Glucosamine and Chondroitin: What are They?

Glucosamine is involved in building tendons, bones, and ligaments, as well as skin and nails. Our bodies make it from the simple carbohydrate glucose and the amino acid glutamine. Glucosamine is found in the structures of the joints in high concentrations, and it’s also available as a supplement: glucosamine sulfate. As we age, our ability to produce adequate amounts of this substance diminishes, and some researchers theorize that this is one of the causes of osteoarthritis. Chondroitin sulfate, usually referred to as chondroitin, plays an important role in the formation of cartilage, where it is found naturally. In the joints, chondroitin acts as a cushion and helps to maintain healthy joint cartilage. It also appears to have some anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that taking a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin may ease pain by as much as 25 percent for those with moderate to severe arthritis. Chondroitin and glucosamine are usually taken together in capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid form. Because these supplements are not fast-acting, you may not see improvements for several weeks. Use caution with chondroitin if you’re taking anticoagulants or a daily aspirin. If you have diabetes, be aware that glucosamine can influence blood sugar levels. As always, consult your healthcare provider.