Glucosamine is now one of the top-selling dietary supplements in the United States. It is used by many older adults at risk for or suffering from osteoarthritis, a population that is exploding as baby boomers now enter their 50s and 60s, and as our expanding waistlines put more long-term pressure on our knees and hips.
Glucosamine is used to treat joint pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis. It is usually packaged by itself or in combination with chondroitin. Suppliers of glucosamine and chondroitin claim that they reduce osteoarthritis pain, promote healthy joint function, and nourish joint cartilage.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are sold over the counter as nutritional supplements (and thus are not regulated by the FDA). Physicians also may prescribe or recommend a three-month trial of an oral glucosamine/chondroitin complex for patients with more severe knee or hip pain.
While there have been some anecdotal reports of benefit, and it is well established that the health risks associated with supplementation are low, real clinical evidence of glucosamine’s analgesic (pain relieving) and structural effects have thus far been inconclusive.