Often people with assorted muscle and joint aliments are fallaciously under the impression that by the mere act of “popping” a few vitamin or mineral capsules daily they can successfully reverse the effects of approaching old age. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A quick trip to your local GNC Health Shop would reveal many possible recommendations ranging from the common vitamins such as Vitamin A, claimed to ease painful joints, the legendary Vitamin B6 which has been recommended for those people suffering from arthritis on up to Chelated zinc for demonstrated pain relief and joint stiffness. The particular supplement which I would like to discuss is the Glucosamine sulphate. This product is generally consumed in mega-doses ranging on the order of 1000 to 3000 mg at a frequency of three times daily. When taken in those huge quantities one can easily invest a considering sum of money in their endeavor to combat anti-inflammatory efforts. The question which rests formost upon most peoples minds are not so much the cost of the product but rather where these over the counter mineral aids can actually help the issue at hand.
Glucosamine is an amino sugar which fosters a structure of polysaccharides and chitin. In short what this boils down to is that the supplement is composed of exoskeletons of crustaceans or arthropods. In America, Glucosamine is actually one of the most common non-vitamin dietary supplements in use by older people. Glucosamine is generally marketed as a treatment for arthritis and will often include another closely matched supplement. When searching for this product in the health food stores you will likely encounter two types known as glucosamine sulfate and its cousin glucosamine hydrochloride.
The basis of probable success from this supplement is formulated from its major components of glycosaminoglycans which represents a major constituent of the human joint cartilage. It is suggested that supplemental use of the glucosamine may aid in prevention of cartilage degeneration as well as the effective treatment of established arthritis. Although it is widely used in osteoarthritis therapy its true effectiveness is under continuous conflicting discussions.
During her research into “Hexosamines and their effects upon insulin resistance”, Dr. Maria Buse determined that if the glucosamine supplement were to have any effect at all it would usually take weeks and often months before any minor improvements in the patients symptoms would be noticed. In one recent analysis it was even discovered that only the Rotta brand glucosamine appeared to be superior to the usual placebo in the pain treatment from arthritis. Those studies with any sort of positive results generally used the glucosamine sulfate. All in all however, it was concluded that the products really had no effect upon reducing the associated pain.
A 2009 review of glucosamine proved that the product failed to restore cartilage or to alleviate the pain associated with arthritis. The author of one article concluded that there was little evidence to suggest that glucosamine performed as advertised. Even reports published in the British Medical Journal has indicated that whether the supplement is used alone or in combination with another product it is no better than a common place for relieving the pain established from our defective joints.
With all this mounting evidence it would appear that glucosamine wherever in combination with other supplements or taken solo is more of a public relations hype rather than an effective treatment for an ailment.
Adverse effects which could result from taking this product include constipation, diarrhea, increased headaches, body rash and possible stomach upset. In addition, since the product is created from shellfish there is the possibility of allergic reactions to those who may be sensitive to seafood and in particularly shellfish.
The major problem that has been discovered with this drug is that the patient fails to see any sort of positive response as they take it and consequently they increase their doses thinking that they may not be taking enough to produce the desired results. This increased dosage results in the destruction of pancreatic cells which as Dr. Buse above discovered increases the patients risk for developing diabetes.
Although clinical studies indicate that taking this product presents no additional harm to the patient if used according to recommendations, it does seem to relieve those in pain of their money which could be best used with more conventional treatments. As for whether the FDA should regulate this product. Perhaps they should only to the extent that the manufacturer would need to provide proper labeling to claim any possible remedies that could result from the use of this product. It is interesting to note that the FDA has not approved of glucosamine for medical use in human animals, and since the product is reclassified simply as a dietary supplement it remains in the discretionary interest of the manufacturer to not advertise it as a treatment for any specific medical condition.