|| chondroitin sulfate, sodium chondroitin
Chondroitin is a simple molecule that occurs naturally in the body. It is a
major component of cartilage -- the tough, connective tissue that cushions the
joints. Chondroitin helps to keep cartilage resilient by absorbing fluid
(particularly water) into the connective tissue. It is also believed to block
enzymes that break down cartilage and it provides the building blocks needed for
cartilage to repair itself.
Based on clinical evidence, chondroitin may be an effective treatment for
osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a type of arthritis caused by the inflammation,
breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage. Chondroitin supplements have been
shown to decrease the pain of OA and slow the progression of the disease. Unlike
current medical treatments for arthritis, such as ibuprofen and other NSAIDs
(nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), chondroitin causes virtually no side
effects. Also, many NSAIDs and pain relievers treat the symptoms of OA but do
not slow the progression of the disease, and may cause serious side effects such
as stomach bleeding from ulcers or other causes. Chondroitin is often taken with
glucosamine, another supplement thought to be effective in treating
Results from several well-designed scientific trials indicate that
chondroitin supplements may be an effective treatment for OA -- particularly OA
of the knee or hip. In general, findings from these studies suggest that
- Significantly reduces OA pain
- Improves functional status of people with hip or knee OA
- Reduces joint swelling and stiffness
- Provides relief from OA symptoms for up to 3 months after treatment is
Although some improvement may be experienced sooner, the full effectiveness
of chondroitin generally begins after 2 to 4 months of use. Chondroitin may also
be used along with NSAIDs in the treatment of OA.
Perhaps the most definitive results regarding the effectiveness of
chondroitin for OA will be achieved with the ongoing Glucosamine/Chondroitin
Arthritis Intervention Trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
This large-scale study involving over 1600 people is investigating the effects
of chondroitin alone, glucosamine alone, or a combination of both for the
treatment of knee OA. Results are expected in 2005.
Other conditions for which chondroitin has been suggested include preterm
labor, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and osteoporosis. For all of these
conditions, it is much too early to tell if chondroitin is helpful or harmful.
The role of chondroitin in each of these conditions is under various stages of
The use of chondroitin as a therapy for OA (and other conditions) requires
dietary supplements because the precise amount of chondroitin in foods is
unknown. Meats with visible connective tissue may be sources of chondroitin, but
the exact quantity of chondroitin present in such foods is
|Dosage and Administration|
Chondroitin is commonly sold as chondroitin sulfate in capsule or tablet
form. It is also available in combination with various forms of glucosamine and
sometimes manganese as well. (Manganese is a trace element necessary for normal
bone health. While the total amount of manganese from foods and/or supplements
should not exceed 11 mg/day, several combination supplements for arthritis
[containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and manganese] contain more than that.
Read labels carefullly.)
Chondroitin is not currently recommended for children. Because it is
primarily used for treatment of osteoarthritis (a condition that affects older
people), it is generally not used in children and its safety for children has
not been studied.
400 mg twice a day or 800 mg once a day taken orally.
Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications,
dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a
knowledgeable healthcare provider.
As with all supplements, the purity and concentration of chondroitin may vary
from one product to another. Researchers at an independent laboratory that tests
the purity of health, wellness, and nutrition products, discovered that more
than half of the preparations of chondroitin, and combination products of
glucosamine and chondroitin tested contained levels of chondroitin that were
lower than what the label stated. As mentioned above, this same laboratory also
detected levels of manganese in some chondroitin preparations that exceeded
Chondroitin is safe and relatively free of side effects when used at the
recommended daily dosage at least for short periods of time. Unfortunately, few
studies have investigated the safety and effectiveness of chondroitin when used
for long periods of time. Until the long-term use of chondroitin is deemed safe,
it is best to consult a healthcare practitioner before taking chondroitin
Mild side effects of chondroitin reported in recent studies include diarrhea,
constipation, and abdominal pain. There have been rare reports of swelling and
accumulation of fluid in the eyelids and lower limbs, irregular heartbeats, and
alopecia (hair loss) after taking the supplement.
|Pregnancy and Breastfeeding|
Since the safety of chondroitin has not been widely studied, pregnant and
breastfeeding women should refrain from using this supplement until more
scientific evidence becomes available.
|Interactions and Depletions|
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you
should not use chondroitin without first talking to your healthcare
Chondroitin and heparin, a drug used to thin the blood, are similar in
chemical composition. For this reason, some researchers speculate that people
may suffer bleeding complications from chondroitin, particularly when it is used
in combination with other blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin or
Preliminary animal studies also suggest that chondroitin sulfate may reduce
the kidney toxicity associated with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug used for
cancer treatment. Further studies are needed to determine whether chondroitin
has the same effect in people taking cisplatin.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Taking chondroitin supplements may result in a decreased need for NSAIDs such
as ibuprofen to relieve the pain and swelling associated with OA. Because NSAIDs
and aspirin can cause serious side effects, such as stomach bleeding and ulcers,
chondroitin may be a useful adjunct or even alternative. Be sure to consult your
healthcare provider before adding chondroitin to your healthcare regimen.
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|Review Date: June 2001|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Ruth DeBusk, RD, PhD, Editor,
Nutrition in Complementary Care, Tallahassee, FL; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; R. Lynn Shumake, PD,
Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary &
Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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