Chondroitin is derived from the cartilage of various animals and is claimed to have several health benefits. In most cases, people use it medicinally to treat osteoarthritis. Chondroitin appears to work by decreasing inflammation, reducing the production of enzymes that damage cartilage, and increasing production of fluid in the joints. Although this is a "natural" product, it may cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and hair loss.
What Is Chondroitin?Chondroitin is a dietary supplement most often used to treat osteoarthritis, although it is also claimed to be beneficial for a few other uses. It is derived from the cartilage of various animals, including cows and sharks. Chondroitin is often used in combination with glucosamine, another dietary supplement. The term "chondroitin" almost always refers to chondroitin sulfate.
(Click Benefits of Chondroitin for more information on what the supplement is used for.)
How Does It Work?Chondroitin is a molecule naturally found in the human body (as well as in many animals). It is part of a group of large molecules known as glycosaminoglycans. Researchers believe that chondroitin might work for arthritis in several ways, such as:
- Inhibiting a cartilage-damaging enzyme known as leukocyte elastase
- Decreasing inflammation (by changing the way certain white blood cells respond to various chemical signals)
- Increasing the production of hyaluronic acid, a component of synovial fluid (the lubricating fluid in joints) and of cartilage.
Effectiveness of Chondroitin
Initial research for this supplement suggested that it might be an effective arthritis treatment. However, later research has shed some doubt on the effectiveness of chondroitin. At this point, it is not entirely clear if this product really does work for treating arthritis.
(Click Does Chondroitin Work? for more information.)