Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, presents as progressive degradation of the cartilage matrix, especially in articular cartilage, along with subchondral bone sclerosis and the formation of osteophytes. These joint alterations lead to pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness, and they often limit mobility and quality of life that may also affect mental health. Development of osteoarthritis is associated with aging, obesity, inflammation, and excessive mechanical loading, in addition to genetics. It commonly affects the knee and hips. It was once believed that osteoarthritis was largely due to wear and tear, but the belief that inflammation and metabolic factors play a significant role in the development of the disorder is now more the accepted norm.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance that supports cartilage by being one of the substrates, along with chondroitin, in the biosynthesis of proteoglycan in chondrocytes. It is a water-soluble amino monosaccharide found in high amounts in the articular cartilage, and it is also a constituent of glycosaminoglycans. Glucosamine can stimulate proteoglycan synthesis and inhibit the synthesis of proteolytic enzymes. Many of its benefits for osteoarthritis may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties and potential to support the production of hyaluronic acid in the synovial membrane. Glucosamine may also prevent type II collagen degradation and maintain its synthesis, even for athletes, which may help to prevent osteoarthritis.* As such, it is commonly studied as a potentially beneficial supplement for osteoarthritis.
Research is still ongoing, but the results are generally promising. In a systematic review and meta-analysis, researchers found that glucosamine exhibited a statistically significant benefit for stiffness in those with osteoarthritis. It also demonstrated that it was safe, with no statistical difference in adverse events to a placebo. In another systematic review and meta-analysis found that glucosamine decreased pain in patients with osteoarthritis in the knee. A third meta-analysis and systematic review determined that there was a small, but insignificant benefit to knee function and pain. Using a newly established scale for monitoring osteoarthritis in the knee, the researchers determined glucosamine was superior to a placebo in alleviating symptoms.
Many factors contribute to the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. As such, prevention and treatment may incorporate a variety of factors to target particular risk factors for an individual. This may include dietary and lifestyle changes, in addition to supplementation, such as glucosamine, to support healthy joints and a healthy inflammatory response.*
By Kendra Whitmire