NEW ORLEANS – Based on human research, there is good evidence to support the use of glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis. Most studies have used glucosamine sulfate supplied by one European manufacturer (Rotta Research Laboratorium), and it is not known if glucosamine preparations made by other manufacturers are equally effective. Although some studies of glucosamine have not found benefits, these have either included patients with severe osteoarthritis or used products other than glucosamine sulfate . The evidence for the effect of glycosaminoglycan polysulphate is conflicting and merits further investigation. More well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm safety and effectiveness, and to test different formulations of glucosamine.
Several human studies and animal experiments report benefits of glucosamine in treating osteoarthritis of various joints of the body, although the evidence is less plentiful than that for knee osteoarthritis. Some of these benefits include pain relief, possibly due to an anti-inflammatory effect of glucosamine, and improved joint function. Overall, these studies have not been well designed. Although there is some promising research, more study is needed in this area before a firm conclusion can be made.
Chronic venous insufficiency
“Chronic venous insufficiency” is a syndrome that includes leg swelling, varicose veins, pain, itching, skin changes, and skin ulcers. The term is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States. Currently, there is not enough reliable scientific evidence to recommend glucosamine in the treatment of this condition.
Diabetes (and related conditions)
Early research suggests that glucosamine does not improve blood sugar control, lipid levels, or apolipoprotein levels in diabetics. Additional research is needed in this area.
Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
Preliminary research reports improvements with N-acetyl glucosamine as an added therapy in inflammatory bowel disease. Further scientific evidence is necessary before a strong recommendation can be made.
Pain (leg pain)
Preliminary human research reports benefits of injected glucosamine plus chondroitin in the treatment of leg pain arising from advanced lumbar degenerative disc disease. Further scientific evidence is necessary before a firm recommendation can be made.
Rehabilitation (after knee injury)
Glucosamine has been given to athletes with acute knee injuries. Although glucosamine did not improve pain, it did help improve flexibility. Additional research is needed to confirm these early findings.
Early human research reports benefits of glucosamine in the treatment of joint pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis. In other research, glucosamine did not exert anti-rheumatic effects, but it did improve symptoms of the disease. However, this is early information, and additional research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn. The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can be complicated, and a qualified healthcare provider should follow patients with this disease.