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Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate are over-the-counter nutritional supplements commonly used to treat osteoarthritis. In contrast to many over-the-counter supplements, Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate have been fairly well studied and favorable results have been found by independent researchers. This is in marked contrast to most nutritional supplements where there is no scientific evidence of benefit.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are chemicals that the joint cartilage can use as a building block to try to maintain the cartilage’s health. There is also some evidence that the substances act as anti inflammatories. Overall, they seem to be fairly safe and most commercial preparations provide comparable efficacy. Of note, the ideal dosages of Glucosamine and Chondroitin are unknown.


  1. Improvement in symptoms may not be seen for a few months. It requires a steady intake in order for these substances to be effective. This can be somewhat expensive during this trial period when you are unsure if it will actually work.
  2. Glucosamine is derived from the shells of shellfish. If you are allergic to shellfish, you should be cautious using preparations containing Glucosamine. However, to my knowledge, there have been no reports of allergic reactions.
  3. Chondroitin comes from the cartilage of cows, steers, and bulls. It is theoretically possible that diseases such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease could be transmitted. I emphasize that this has never occurred, but since the supplement industry is not under the supervision of the FDA, it is poorly regulated and quality control is unpredictable.
  4. If you have diabetes, you should monitor your blood glucose levels more closely when using Glucosamine. It has been shown to affect insulin resistance.
  5. Chondroitin can cause bleeding in people who already have bleeding disorders or those that take blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin or heparin preparations.

Overall, these preparations seem to be extremely safe. Disease transmission has never been reported.

Read more about Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate on the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) website.

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