Long-term knee joint benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin

Several studies indicate that supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, but other studies have not reported benefits. Some of the variability in response and reporting in prior studies may be due to length of supplementation. It may take at least several months and even years for the full effect of glucosamine and chondroitin to be realized.

In the longest study to date, researchers followed over 400 people with knee osteoarthritis who had an MRI scan of the knee taken at baseline and after 6 years. Participants were divided into 4 groups based on years they supplemented with glucosamine/chondroitin: 0, 1, 2-3, and 4-6 years.

There was a loss of cartilage over time that was partially prevented in groups supplementing with glucosamine/chondroitin for more than 2 years. For example, loss of cartilage was on average 10.0% in the control group and 8.8% in the group who supplemented for 4 to 6 years.

The 1.2% benefit is clinically meaningful since every 1% increase in the rate of cartilage loss translates into a 20% increased risk of undergoing a knee replacement at four years. This study indicates that long-term (6 year) glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation improves structural aspects of the knee joint in individuals with knee osteoarthritis.

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