Here's some information to help explain their function.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate are two molecules naturally found in connective tissues in the human body, such as those covering the ends of bones in the joints. They support collagen synthesis to maintain the shock-absorbing ability and play key roles in the synthesis of the structural components of the joint matrix.
What is Glucosamine:
Glucosamine is a precursor to a molecule called a glycosaminoglycan. This molecule is used in the formation and repair of cartilage. Supplementation can help protect joint cartilage by limiting breakdown and helping to build up levels of cartilage.
What is Chondroitin:
Chondroitin is the most abundant glycosaminoglycan in cartilage and is responsible for its resiliency. It is part of a protein molecule that helps give cartilage its elastic properties and is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help to reduce the painful swelling in the joints that occurs when the bones rub together. In addition, chondroitin sulphate supplementation may also help slow the breakdown of cartilage and help restore cartilage growth to better cushion the joints.
Where do the supplements come from?:
Glucosamine is extracted from animal tissues such as lobster, crab, or shrimp shells, while Chondroitin sulfate is found in cartilage such as shark cartilage or animal trachea.
How do they work?:
Inside joints, cartilage undergoes a constant process of breakdown and repair. However, to be properly repaired, the building blocks of cartilage must be present and available. The theory behind using the glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplements is that more of the cartilage building blocks will be available for cartilage repair. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate provide nutritional support for the repair of joints and cartilage and may provide symptomatic relief of joint pain and functional limitation associated with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee.
Numerous studies have examined the treatment effects of glucosamine and chondroitin
A few conclusions:
- There was significant pain reduction when taking glucosamine and chondroitin compared to patients receiving a placebo
- The improvement experienced by these patients was similar to improvements experienced by patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) except that NSAIDs carry increased risk of side effects including gastrointestinal complaints and bleeding and the joint supplements have few side effects
- There is an indication that NSAIDs may increase the progression of arthritis, whereas glucosamine and chondroitin may offer a more protective effect to the cartilage surface.
- Maximum beneficial effect of Chondroitin is reached at 6-24 months.
- Glucosamine has independently been found to benefit patients with osteoarthritis (especially of the knee)