Monday, 7 March 2011

So, glucosamine....

Well it seems that scientific clinical trials evidence and anecdotal evidence from individuals are pretty much at odds with each other!

In the red corner, we have the clinical trials evidence, most of which finds that taking glucosamine, chrondroitin or both does not reduce knee pain in people with osteoarthritis (see BMJ 2010 Sep 16;341:c4675, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847017 for a recent meta-analysis on the supplements). This is a nice summary of the recent BMJ study, http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/09September/Pages/osteoarthritis-supplements-of-no-benefit.aspx On top of this, I think the NHS have stopped funding these supplements due to the lack of evidence that they are beneficial(although in reality I'm sure it's down to lack of resources too - glucosamine doesn't look very cost-effective though!).

Most of the published evidence seems to be in people with osteoarthritis (OA), so it's impossible to tell if it has any benefit in those without OA who wish to reduce damage to their ligaments or to help build them back up, as well as reducing pain.

So, in the blue corner, we have anecdotal evidence from runners who are noticing a difference after taking it, and have found that it reduces pain or reverses problems they were experiencing. Now this may not be scientific evidence, but in my opinion, should not be ignored. See the Runner's World forum for examples Runner's World forums

Suffice to say, this blog post and my research are of limited value! Science says 'no', but runners say, 'probably yes'. From information on the Runner's World forums, people who have found glucosamine to help are aware that it may be a placebo effect, and that it may only work for certain people. Dosage is also something that is likely to be a factor, although it seems that the supplements probably take about 2-3 months to enter the system properly.

So, maybe scientific research should be performed in healthy sports people to ascertain the benefit or not of glucosamine & chrondoitin as supplements. Otherwise, we will all keep spending our money in the hope that it is helping us to run healthily.

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