Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chondroitin - New Research

Chondroitin has long been found combined with Glucosamine in supplements claiming to help those suffering from osteoarthritis. The majority of the studies done have been either on Glucosamine alone or on Glucosamine plus Chondroitin.

A new paper published in The Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases has looked at Chondroitin in isolation and the effect it has on the progression of osteoarthritis.

What makes this study different is the outcome measures used to examine the effect of Chondroitin. Previous studies have used subjective measures (such as reported pain and ability to sleep) with objective functional measurements (such as timed walking tests, ability to climb stairs).

As the object of this paper was not to see if the supplement decreased pain or improved activity but if it changed the disease process, MRI scans were used to "keep score".

The scan measured changes in cartilage volume, lesions in the subchondral bone (an important predictor of severity) and synovitis as well as noting any reported changes in symptoms.
The study was randomized, double blinded and placebo controlled and the total number of patients was 69.

The treatment dose was 800mg of Chondroitin once a day.

The results showed that the treatment group:
  • Had less cartilage loss at both 6 and 12 months
  • Had less subchondral bone marrow lesions at 12 months
  • Had no difference in reported symptoms
This is an important study as it demonstrates that Chondroitin alters the progression of osteoarthritis, offering some form of protection to the structures that make up the joint. Although there was no significant difference in symptoms such as pain over the 12 months observed, it would be hoped that a better preserved joint will result in better outcomes over the medium to long term. Obviously, there is more work to be done investigating the effects of Chondroitin, especially over a longer period of time so it can be determined if the changes decrease the symptoms.

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It can be difficult to find Chondroitin supplements on their own. I was unable to find any 800mg (or 400mg) Chondroitin but was able to find 600mg here. I am personally going to give this a go for at least 12 months. I am particularly impressed by the changes in the bone marrow lesions and although I do not currently have any myself, I consider anything that may prevent them of high importance.

It is much easier to find Chondroitin combined with Glucosamine, I was able to find this product (3 caps = 1500mg Glucosamine / 750mg Chondroitin) with one years supply only costing $50.

This works out significantly cheaper than getting Chondroitin on its own (as there is much more competition in this market). Having said that, I am a follower of the evidence and will stick with the Chondroitin until a study comes along to show the benefits of the combination are better than the single supplement. The evidence to date on Glucosamine has been borderline and although it is a safe supplement I am unaware of a study such as the one mentioned above that shows a strong positive effect from its use.

This study produced some exciting results and it should inspire a lot of follow up research. It is enough for me to go from taking nothing more than fish oil to giving Chondroitin a one year trial.

To read more on the Chondroitin article, click here.

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