Glucosamine for osteoarthritis
Published in Medicinewise Living
Date published: About this date
Many people in Australia take glucosamine supplements, but it is not yet clear how effective glucosamine is for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown that it could protect the cartilage in joints, while others have shown no significant benefit.1-4
What is the best way to take glucosamine?
A number of supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin are available in Australia. Some contain only one of these ingredients, and some are combinations with each other or with other ingredients.
If you decide to take glucosamine, keep in mind the following observations from clinical trials*:1,4-7
- Taking glucosamine and chondroitin together may be more effective than taking either of these medicines alone.
- Taking the sulfate type of both oral supplements (i.e. glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate) may be more effective than taking other types. This information will be shown in the list of ingredients on the packaging or label.
- Daily doses of 1500 mg of glucosamine and 800 mg of chondroitin have been effective in some clinical trials.
- The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin may be more effective if you take it before osteoarthritis becomes severe. These supplements may not be able to protect joints that are already damaged.
- Many of the trials showing a benefit used crystalline glucosamine sulfate (DONA, powdered sachet form).
Side effects and your safety
Glucosamine does not appear to have any serious side effects.3 However, some people with certain medical conditions or other health problems need to be careful.
- Most glucosamine products are extracted from shellfish, and are not suitable for people with seafood allergy.
- Glucosamine may affect blood glucose levels in people with diabetes3 — be careful about monitoring blood glucose levels if you start taking it.
- Glucosamine may affect blood clotting in people taking warfarin — be vigilant about INR monitoring if you start taking it.
Other ways to help osteoarthritis
- Weight loss (if you are overweight) and exercise are important for improving your pain and mobility if you have osteoarthritis.8
- Paracetamol is recommended for relieving pain in osteoarthritis.8
Use complementary medicines wisely
Remember that complementary medicines (such as supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies) are medicines, and therefore can have risks as well as benefits.
Some complementary medicines can interact badly with conventional medicines, so it is important to be open with your health professional about everything you take.
It is best to seek advice from a qualified person when choosing a complementary medicine. Ask about suitable brands or formulations, how much to take, how often to take the medicine, and what side effects and interactions to look out for.
Where to find good information on the internet
There are thousands of websites providing information about complementary medicines. However, many of these are designed to sell products and the information they provide may not be reliable. Learn how to tell if a website contains good-quality information.
Find out more
- Fransen M, Agaliotis M, Nairn L, et al. Glucosamine and chondroitin for knee osteoarthritis: a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating single and combination regimens. Ann Rheum Dis 2014; Jan 6. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203954. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]
- Wandel S, Juni P, Tendal B, et al. Effects of glucosamine, chondroitin, or placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of hip or knee: network meta-analysis. BMJ 2010;341:c4675. [PubMed]
- Towheed TE, Maxwell L, Anastassiades TP, et al. Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005;CD002946. [PubMed]
- Martel-Pelletier J, Roubille C, Abram F, et al. First-line analysis of the effects of treatment on progression of structural changes in knee osteoarthritis over 24 months: data from the osteoarthritis initiative progression cohort. Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 Dec 13. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203906. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]
- Reginster JY, Deroisy R, Rovati LC, et al. Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lancet 2001;357:251-56. [PubMed]
- Herrero-Beaumont G, Ivorra JA, Del Carmen Trabado M, et al. Glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study using acetaminophen as a side comparator. Arthritis Rheum 2007;56:555-67. [PubMed]
- Pavelka K, Gatterova J, Olejarova M, et al. Glucosamine sulfate use and delay of progression of knee osteoarthritis: a 3-year, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Arch Intern Med 2002;162:2113-23. [PubMed]
- eTG complete [Internet]. Melbourne, Australia: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited, 2014.