Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Drumbeat of Studies Disparaging Glucosamine Keeps Getting Louder

I know, I know, I’ve written A LOT about the (probable) uselessness of glucosamine (unless you’re susceptible to the placebo effect)

Then along comes yet a new study slamming the supplement. The L.A. Times did a nice write-up here.

Below are the three most interesting things about the study, in my opinion. But first the study, in bare bones form, looked like this:

The 201 subjects were 35 to 65 years old and complained of knee pain. For six months, about half of them consumed a daily lemonade drink that contained glucosamine hydrochloride (which the study’s lead author notes doesn’t differ pharmacologically from the more common glucosamine sulfate). The others drank the lemonade but without the added glucosamine.

Drinking glucosamine-laced lemonade “failed to prevent deterioration of knee cartilage, reduce bone bruises or ease knee pain.”

Now on to my personal “three most interesting things.”

#1 "Roughly 10% of the U.S. population uses the supplement, study authors said."

Did not see that one coming. The U.S. population is, what, 310 million? So about 31 million people take glucosamine.

Hey, that gives me an idea. :) This is directed to those 31 million people spending $10 monthly on glucosamine pills:

You all need to buy this book, Saving My Knees (link on upper right). It will tell you why you shouldn’t bother taking glucosamine. You’ll recoup the cost of the book in one month and have a net savings of $110 the first year (and I’ll finally be a multi-millionaire, cough, cough).

#2 "The urine was tested for levels of C-terminal cross-linking telopeptide of type II collagen (CTX-II), a molecular marker for cartilage tissue degradation."

This is the first glucosamine study I’m aware of that analyzed urine samples to look at whether cartilage rates of deterioration had slowed. Why does that matter?

Well, it shows that attempts to ascertain whether glucosamine has any salutary effect are getting more sophisticated. And, whatever they look at, they’re still not finding a benefit.

#3 "Study authors said theirs was the first to use MRIs to evaluate glucosamine's effects on cartilage and bone marrow lesions."

So this study is the first, the authors claim, to use MRIs to peek directly at the condition of the cartilage and bone. And, using this more advanced technology, researchers still found no glucosamine-related improvement.


  1. Richard, can you delete the spam comments? I feel your blog deserves better than these ads.
    I will keep taking glucosamine, I think it could be the placebo effect but since it's working for me...

    1. Ah deloupy, if only I knew how to drive all the spammers under the big rock where they belong! ;) Yes, I do have a problem with the spam comments. Unfortunately, the real solution is to put fresh comments in a "holding pen" and not release them on the blog until I approve each, one by one. But that slows down the flow of commenting (and would discourage some people from commenting completely). So for now, I am watching the spam ...

  2. Hi Richard

    Not posted here in a while.

    Everything was going fine and my knees were getting better but then I went to hit a few golf balls and I got a onset of pain (5-10 minutes) and which made it very difficult to put any weight on it. Did you have any incidences like this? Not sure if it is something new or just the pfps again?

    1. Not specifically like that, no. But I had many setbacks, and in my book, all setbacks belong broadly to the same family. They're disheartening and you learn, much to your chagrin, that your knees aren't as strong as you had hoped. It's a long, long, long process. I can't overemphasize that. But take heart -- that "everything was going fine" is encouraging. (By the way, I don't know much about the forces exerted on knees during golf, but the combo of a really muscular swing and torquing of the joint simultaneously I can't imagine is a good thing.)