by Stephen LaBounty (2007-10-21)
Arthritis image

"Oh my aching joints!"

The lament of most athletes in general, especially those long in the tooth. Actually what most people don't understand is that they are more than likely experiencing an inflammation of the joints commonly known as arthritis. The form of arthritis I will address here is the most common 'osteoarthritis which is sometimes referred to as a degenerative joint disease. Called so because the particular joint(s) in question are in the process of degenerating and losing cartilage- the shock absorbing gel like material between joints.

Currently the most popular method of treatment is rest, anti-inflammatory(NSAIDs, though some studies say that these drugs relieve symptoms while increasing the volume of arthritis), hot/cold packs and the most recent rage, Glucosamine. Let's talk about Glucosamine in particular, and allow me to share some of the research I've come across over the last several years concerning it.

First of all Glucosamine is safe for the majority of persons taking it. If you are sensitive to any vitamins or minerals do not take anything without first consulting your primary health care provider! Glucosamine is a simple molecule composed of glucose and an amine (nitrogen containing compounds). The main physiological effect of Glucosamine on joints is to stimulate the manufacture of glycosaminoglycans which promote the incorporation of sulfur into cartilage. It seems that as people age we lose the ability to manufacture sufficient levels of Glucosamine resulting in the loss of the gel like nature of cartilage which acts as a shock absorber.

Blind placebo and 500mg 3X/day administration of Glucosamine found that those taking the Glucosamine that substantial improvement was noticed within three weeks with better results the longer it was used. Any side effects experienced were no different than those felt by the placebo group.

Chondroitin sulfate is part of Chrodroproteins which are a group of glucoproteins found in cartilage, tendons and connective tissue. Many persons think that the "chondroitin" found in the supplemental form with Glucosamine, is shark cartilage alone. It is not. We produce Chondroitin in our body though it diminishes with age. The supplements use shark and bovine cartilage along with sea cucumber in some cases that contain a mixture of intact or partially hydrolyzed (using water, salt to produce an acid and base) The problem with the Chondroitin used in these over the counter (OTC) supplements is that the Chondroitin will assist in the healing and reduction of inflammation. But it's molecular structure is to large for optimum absorption with out the addition of "other" vitamins and minerals you may not need nor tolerate. The best absorption is realized(for me anyway) with using Glucosamine sulfate along with a diet of foods that are high in vitamin "C" vitamin "E" (though I use a 400 IU supplement) and the vitamin "B" group. Flavanoids are useful too (berries for example). Just to show you a comparative study done by "A. Conte, et al in 1995" showed that those taking the sulfate Glucosamine without adding the Chondroitin had a 90% - 98% absorption rate while the absorption of intact Chondroitin was 0% - 13%. They also found that Chondroitin sulfate levels are elevated in osteoarthritis thereby reducing the efficacy of this compound on the overall treatment of this condition.

There are many, many lengthy studies on arthritis in general. This is but a short opinion gained from treating my very damaged and very sore and limited motion knees. What works for you is best. I write these things to get you to investigate, talk to your physician, and not be swept up in a current fad. Glucosamine does work and even with Chondroitin in it. For me however the plain sulfate and a series of anti-oxidants do the best job...except there is Wobenzyme....but that's for next month....