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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Chondroitin

What is chondroitin? Why do we need it?

Chondroitin is one of the major building blocks of cartilage. It consists of a series of repeating chains of molecules called glycosaminoglycans, and helps create cartilage's structure. It also holds water and nutrients, and allows other molecules to move through cartilage. It is often taken in conjunction with a similar supplement, glucosamine.

Chondroitin sulfate has been proven an effective treatment for osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis, a person's cartilage erodes, resulting in a loss of chondroitin sulfate. Supplementation with chondroitin has been shown to slow the progression of - and in some cases, reverse - osteoarthritis, while also strengthening and healing bones.

In addition to cartilage, chondroitin is also present in the lining of blood vessels and the urinary bladder. Chondroitin helps to prevent abnormal movement of blood or urine between barriers, and to prevent excess blood clotting. Preliminary research also suggests that chondroitin sulfate may lower blood cholesterol levels and can prevent atherosclerosis in both humans and animals.

How much chondroitin should I take?

The amount of chondroitin to be taken depends on the condition being treated. For atherosclerosis, some researchers have used very high amounts (up to 5 grams, taken twice per day with meals), then reducing the amount over time to 500 milligrams three times per day. For osteoarthritis, many practitioners recommend 400 milligrams of chondroitin sulfate taken three times per day. Oral chondroitin sulfate is absorbed better when it is dissolved in water prior to consumption.

What forms of chondroitin are available?

Chondroitin is produced naturally in the body. The most widely used form of chondroitin supplement is chondroitin sulfate. It is available as a tablet, capsule or powder, and should be dissolved in water before use.

What can happen if I take too much chondroitin? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Some studies have reported that large doses (more than 10 grams per day) may cause nausea in certain individuals. No other adverse effects have been reported. Anecdotal research suggests that men with prostate cancer should not take chondroitin supplements, but this suggestion has not been proven definitively.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with chondroitin. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking chondroitin or any other dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

References

  • Bucsi L, Poo Y. Efficacy and tolerability of oral chondroitin sulfate as a symptomatic slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis (SYSADOA) in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 1998;6(Supplement A):31-6.
  • Leeb BF, Schweitzer H, Montag K, Smolen JS. A meta-analysis of chondroitin sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol 2000;27:205-11.
  • McAlindon TE, LaValley MP, Gulin JP, Felson DT. Glucosamine and chondroitin for treatment of OA. A systematic quality assessment and meta-analysis. JAMA 2000;283:1469-75.
  • Morreale P, Manopulo P, Galati M, et al. Comparison of the anti-inflammatory efficacy of chondroitin sulfate and diclofenac sodium in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol 1996;23:1385-91.
  • Ronca F, Palmieri L, Panicucci P, Ronca G. Anti-inflammatory activity of chondroitin sulfate. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 1998;6(Supplement A):14-21.

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