Update 9/11/20. Do you take glucosamine for your arthritis pain? Does it help? If not, maybe you are using the wrong kind. There are different kinds of glucosamne and all versions don't appear be equally effective. Here are bombshell facts most people don't know. These facts are hardly ever mentioned in supplement ads or infomercials. Glucosamine is one of the best selling over the counter supplements that people use for arthritis. Some research suggests it may help sagging skin too. But you need to use the right type.
Fact #1 What Type of Glucosamine Are You Using?
Go get your glucosamine supplement right now and look at the back label. I'll bet you a nickel you see “glucosamine HCL” in the ingredients list. Guess what? Glucosamine HCL is not the best type to use. Most people do not know that there are actually 3 main types of glucosamine in supplements.
Of these, glucosamine sulfate has most of the published peer-reviewed evidence that it reduces arthritis pain. I was one of the first people to alert the public to this fact in my book Nutritional Supplements What Works and Why
Glucosamine HCL has some studies to support its use but there are a lot more studies on glucosamine sulfate.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a clinical trial called the GAIT Study. This was one of the largest glucosamine studies ever. They concluded that glucosamine HCL didn't work, except for very mild forms of arthritis.
Why Didn't The GAIT Study Work?
The GAIT study used glucosamine HCL. But why? Most of the good evidence is on the sulfate form. I think they goofed. If you are looking for a supplement, pay attention. Many supplements contain glucosamine HCL, which has less evidence. Look for glucosamine sulfate.
Fact #2. What Type of Arthritis?
Most ads for glucosamine products only say it helps arthritis. They almost never say osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (or OA for short) is the type of arthritis that glucosamine sulfate has been most consistently shown to help.
Even though most people have osteo arthritis, its ironic that glucosamine ads rarely mention this.
There are many conditions that come under the heading of arthritis but glucosamine only seems to help the pain of OA. Glucosamine does not appear to help arthritic conditions like:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lyme disease
Fact #3. Glucosamine Does Not Re-grow Cartilage?
A lot of people think that glucosamine regrows joint cartilage but this has never been proven in any well-controlled published, peer-reviewed study. On the plus side, one study noted that long term use of glucosamine sulfate reduced the progression of osteoarthritis (by 54% compared to placebo). But as for how it works. I've never seen a good explanation that everybody agrees on.
Fact # 4. They Are Not Better Together
Most products combine glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate. But nobody is really sure if this combination is superior to glucosamine sulfate alone. I have not seen a definitive study proving that this combination is more effective. Here is a study that showed the combination of glucosamine HCL and chondroitin didn't work.
Also, some research links Chondroitin sulfate to prostate cancer.
So Does It Work?
While controversial, when it comes to helping arthritis pain, the research is strongest for glucosamine sulfate. The HCL form has less evidence. Intriguing preliminary evidence suggests N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) may help tighten up sagging skin. See the NAG review.