Author: Per Posch
Glucosamine is an amino sugar derived from shellfish and is the most abundant monosaccharide. It is part of the chitin in the exoskeleton of crustaceans like shrimp, crab, as well as other arthropods like insects and arachnids. It is most commonly extracted by hydrolysis of the shells from shellfish, but can also be produced by fermentation of grains, such as corn and wheat.
Glucosamine has gained a lot of popularity as a health supplement for it supposed relief for joint pain, for patients suffering from hip and knee osteoarthritis and according to a recent report from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Americans spent $13 billion on health supplements in 2012, glucosamine being one of the most popular.
Many believe the supplements containing glucosamine is a safer alternative to prescription painkillers, since they are made from ‘natural’ ingredients. Commonly reported side-effects of the supplements include heartburn, drowsiness, headaches, allergic reactions, weight gain, diarrhea and abdominal pains.
It has long been debated whether glucosamine provides any real relief against pain and the effect has not yet been proven scientifically. The Osteoarthritis Research Society International and the U.S. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recently issued guidance for the lack of evidence for glucosamine as a cure for joint pain.
According to recently released research reports, the supplements have no more effect than a dummy pill, which suggests that the supposed pain relieving effects in patients using the supplements are most likely placebo effects.
After analysis of data from randomized controlled trials with 3-24 month follow-up points, the results have now been made public, showing the lack of concrete evidence of glucosamine providing any benefits to those suffering from joint pain.
The data analysed was collected between 1994-2014. In five of the trials which altogether included 1600 patients, glucosamine was compared to a placebo pill.
Overall, researchers were not able to tell any difference in levels of inflammation in any of the patients taking the supplement, or the ones taking the placebo pill, regardless of pain severity, age, severity of osteoarthritis, body mass index, or gender.
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