Glucosamine is found in healthy cartilage, and it assists in the formation of this connective tissue that cushions the joints. Glucosamine sulphate, or sulfate, is one form of the substance provided as a supplement. Supplements are the only effective way to obtain extra glucosamine because there are no major food sources, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center website. Most glucosamine supplements are derived from the hard shells of crustaceans, such as lobster, but some are manufactured for people allergic to seafood. Consult a qualified health care provider before taking glucosamine sulphate supplements.
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Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis
Several studies indicate that glucosamine supplements are effective for treating osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, although some research is conflicting, according to the UMMC website. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage breaks down because of injury or normal wear and tear over time; it becomes a common condition as people age. The U.S. National Institutes of Health at its Medline Plus website gives glucosamine sulphate the grade "A" for treating knee osteoarthritis. Studies of glucosamine that have not found benefits, either included patients with severe osteoarthritis rather than mild to moderate symptoms, or patients who used supplements in a form other than glucosamine sulphate, according to MedlinePlus. Participants taking glucosamine have experienced reduced joint pain, stiffness and swelling, improved joint function, and relief of symptoms for up to three months after treatment was discontinued, according to the UMMC website. Most studies have found that people must take glucosamine for 2 to 4 months before positive results occur.
Osteoarthritis of Other Joints
Several studies with animals and humans have found that glucosamine has benefits for treating osteoarthritis in various other joints, according to MedlinePlus; however, the evidence is not as strong as for knee arthritis, and most of the studies were not of high quality. Study participants did experience pain relief and improved joint function.
Glucosamine may have anti-inflammatory effects. Early research indicates it is beneficial for treating joint pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis, according to MedlinePlus.
A study published in the April-June 2007 issue of "Research in Sports Medicine" evaluated the effects of glucosamine on patients with acute knee injury. After 28 days, the patients taking glucosamine experienced significant improvement in knee joint flexibility and extension, as compared with the group taking a placebo, but glucosamine did not appear to decrease pain.