There is no clear evidence that these products repair one’s cartilage or reverse the effects of osteoarthritis.
The hype over glucosamine supplements is largely based on small numbers of pre-clinical (animal) studies which show that glucosamine sulphate – one of two forms of glucosamine – slightly increased the amount of cartilage in the laboratory setting. But this has never been proven in clinical or human studies, said Dr Kevin Lee, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
Glucosamine is a basic building block of joint cartilage. Most glucosamine products work via an anti-inflammatory pathway to provide slight pain relief in mild cases of arthritis. The effect generally wears off after six months, noted Dr Lee.
Movement stimulates our body’s natural production of hyaluronic acid, the lubricant in joints. It is why joints stiffen quickly when they are not moved, for instance, when you have your knee in a plaster cast for weeks. It is best to avoid exercises that lead to high impact in those joints affected by arthritis, said Dr Lee.
For instance, if you have arthritis in the knees, then you should avoid high impact sports such as running – which puts up to six times one’s body weight through each knee on every stride – and switch to low-impact sports such as swimming, brisk walking or working out on the elliptical machine, he advised.
Text by Mind & Body, Straits Times. Image: IThinkstock