Why you’re wasting money on glucosamine for arthritis pain

by TMP Editor on February 6, 2017

arthritis pain

Glucosamine/chondroitin, is a hugely popular supplement for treatment for arthritis. Americans spent $753 million in 2012 on them in 2012 according to the Nutrition Business Journal. However, a growing body of research suggests the money you may be spending on glucosamine/chondroitin supplements is going down the drain.

What’s more, one of the most recent studies found that a placebo actually worked better for arthritis pain relief than the actual supplement. Investing in a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet could be a better way to spend your money.

Healthy cartilage

Glucosamine is a natural compound made by the body found in healthy cartilage, particularly in the fluid around the joints. Chondroitin is a major component of cartilage that helps it retain water. So eating copious amounts of these compounds should protect you from arthritis, right?

To test this assumption, a group of Spanish researchers recruited 164 men and women diagnosed with knew osteoarthritis to take either a daily dose of glucosamine/chondroitin, or a placebo masquerading as the same supplement. At the beginning of the study and six months later, the researchers measured their pain using a pictograph scale of faces grimacing to increasing degrees. Before and after measurements were also taken on knee function.

Placebo effect

Among the findings, published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology, participants who took the real supplements showed an average reduction in pain of 19 percent. However, those on the placebo showed an average pain reduction of 33 percent. In terms of knee function, there was no discernable difference between the two groups.

These findings suggest that the “legitimate” glucosamine/chondroitin supplements are really nothing but a placebo. This may explain why supplement manufacturers make billions of dollars on the placebo effect, which is the perception of improvement after taking a substance that has no effect whatsoever.

Supplement warning

Another factor to consider for spending money on glucosamine is that supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. A 2012 Consumer Reports study identified numerous glucosamine/chondroitin supplements that contained less of the compounds than listed on the label.

FDA-approved drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can offer temporary relief, but have been shown to cause side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding and increase heart disease risk. There’s no “cure” for osteoarthritis. It’s a normal consequence of aging that can be addressed most effectively through a healthy lifestyle, instead of expensive placebos.

Anti-arthritis lifestyle

Research has shown that adopting healthy eating habits can improve the health of your joints and help alleviate the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet provides a healthy dose of inflammation fighting antioxidants, as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are loaded with inflammation fighting omega-3s. Walnuts, peanuts, almonds and pistachios deliver more healthy fats, vitamins and minerals that help keep inflammation under control.

Eating healthier also leads to weight loss Research has shown that every pound of excess weight you lose can relieve 4 pounds of pressure off your knees while you’re walking—which can reduce arthritic stiffness by keeping your joints flexible and lubricated, as well as help you lose more weight.


New York Times

Arthritis Foundation

Consumer Reports


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