CHONDROITIN FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS: WHAT IS THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR CHONDROITIN?

Until recently, the evidence for oral chondroitin sulfate was very weak. However, in 1998, the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage published a supplement devoted to updating the science on this supplement. Three double-blind placebo-controlled studies were reported that provide evidence that chondroitin sulfate is an effective treatment for arthritis.One of these was a 6-month double-blind placebo-controlled study that followed 85 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee. In this study, participants received 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate twice a day or an identical-appearing placebo. Researchers evaluated improvement in arthritis symptoms by recording the level of pain as judged subjectively by the patient, the time it took to walk about 22 yards on flat ground, and the overall effectiveness of the treatment as rated by physicians and participants.The results showed that after 1 month of treatment, there was a 23% decrease in joint pain in the chondroitin sulfate group versus only a 12% decrease in the placebo group. By 6 months there was a 43% improvement in the chondroitin sulfate group versus only a 3% improvement in the placebo group (the placebo effect sometimes wears off after a while). Walking speed did not improve over the 6 months with chondroitin sulfate (it stayed the same), while in the placebo group walking speed gradually and steadily declined. Finally, physicians rated the improvement as “good” or “very good” in 69% of those taking chondroitin sulfate but in only 32% of those taking placebo.This was a reasonably long-term study that involved enough participants to be meaningful. However, another study lasted even longer, a full year, but it enrolled only 42 participants. Again, the results showed that chondroitin sulfate produced tangible benefits as compared to placebo, with the differences generally increasing steadily over the entire year.Another study was larger than either of these two, enrolling 127 participants, but it lasted for only 3 months. Again, the results were positive.Finally, an earlier study found that the benefits of chondroitin sulfate, like glucosamine sulfate, persist for months after treatment is stopped. This study compared chondroitin sulfate to the drug diclofenac sodium (Voltaren). Two previous controlled studies also compared chondroitin sulfate to NSAIDs. All together, six controlled trials have been performed in humans, involving a total of over 450 participants.*41/306/5*

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