms,
while the placebo group reported slight deterioration. The X-rays
showed that joint spaces in the untreated patients had narrowed
by an average of 20 millimeters, compared to no change among those
who took glucosamine.
Reginster says, "We demonstrate that we have
significant differences in the number of patients who experienced
a significant, relevant loss" in their joint space. "It's
the first [study] that shows that it's possible to demonstrate an
effect both on the symptoms and the structure" of joints, says
Reginster. He says a recent Czech study found similar results.
Not sure how it works
The study, which was first reported at a 1999 meeting
of arthritis experts, was sponsored by the Rorta Research Group,
an Italian company that makes much of the glucosamine available
in Europe. While several European countries have officially approved
glucosamine as an arthritis remedy, the compound is available in
the United States only as an over-the-counter therapy.
Reginster says that's problematic because different
versions of the product vary widely in the amount of the active
Dr. John Klippel, medical director of the Arthritis
Foundation, says The Lancet paper should have an "extraordinary"
impact on the treatment of osteoarthritis. "I think this is
a landmark study of major importance." Klippel says not only
does it show symptom relief, but it offers evidence that glucosamine
leads to beneficial physiological changes.
What the work doesn't explain, however, is how glucosamine
works with arthritis. Glucosamine is a building block of cartilage,
and some experts have proposed that it might spur formation of new
cartilage in affected joints. But so far no one has proven that,
Many patients in the Belgian study reported improvement
within about a month of starting treatment, suggesting glucosamine
might have anti-inflammatory properties, Klippel says.
Interviews with Jean Yves Reginster, M.D., Ph.D.,
Bone and Cartilage Metabolism Unit, University Hospital, Liege,
Belgium; John Klippel, M.D., medical director, Arthritis Foundation,
Washington, D.C.; Jan. 27, 2001, The Lancet
Long-term Effects of Glucosamine Sulphate on Osteoarthritis
Progression: A Randomised, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial - Lancet
2001 Jan 27; 357 (9252): Unlisted page numbers