Chondroitin

Chondroitin is a molecule that occurs naturally in the body. It is a major component of cartilage, the tough, connective tissue that cushions the joints. Commercial chondroitin comes from natural sources, such as shark and bovine cartilage, or synthetic production. Chondroitin helps keep cartilage healthy by absorbing fluid (particularly water) into the connective tissue. It may also block enzymes that break down cartilage, and it provides the building blocks for the body to produce new cartilage.

A number of scientific studies suggest that chondroitin may be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a type of arthritis characterized by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage, either due to injury or to normal wear and tear. It commonly occurs as people age. In some studies, chondroitin supplements have decreased the pain of OA. Not all studies are positive, though, and several have not shown any beneficial effect from taking chondroitin. It is not clear why the studies have different findings, and experts disagree on whether chondroitin is helpful in treating OA.

In the past, some researchers thought chondroitin may actually slow progression of the disease, unlike other current medical treatments for OA. (Many people take either acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, for OA pain). So far studies have not shown conclusively that chondroitin helps repair or grow new cartilage, or stops cartilage from being further damaged. Chondroitin is often taken with glucosamine, another supplement that has been studied along with chondroitin for OA. Like chondroitin, glucosamine also has conflicting results.

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Review Date: 6/22/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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