Due to the unregulated supplement market, and concerns that the the quality of store-bought supplements is highly suspect, we typically will not recommend our patients take glucosamine/chondroitin supplements, unless it is from a third-party certified lab (such as Thorne Research), and even then, the research doesn't support benefit. Ultimately, you must check the source of your supplements - do they have 3rd party assessment?
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, from Harvard Health Publications, discussed this topic and reported that, "in a 2010 analysis of multiple studies (called a meta-analysis) found that among more than 3,800 people with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, treatment with glucosamine, chondroitin, or the combination was no better than placebo. The case for these supplements protecting joint health or preventing arthritis is similarly weak." (link to study)
He goes on to conclude his assessment by stating, "Even if a treatment is not effective on average, there may be folks who, for whatever reason, get real relief from it. And, even if the benefit is from the placebo effect, the benefit is real and that is hard to give up on. Finally, people are taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin for a number of reasons and conditions other than osteoarthritis of the knee — so this study may not apply to them." [emphasis mine]
One of the largest, on-going studies in Europe that was published in 2015 can also be reviewed here: BMJ -Combined chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for painful knee osteoarthritis: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, non-inferiority trial versus celecoxib. It concluded, "CS+GH has comparable efficacy to celecoxib (NSAID pain reliever) in reducing pain, stiffness, functional limitation and joint swelling/effusion after 6 months in patients with painful knee osteoarthritis, with a good safety profile." So it appears that if you do choose to take these supplements, take them in combination.
Interestingly enough, other research shows that even just getting more attention and care from a medical provider, can improve outcomes for knee pain. So placebo effect, which is obviously complex, if it gets results, can be useful. Ultimately, you have to make a choice, with the help of your primary care providers, about what is the best treatment strategy for you.
What is the thinking behind taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin and what are they?
Glucosamine is naturally present in the shells of shellfish, animal bones, bone marrow, and fungi. Chondroitin sulfate is an important structural component of cartilage and provides much of its resistance to compression. They are compounds found in connective tissues, primarily of animals, and are fundamental components of cartilage.
Our bodies rebuild collagen and other connective tissues from the intake of essential amino acids.
Want to build collagen and connective tissues and protect yourself from premature aging? Then be certain to get proper essential amino acids. Consume high quality, fresh proteins, which your body can utilize to repair tissue. Why not take in the freshest quality amino acids to support your body?
Doctor Dr. Habib Ur Rehman, an international fellow of American Academy of Dermatology who has conducted academic and clinical research at prestigious research institutions like Johns Hopkins University, suggests, "Generally meats and dairy sources are considered to be of highest quality amino acids. However, some plant sources also provide fairly good amounts of amino acids like legumes: lentils, beans, nuts: almonds, pistachios, vegetables: broccoli, asparagus."
He also recommends for daily consumption to achieve the necessary amino acids, "0.45 g of protein per lb. of body is recommended. However, getting the appropriate grams of proteins is not sufficient by itself. It is very important to ensure that the essential amino acids are present in the right ratios."
One of our favorite source of easily absorbed and digested amino acids (which your body turns into collagen, etc.) is beef and chicken bone broth, made at home in our pressure cooker. Check out our base recipe and tips of making it taste great - Bone Broth Recipe. Try using joints (beef knuckle, knee), chicken necks, and chicken feet in a combination for the stock. Use the final broth to make a lentil soup, with added vegetables, and you will have one complete and nutritious, not to mention, easily digested meal.
Other research and articles: 1) WebMD