More Evidence Supports Glucosamine for Joint Disease

Skeptics continue to doubt the effects of glucosamine and other oral joint health supplements, but mounting research seems to be proving, one step at a time, that there is more to these products than meets the eye.

Canadian researchers, led by Sheila Laverty, MVB, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS/ECVS, a professor of Equine Surgery in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Montreal, have recently demonstrated that significantly higher levels of glucosamine accumulate in inflamed joints, compared to normal, healthy joints.

"A growing body of in vitro evidence shows that glucosamine may have anti-inflammatory effects in equine joints (cartilage and synovial membrane) at currently used doses," explained Laverty. " Whether these effects prevent cartilage degradation remains to be proven."


"It is unclear at this time whether or not the higher glucosamine levels actually translate into an enhanced therapeutic effect on the joint tissues." --Dr. Sheila Laverty

In the study, eight horses were divided into two equal groups: the control group and the inflamed joint group. Horses in both groups were administered glucosamine hydrochloride either orally or intravenously at a dose rate of 20 mg/kg (equivalent to a 9 g dose for an average 450 kg horse). Inflammation was induced in both radiocarpal joints (knees) in the inflamed joint group. White blood cell counts and total protein and glucosamine levels were all measured in synovial fluid in all horses at the start of the study prior to glucosamine administration and during the third and fourth weeks of the study.

No difference in baseline white blood cell counts or total protein levels existed between the two groups of horses. After inducing inflammation in the inflamed joint group, levels of all three parameters increased significantly. Specifically, glucosamine levels were four times higher in the inflamed joint group compared to the control horses.


"Despite these encouraging results, it is unclear at this time whether or not the higher glucosamine levels actually translate into an enhanced therapeutic effect on the joint tissues," cautioned Laverty. "Our research is ongoing."

The study, "Joint inflammation increases glucosamine levels attained in synovial fluid following oral administration of glucosamine hydrochloride," is scheduled to be published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. The abstract is currently available on PubMed.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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