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Chondroitin is a substance that occurs naturally in the connective tissues of people and animals. As a supplement in higher doses than is found naturally, chondroitin is a popular treatment for osteoarthritis.

Why do people take chondroitin?

As an osteoarthritis treatment, chondroitin is often used along with another supplement, glucosamine.

The evidence that chondroitin helps with osteoarthritis is mixed. A number of studies seemed to show that it is effective. Researchers found that chondroitin appeared to reduce pain, increase joint mobility, and decrease the need for painkillers.

However, several more recent studies have been less promising. Several found that chondroitin supplements had only a small benefit, if any. If you're interested in using chondroitin for arthritis pain, talk to your doctor about the latest evidence.

How much chondroitin should you take?

Since chondroitin is not an established treatment, the ideal dosage is uncertain. For osteoarthritis, some studies have used 1,200 milligrams to 1,800 milligrams once a day. Other studies have used smaller doses multiple times a day. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get chondroitin naturally from foods?

Chondroitin occurs naturally in animal tissue, especially connective tissues. Gristle on animal bones is high in chondroitin. However, these sources are much lower than the doses provided in chondroitin supplements. Some chondroitin supplements come from animal sources, like shark or beef cartilage.

What are the risks of taking chondroitin?

  • Side effects. Chondroitin seems to be safe for most people. Side effects are rare. Some people have reported headaches, mood changes, rash, hives, diarrhea, and other symptoms. If you have any side effects, stop taking the supplement and see a doctor.
  • Risks. People who have shellfish allergies, asthma, or prostate cancer should not take chondroitin supplements without talking to a doctor first. Since chondroitin might work as a blood thinner, there is a theoretical risk of bleeding, especially in people with bleeding disorders. Some initial reports that chondroitin may affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes have not been shown to be true in larger, more recent research studies. Also, because chondroitin is derived from animal sources, there is some concerns about contamination. Make sure that the product being used comes from reputable companies and manufacturers.
  • Interactions. If you take any medications regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using chondroitin supplements. They could interact with drugs like blood thinners and NSAID painkillers or supplements like ginkgo biloba, garlic, and saw palmetto.

Given the lack of evidence about its safety, chondroitin supplements are not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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