Some observers believe that arthritis may be the result of abnormal glucosamine metabolism. In the body, glucosamine works by stopping the breakdown of proteoglycans (a major building block of cartilage) and by rebuilding damaged cartilage.
These days, glucosamine is hailed as a cure for osteoarthritis. Most supplements consist of the compound glucosamine sulphate as the sulphate form appears to strengthen glucosamine’s effect (Pharmatherapeutica, 1981; 2: 504-8).
Several studies suggest that glucosamine sulphate relieves pain better than NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Curr Med Res Opin, 1982; 8: 145-9; Pharmatherapeutica, 1981; 2: 504-8; Curr Med Res Opin, 1980; 7: 104-9). Also, instead of making the condition worse – like NSAIDs do (Am J Med, 1987; 83 [Suppl 5A]: 29-34) – it seems to reverse the disease by stimulating the production of more cartilage.
In one study, 80 patients with osteoarthritis were given either 500 mg of glucosamine sulphate three times a day or a placebo. While symptoms decreased in both groups, those receiving glucosamine had a significantly greater reduction in symptoms compared with placebo – 73 vs 41 per cent. Furthermore, a sample of cartilage from the placebo group, looked at under electron microscopy, showed definite evidence of osteoarthritis whereas samples from the treated patients showed what appeared to be healthy cartilage (Clin Ther, 1980; 3: 260-72).
The effects of glucosamine sulphate improve over time, so if you wish to try it, give it time – at least three months.