Nutrition Articles

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.

Member Comments

  • I lost 2/3 of the cartilege (surgically removed) in my right knee due to an accident I suffered in 1996 and also have a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder due to a fall in 2000 (luckily got enough range of motion back to avoid surgery). This has led to osteoarthritis in mainly the knee which has held me back considerably regarding exercise and caused weight gain. I recently started on Tumeric and it helped a great deal...and I was VERY skeptical when I started. The pain in my knee and also in my shoulder has subsided SIGNIFICANTLY. I also checked on WebMD and they show studies that Tumeric is useful for people suffering from osteoarthritis. - 1/23/2016 2:56:17 PM
  • Thank you for this article. I am recovering from my first big osteoarthritis flare up and it was pretty scary. I am having to learn new ways to do things and I don't want this to cause me to stop losing weight (which should help ease symptoms a lot) and exercise. This gives me some things to look into, bearing safety in mind. I appreciate it. - 9/14/2015 1:58:00 PM
  • This is so confusing to me. Other studies support that SAMe or Glucosamine sulfate have little to no effect on relieving osteoarthritis.

    I have just been diagnosed with this and don't know what to do. - 5/28/2015 11:26:56 AM
    I think I would like to see 3 groupings for me to choose.
    I would not like to shove more medication into me.
    I would like to see natural supplements clearly differentiated as to whether safe for vegetarians or vegans, also gluten free - 3 main categories for me and in family.
    Also I would like to see herbs and spices clearly spoken of.
    I would love lists of foods to use.
    I then may choose herbs that will not clash with meds, and really prefer food, spice and herb options as salads, casseroles, and soups and smoothies are becoming the staple of my dietary arrangements for certain health issues, including vital weight loss.
    Oh, is that all? Any chance? Thank you. - 5/19/2013 7:19:51 AM
  • How do I change my nutrition planner to one that will help me plan my meals for osteoarthritis.
    Thank you, I am anxiously awaiting a reply. I am desperate. - 5/27/2012 1:21:59 PM
  • These articles are very informative and should aid those who are looking for help with osteoarthritis supplements. Good job! - 4/1/2009 11:22:13 AM
  • I just had surgery on my shoulder for a bone spur and found out I have it. This article taught me alot. - 10/31/2008 2:29:20 AM
    This is an EXCELLENT article on dietary supplements for osteoarthritis. Being diagnosed with it a few years back, I decided to use supplements after taking prescription drugs that had ill effects for me. The supplements have slowed progression and provide some relief...I can't take most pain relievers because of my NAFLD liver disease. It's great to have confirmation that I am on the right track with the supplements. One thing that I wish the article had addressed was the recommended dosage of the supplements. - 6/11/2008 10:31:51 AM

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