Glucosamine is the most common supplement used to treat sore, stiff or painful joints. It is now available in a number of forms, and is often sold along side other compounds such as chondroitin and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) which may help to further improve the condition of your joints. This post will explore the scientific evidence supporting glucosamine, explain how it works in the body, and investigate the benefits of the additional joint supplements.
What Is Glucosamine & How Does It Work?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar which is found abundantly in the exoskeleton of shell fish. It is extracted by hydrolysis of these shells, but can also be obtained in a vegetarian form by fermenting grains. Glucosamine is a precursor for a group of compounds called glycosaminoglycans, which make up a large part of cartilage. The purpose for using glucosamine as a supplement is to allow the body to rebuild cartilage between joints, which will improve movement and reduce pain.
After reviewing much of the research on glucosamine it is clear that it does benefit join health, but in more than one way. Glucosamine has shown an ability to reduce the inflammation in joint, which will help reduce pain. It can also prevent the catabolism (breakdown) of cartilage which already exists, and help stimulate the body to build more cartilage. There is still some uncertainty with regards to the extent by which these benefits occur, but this could be due to biological variance in the individuals in the trials.
Types Of Glucosamine Available
This is the most common form of glucosamine, and is derived from the shells of shellfish, which may cause allergic reactions to some people. As glucosamine sulphate is so common the majority of research has been conducted on this form, and it is widely accepted as being biologically stable, bio-available and effective at reducing inflammation and strengthening cartilage.
Primarily derived from grains, this is a much less commonly available form of glucosamine. It has been claimed that this form contains more organic glucosamine, and so should be a more effective supplement, but in comparison studies glucosamine hydrocloride has shown not to be any more beneficial than glucosamine sulphate.
Other Supplements For Joints
Chondroitin is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan, and is a major component of cartilage. The purpose of adding chondroitin with glcosamine in joint supplements is similar to the purpose of using glucosamine – provide the body with the building blocks for making the connective tissue in the joints. Although it makes sense on paper, the scientific evidence is inconsistent for chondroitin. A number of studies show that chondroitin and glucosamine are better than just glucosamine alone, showing that they have synergistic properties. It is far from being as effective as glucosamine in performance alone though, and so is not a replacement for glucosamine.
MSM is a excellent source of organic sulphur, which is essential for the production of many proteins in the body, including connective tissue. This will enable to body to make more connective tissue and resolve the joint problem. MSM has had more significant research conducted on it than chondroitin, and it not only improves the joint recovery (when taken with glucosamine), but also has anti-inflammatory properties. This will reduce the pain and prevent further damage to joints making it a useful standalone supplement or an effective supplement to take alongside glucosamine.
Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is often recommended in conjunction with glucosamine for joints, and together, they can offer some serious benefits to joints. Cod liver oil can help reduce the inflammation of sore joints, which can reduce pain, reduce swelling and help the joints heal.
Of the 3 main supplements for joints, glucosamine is the most effective at relieving pain and aiding to rebuild the connective tissue. The extent by which it does this may vary from person to person, and will depend on the cause and extent of the damage. This highlights the importance treating damaged joints early to prevent them becoming damaged even further. MSM is also an effective supplement to be taken alongside glucosamine as it reduces inflammation and can aid with the repairing of the connective tissue. Chondroitin is still effective, but needs to be taken along side glucosamine to have any significant results. A combination of all 3 ingredients will be most effective at repairing joints and reducing pain.