I’m covering these three supplements in the same post because they are often combined into a single pill, which is how I take them. Again, I’m not a doctor and you should discuss all supplements with your physician.
SIDE NOTE: As a former aquarist, I must beg you not to take chondroitin sourced from or combined with shark cartilage, as it is really hard on shark populations, which need our protection–they have it hard enough; we have overfished a lot of their food sources. Back to our regularly scheduled program.
Glucosamine is most often taken as glucosamine sulfate, but can also be found as glucosamine hydrochloride, or N-acetyl glucosamine. It is another building block of cartilage, and is usually sourced from shellfish shells or synthesized. Taking chondroitin and glucosamine is thought to support the body’s maintenance of the cartilage tissues in the joints, but the latest research on a combination of chondroitin and glucosamine is not very encouraging as far as pain relief goes. It is most often recommended to sufferers of osteoarthritis, but in the latest study showed the combo to have only a mild benefit to only those in the most severe pain, and that group was so small it was hard to tell if the results were statistically significant.
MSM, or Methlysulfonylmethane, is recommended more generally for numerous types of pain. This remedy is solidly in the alternative medicine camp, as there is not much science to back it up. From my research, MSM is recommended mostly because of a single book written by two doctors, which looks a lot like another one of those “natural miracle cure” claims that so often are set up simply to prey on people in pain who are desperate for help.
It is possible that these supplements could serve a more of a preventative purpose, ensuring that cartilage breakdown does not happen because of deficiencies in the diet. I recall mention of a study in dogs in which similar supplements looked like they helped prevent arthritis if it was taken starting young, although I have no idea of the study’s scientific validity.
The other disturbing news turned up as I researched for this blog post was that the supplements that claim to contain chondroitin and glucosamine have been tested with widely varying results–some of the pills sold in stores turned out not to have any of one or the other compound, or the amount from batch to batch varied although the label stayed the same.
After what I’ve learned about these three compounds, I’ll probably take them off my list of supplements I’m currently taking. The combination of “they probably don’t do much” with “you can’t be sure you’re actually taking any” makes me think that I could be spending my money more wisely than on any more bottles of these.