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Glucosamine & Health Benefits

By Kathryn Meininger

By the time you reach age 55, you will probably have some symptoms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the most common joint disease, causes breakdown of the cartilage lining of the major joints as a result of the wear-and-tear of living. As the cartilage wears away, it leads to pain and stiffness in the joint. Glucosamine is a naturally-occurring component of cartilage and synovial fluid, and when taken as a dietary supplement, may provide some benefit for treating the symptoms. Talk to your doctor before starting therapy with any glucosamine supplements.

Glucosamine Sulfate

Glucosamine occurs naturally in your body in the cartilage matrix and synovial fluid as glucosamine sulfate. It is thought that glucosamine sulfate plays a key role in the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans and in the strengthening of the cartilage that surrounds the joints. Glucosamine exists in a number of forms, including glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl-glucosamine and glucosamine sulfate. However, states only supplements containing glucosamine sulfate are likely to be of benefit in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine sulfate is found in many supplements in combination with chondroitin sulfate, a glycosaminoglycan that also occurs naturally in the body. Chondroitin is responsible for keeping the joint cartilage lubricated by absorbing water and providing the building blocks for new cartilage to be generated. In supplement form along with glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin appears help alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis. In a study published in the medical journal "Drugs and Aging," researchers found glucosamine-chondrotin sulfate supplements to be somewhat effective for relieving pain and delaying the progression of moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee.

Glucosamine MSM

Glucosamine sulfate with methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is another type of glucosamine dietary supplement available for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Methylsulfonylmethane is a naturally-occurring sulfur compound typically found in many grains, fruits and vegetables. It is needed by the body for the synthesis of cartilage and other connective tissue. The pharmacology journal "Clinical Drug Investigation" reports one study found MSM, when used along with glucosamine, was effective for reducing inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Other Potential Benefits

Glucosamine may provide some other benefits in addition to relief of some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Oral supplements and enemas containing N-acetyl glucosamine may be effective for relieving the symptoms and frequency of bloody diarrhea associated with the inflammatory bowel diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Glucosamine is also being studied for its potential benefit in diabetes, chronic venous insufficiency, temporomandibular joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and leg pain resulting from lumbar spine disc degeneration. It may also have benefit following knee injury or surgery.

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