Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Body Fat, Muscle Distribution Linked to RA Disability
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Multiple Screening Strategy Boosts Cervical Cancer Detection
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Caffeine May Offer Some Skin Cancer Protection
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Controversial Chemical Lingers Longer in the Body
Florida Vision Test Law: Fewer Traffic Deaths Among Elderly
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Be Healthy, Spend Less
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Heavy Alcohol Use Linked to Cancer
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Can You Talk Your Way to Happy?
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Can Be Good for You
Drinking Your Way to Health? Perhaps Not
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
Babies Cared For In Others Homes Might Become Heavy Toddlers
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Common Social Groups and Race, Seem to Help People Relate
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Add your Article

Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth

FRIDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Eager to relieve joint pain and repair the cushioning between bones, millions of arthritis sufferers reach for glucosamine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement.

Despite its popularity, studies examining the effectiveness of this natural therapy have yielded mixed results.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty about glucosamine," said Dr. Steven C. Vlad, a fellow in clinical epidemiology and rheumatology at Boston University School of Medicine.

So what is glucosamine, anyway? It's a type of sugar that the body produces and distributes in cartilage and other connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate, often taken in combination with glucosamine, is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

These substances are derived from animal tissues, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Glucosamine is extracted from crab, lobster or shrimp shells, and chondroitin sulfate comes from animal cartilage, such as tracheas or shark cartilage.

Vlad's own study tried to determine why the results of glucosamine trials differed so widely. Of the 15 studies he reviewed, there was one clear finding: A particular glucosamine preparation, called glucosamine hydrochloride, doesn't work.

Results among trials involving another common preparation, glucosamine sulfate, showed wide variation -- more than would be expected by chance. Based on the evidence, Vlad concluded that supplement industry support could be a source of bias in some of these studies.

Although critics questioned Vlad's finding, he stands by the results. "Numerous analyses have showed that industry funding is correlated with stronger findings and selective publication of positive results," he noted.

More recently, researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine reported results from a follow-up to an earlier glucosamine trial. Arthritis patients in this leg of the study took glucosamine; a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin; the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex), or a placebo. X-rays were taken of patients' knees before the trial began and one and two years later to determine whether glucosamine alone, or in combination with chondroitin, would slow the loss of cartilage.

Lead author Dr. Allen D. Sawitzke, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said he and his colleagues had hoped to have enough patients and measurement accuracy to be able to show some slowing of the damage, but in the end, the results were inconclusive.

"So, it's an example of a null study, that is, a study where there is no difference detected, which isn't the same as saying there is no difference," Sawitzke said.

Dr. Jason Theodosakis, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and author of the book, The Arthritis Cure, said the study was flawed in many ways, including the small sample size, short duration and imprecise X-ray methodology. "I really can't believe it was even published," he said.

Like many physicians, Theodosakis continues to recommend glucosamine and chondroitin. "This study does nothing to discourage that," he said.

Trying glucosamine for 60 days makes sense, especially for patients who can't tolerate ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, said Dr. Stephen Dahmer, a former fellow in integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and now a staff physician at the VA San Diego Medical Center.

Sawitzke said he sees some merit in the supplement for pain relief, but there's a lot less evidence to support glucosamine as a way to slow cartilage damage.

Vlad, however, tells patients he's doubtful it works very well, if at all. "But I also tell them that it is safe and will not hurt them. If they want to try it, they are more than free to do so at any time, with the understanding that no insurance company will pay for it."

-Karen Pallarito

More information

For advice on choosing a pain medicine, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

SOURCES: Steven C. Vlad, M.D., fellow, clinical epidemiology and rheumatology, Boston University School of Medicine; Allen D. Sawitzke, M.D., associate professor, medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City; Jason Theodosakis, M.D., assistant professor, University of Arizona College of Medicine, and author, The Arthritis Cure; Stephen Dahmer, M.D., staff physician, VA San Diego Medical Center; U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Bethesda, Md.; Arthritis Foundation, Atlanta; July 2007 and October 2008 Arthritis & Rheumatism; Aug. 15, 2008, American Family Physician

Last Updated: Feb. 01, 2009

Copyright © 2009 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

Licensed by