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Arthritis Health Center

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Glucosamine: No Help for Hip Arthritis?

Dutch Study Shows Popular Supplement No Better Than Placebo; Industry Disagrees
WebMD Health News

Feb. 18, 2008 -- The popular supplement glucosamine, used by many arthritis sufferers, was found to be no better than placebo pills for relieving the pain of hip osteoarthritis or increasing the ability to do everyday activities, according to a new study from the Netherlands.

"In our study, there was not much room for doubt," says Rianne Rozendaal, MSc, the study's lead researcher.

"The differences between the glucosamine and placebo group were all very small," says Rozendaal, a researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

But representatives of the supplement industry disagree, with one manufacturer saying the researchers may have focused on people too early in the arthritic process.

Glucosamine and Arthritis

An estimated 21 million Americans have osteoarthritis (or "wear-and-tear" arthritis) affecting the hips, knees, and other joints, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The condition is marked by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage, which cushions the bone endings and allows you to move easily.

A substance found naturally in healthy joint cartilage, glucosamine stimulates the formation and repair of cartilage, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, but over-the-counter supplements come from animal or plant sources. Studies of the effectiveness of glucosamine have yielded mixed findings.

Study Details: Glucosamine and Arthritis

Rozendaal and her team assigned 222 patients, all with hip osteoarthritis that was generally termed mild, to take either 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate or a placebo pill every day for two years. On average, patients were in their early 60s.

About equal numbers in each group underwent total hip replacement surgery during the study. The researchers evaluated the patients at three, 12, and 24 months after they began the treatments, collecting information about the patients' pain levels and how well they could perform everyday activities.

X-rays were taken to measure the joint space in the hip. As osteoarthritis gets worse, this joint space gets narrower.

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