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Dietary Supplements for Osteoarthritis

What Does the Research Really Show?

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When cartilage that cushions your joints begins to breakdown faster than your body can replace it, you develop osteoarthritis. Without this protective tissue, the bones in your joints rub together, causing pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness. Looking for a cure (or simple pain relief), many osteoarthritis sufferers seek help from the latest nutritional supplement. But before you waste your hard earned money (or put your health and safety on the line), it's important to find out what the research actually shows about these supplements.

Keep in mind that although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tightly regulates medications, it does not regulate dietary supplements, which can have little or no research to prove their safety or effectiveness. Always tell your doctor if you are taking any dietary supplements or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. Supplement use may lead to overmedication and interactions, which have serious side effects. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely on dietary supplements alone. To avoid complications, talk to your physician first.

Best Choices: "Likely Effective" Supplements
These three supplements show the most promise (backed by research) for helping people with osteoarthritis.

Glucosamine sulfate is a simple molecule. Your body makes it from sugar and then uses it as a major building block of cartilage. There have been over 20 studies conducted on glucosamine sulfate and osteoarthritis. Most of the studies used a brand called Dona by Rotta Pharmaceuticals. According to these studies, glucosamine sulfate:
  • Reduces arthritic knee pain by 28% to 41% and improves knee function by 21% to 46%.
  • Provides similar pain relief (slower acting, but longer lasting) to analgesics like ibuprofen, piroxicam and acetaminophen.
  • May reduce the risk of osteoarthritis progression by 54% (1500 mg dosage).
  • Does not have a significant effect on insulin resistance or blood glucose levels, making it safe for patients with diabetes.
  • Is safe for people with shellfish allergies. Even though glucosamine is derived from the exoskeletons of shrimp, lobster, and crabs, there have been no documented allergic reactions, which are caused by eating the meat (not shells) of shellfish. Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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