Chondroitin

(Known as Chondroitin sulphate, Chondroitin)

tickHelps to support joints
tickAids health
tickMineral
How does it work?
Your joints are protected by cartilage. Think of cartilage as a shock-absorber for your joints such as the knee, shoulder and elbow. Over time, cartilage can wear away. This leaves your bones making painful contact with each other. Chondroitin sulphate is a major constituent of cartilage, and has been shown in numerous trials to relieve the symptoms of joint pain. In fact, some trials show that it can slow the progression of (or reverse) osteoarthritis, speed recovery from injury, significantly reduce joint pain, and improve mobility.
Who is it used for?
If you're involved in any kind of sport or regular exercise, your joints will experience a massive amount of stress. Some people have trouble just getting out of bed in the morning, simply because of the relentless pounding their joints suffered as part of sporting activity. Chondroitin sulphate is a safe and effective way to reduce joint pain. Many athletes also use it to protect their joints, making a future injury less likely.
How does it work?
Chondroitin sulphate helps to keep cartilage resilient by drawing fluid (particularly water) into the connective tissue. It also inhibits enzymes that break down cartilage, as well as providing the building blocks that cartilage needs to repair itself.

Chondroitin sulphate is useful for the treatment of osteoarthritis, both as an agent that progressively reduces joint pain and as a compound that reduces the need for the use of pain killers [1]. Chondroitin has an extremely powerful capacity to attract and retain water molecules. The presence of water within cartilage makes it highly resistant to both friction and impact forces. That's why cartilage is so good at protecting your joints from damage.

Bones can't rub against each other when they are "capped" properly with cartilage. Unfortunately, as the cartilage loses some of its fluid-retaining properties, much of the protective effect is lost. Adding chondroitin sulphate to your diet can help to restore cartilage to its previous state.

Chondroitin has been shown to significantly reduce the pain of arthritic joints. In a study carried out at the University of Siena in Italy, 146 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were divided into two groups [9]. Patients in one group were given 150 milligrams of diclofenac each day (diclofenac is a medication often used to treat arthritis). A second group used chondroitin sulphate.

Patients treated with diclofenac experienced prompt and effective relief from their symptoms. However, their pain and discomfort returned quickly when they stopped using it. Although it took longer for the subjects using chondroitin sulphate to get relief from their symptoms, the benefits lasted for up to three months after they stopped taking it.

A French research team report similar results. Test subjects with osteoarthritis of the knee were given one gram of chondroitin sulphate daily for three months [8]. Joint pain was significantly reduced both during and for 30 days after the treatment period.

An additional benefit of chondroitin sulphate is that some of the anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed for osteoarthritis may lead to a more rapid "closing" of joints [7]. When a joint closes, the cartilage covering bones gradually disappears. As the bones edge closer together, joint flexibility is lost. In contrast, chondroitin sulphate has been shown to actually slow the loss of cartilage.

Some evidence for this comes from a placebo-controlled trial carried in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. Researchers at the University Hospital of Geneva in Switzerland tracked a group of 42 patients given 800 milligrams of chondroitin sulphate daily for 12 months [6]. Subjects were aged 35-78, and all had symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee.

Chondroitin sulphate significantly reduced joint pain, confirming its effectiveness as a safe slow-acting treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. More interesting still, treatment with chondroitin sulphate was also associated in some of the patients with a stabilisation of joint width in the knee. Joint-space narrowing did occur in patients treated with the placebo. This means that chondroitin sulphate was actually slowing the loss of cartilage.
How do I use it?
For injury prevention, 300-400 milligrams of chondroitin sulphate (preferably in combination with glucosamine) can be taken daily. To speed recovery from injury and promote healing, up to 800 milligrams daily, again in combination with glucosamine, should be sufficient.
What results can I expect?
Unlike commonly prescribed medications for joint pain which only control the symptoms, chondroitin will reduce joint pain and tenderness, while at the same time rebuilding damaged cartilage. It will also reduce your reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs. Some athletes find it superior to ibuprofen for controlling joint pain [2]. Unlike some medications (such as aspirin or ibuprophen), the results won't be immediate, and it will take around 7 days for you to feel the benefits.
What can it be combined with?
Most experts believe that taking glucosamine (particularly the HCL form) and chondroitin sulphate in combination is a more effective treatment for joint pain than taking either one by itself. The American Medical Association recently concluded that the majority of research demonstrated "moderate to large effects" of glucosamine and chrondroitin preparations [4]. The glucosamine/chrondroitin combination is so effective, it has even been used by the U.S Navy [3]. Following 16-weeks of supplementation, test subjects reported a large reduction in joint pain. Their average score in a physical examination also improved by an impressive 43%.

Some athletes add N-acetyl-L-cysteine to the glucosamine/chrondroitin combination in the belief this will reduce joint pain still further. Although no study has tested this combination of nutrients, anecdotal reports are very promising. At the time of writing, there are no well-known drug interactions with chondroitin sulphate.

1. Leeb, B.F., Schweitzer, H., Montag, K., & Smolen, J.S. (2000). A meta-analysis of chondroitin sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Journal of Rheumatology, 27, 205-211
2. Kelly, G.S. (1998). The role of glucosamine sulfate and chrondroitin sulfates in the treatment of degenerative joint disease. Alternative Medicine Reviews, 3, 27-39
3. Leffler, C.T., Philippi, A.F., Leffler, S.G., Mosure, J.C., & Kim, P.D. (1999). Glucosamine, chrondroitin, and manganese ascorbate for degenerative joint disease of the knee or low back: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Military Medicine, 164, 85-91
4. McAlindon, T.E., LaValley, M.P., Gulin, J.P., & Felson, D.T. (2000). Glucosamine and chrondroitin for treatment of osteoarthritis: a systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association, 283, 1469-1475
5. Deal, C.L., & Moskowitz, R.W. (1999). Nutraceuticals as therapeutic agents in osteoarthritis, chrondroitrin sulfate, and collagen hydrolysate. Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America, 25, 379-395
6. Uebelhart, D., Thonar, E.J., Delmas, P.D., Chantraine, A., & Vignon, E. (1998). Effects of oral chondroitin sulfate on the progression of knee osteoarthritis: a pilot study. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 6, S39-S46
7. Huskisson, E.C., Berry, H., Gishen, P., Jubb, R.W., & Whitehead, J. (1995). Effects of antiinflammatory drugs on the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee. LINK Study Group. Longitudinal Investigation of Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs in Knee Osteoarthritis. Journal of Rheumatology, 22, 1941-1946
8. Mazieres, B., Combe, B., Phan Van, A., Tondut, J., & Grynfeltt, M. (2001). Chondroitin sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee: a prospective, double blind, placebo controlled multicenter clinical study. Journal of Rheumatology, 28, 173-181
9. Morreale, P., Manopulo, R., Galati, M., Boccanera, L., Saponati, G., & Bocchi, L. (1996). Comparison of the antiinflammatory efficacy of chondroitin sulfate and diclofenac sodium in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

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