Saturday, October 1, 2011


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Glucosamine A Safe and Successful Dietary Supplement?

The effectiveness and safety of Glucosamine is a subject of both complexity and diverse opinion. Like many of the new herbs introduced into today’s economy, this one has supposed health benefits. But still, as with any new drug, its usefulness in its field is both defended and criticized. While some agree that Glucosamine has the ability to aid in the treatment of osteoarthritis, (its main purpose in medicine) others feel that its research is still limited and new, and therefore needs further analysis before making a definite prognosis. To fully understand whether Glucosamine is in fact a successful supplement one must first observe the history of the drug, what it is currently used for and if it has credible evidence supporting this, and lastly, if it has any health concerns that might speak towards its ineffectiveness.

Glucosamine is present in most human tissues, and is therefore thought to promote the formation and repair of cartilage. It has been studied for close to four decades now, originating in Germany in the late 160’s. The research over this time period has been primarily studies comparing glucosamine to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Because of its functions in the repair of cartilage and such, dating back to birth of its findings, glucosamine has been continually related and tested towards the relief of osteoarthritis, or OA. Over the years, as research continued and progressed, the main function of the herb remained the same while its effectiveness grew in popularity. With greater and more specific studies, scientists and patients began to see that glucosamine was in fact benefiting the conditions of OA.

As discussed briefly above, Glucosamine has been tested for many years concerning treatments of Osteoarthritis. The disease itself is simply the continuing wearing and tearing on the joints which leads to progressive loss of both cartilage and the coating covering the ends of bones in a joint. In today’s society OA affects nearly sixteen million Americans, the majority of them being elderly. Glucosamine itself is a compound that provides the body with the raw material needed to manufacture components of joint cartilage. And because OA is a degenerative joint disease, the herb has recently been showing great promise in the treatment and slowing of the process. Lately, laboratory studies have suggested that glucosamine may stimulate production of cartilage-building proteins. The reasoning behind glucosamine aiding in the treatment of OA stems from its role in producing the cartilage that cushions a persons joints. The cells that act to preserve this cartilage need glucosamine to properly maintain an adequate level of protection. This provides a valid reason to why such an herb would be a good source of treatment for Osteoarthritis. Still, critics remain, and some believe firmly that the herb is not nearly tested enough and needs to continue to be tested before any assumptions can be made. On the contrary, others feel that “clinical findings have revealed that glucosamine sulfate and chondrotitn sulfate are effective and safer alternatives to alleviate symptoms of OA” (dept. of pharmaceutical sciences, 4). In the past ten years, there have been sufficient studies greatly promoting the use and safety of glucosamine for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

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There have been very few reports that any serious side affects exist while taking glucosamine. In fact, the majority of studies indicate that it is safe, nontoxic, and causes only minor side effects. These include gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other minor stomach problems. The Department of Orthopedics-Evangelisches Waldkrankenhaus, in Berlin even state that, “it is concluded that glucosamine sulfate may be a safe and effective symptomatic Slow Acting Drug for OA” (dept. of Orthopedics 6). Then why, might some ask, is there any doubt towards glucosamine at all? That answer simply speaks about the possible lack of research completed about the herb. Some people feel that it still remains new, and do not want to completely defend a product that has not been studied enough. Despite the doubt by a select few in the medicinal field, it still is apparent that glucosamine is on the rise in treating osteoarthritis. And although some will continue to doubt whether it is actually safe, as of now in society, glucosamine proves to be both safe and effective for helping with OA.

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