SHOULD YOU TAKE SUPPLEMENTS?
There are rows of them in the joint health section of the drugstore. Your 10K-running neighbor swears by them. Can they really help protect your joints? Experts are skeptical. Since glucosamine and chondroitin are substances that occur naturally in cartilage, the idea is to bathe your joints with more of the good stuff. “But it hasn’t been proven that if you ingest them in a pill they will make their way into the joints,” says David Felson, MD, a rheumatologist and arthritis prevention specialist at Boston University School of Medicine. “It’s likely they’ll just get broken down by the digestive system.” The most comprehensive study, the National Institute of Health’s Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), found that arthritis sufferers who took the two supplements showed no significant improvement in knee pain or function. However, a small subset of subjects with moderate to severe arthritis did report some pain relief. Orthopedic surgeon Hany Bedair notes that more recent research has not confirmed this effect, but he adds: “Some of my patients tell me they feel they’ve benefited.” Because arthritis is a complex disease, he says that trying supplements should be only one part of a multifaceted treatment plan.