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GLUCOSAMINE SAVES JOINTS: New Trial Finds Measurable Arthritis Improvement

The following article reports the now scientifically "proven" effects of glucosamine on arthritis, what many have now known and experienced for a few years now.

By Adam Marcus HealthScout Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 25, 2001 (HealthScout) -- In what one arthritis expert calls a "landmark" study, researchers say regular treatment with glucosamine can ease the pain, swelling and stiffness of osteoarthritis and lead to measurable improvements in joints.

Glucosamine is a natural supplement whose advocates claim it relieves the symptoms of osteoarthritis, a cartilage-eroding ailment that strikes roughly one in three Americans over age 63. However, few reliable studies have found any benefit from the treatment until now.

In the latest study, reported in the upcoming issue of The Lancet, a team led by Dr. Jean Yves Reginster of the Bone and Cartilage Metabolism Unit of the CHU Centre Ville in Liege, Belgium, tested the supplement on 212 people with osteoarthritis in their knees. Subjects were given either a dummy drug or 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine daily over three years.

The patients had their knee joints X-rayed at the beginning and the end of the trial to measure how much protective cartilage shielded their joints from friction and impact.

By the end of the study, patients on glucosamine reported a 20 percent to 25 percent improvement of their symptoms, while the placebo group reported slight deterioration. The X-rays showed that joint spaces in the untreated patients had narrowed by an average of 20 millimeters, compared to no change among those who took glucosamine.

Reginster says, "We demonstrate that we have significant differences in the number of patients who experienced a significant, relevant loss" in their joint space. "It's the first [study] that shows that it's possible to demonstrate an effect both on the symptoms and the structure" of joints, says Reginster. He says a recent Czech study found similar results.

Not sure how it works

The study, which was first reported at a 1999 meeting of arthritis experts, was sponsored by the Rorta Research Group, an Italian company that makes much of the glucosamine available in Europe. While several European countries have officially approved glucosamine as an arthritis remedy, the compound is available in the United States only as an over-the-counter therapy.

Reginster says that's problematic because different versions of the product vary widely in the amount of the active chemical.

Dr. John Klippel, medical director of the Arthritis Foundation, says The Lancet paper should have an "extraordinary" impact on the treatment of osteoarthritis. "I think this is a landmark study of major importance." Klippel says not only does it show symptom relief, but it offers evidence that glucosamine leads to beneficial physiological changes.

What the work doesn't explain, however, is how glucosamine works with arthritis. Glucosamine is a building block of cartilage, and some experts have proposed that it might spur formation of new cartilage in affected joints. But so far no one has proven that, he says.

Many patients in the Belgian study reported improvement within about a month of starting treatment, suggesting glucosamine might have anti-inflammatory properties, Klippel says.

Interviews with Jean Yves Reginster, M.D., Ph.D., Bone and Cartilage Metabolism Unit, University Hospital, Liege, Belgium; John Klippel, M.D., medical director, Arthritis Foundation, Washington, D.C.; Jan. 27, 2001, The Lancet

Long-term Effects of Glucosamine Sulphate on Osteoarthritis Progression: A Randomised, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial - Lancet 2001 Jan 27; 357 (9252): Unlisted page numbers




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