Arthritis Home > Does Glucosamine Work?

Glucosamine supplements are extremely popular, but does glucosamine work for arthritis as well as people think? While early studies clearly showed that the supplement was beneficial for treating arthritis, later studies often showed little or no benefit. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of glucosamine for the treatment of arthritis -- or any other condition.

What Is Glucosamine Used For?

Glucosamine is a popular dietary supplement. It is claimed to be beneficial for the following conditions:

Studies on the Effectiveness of Glucosamine

Numerous early studies clearly showed that glucosamine was useful for treating arthritis. The scientific evidence in favor of this product was so convincing that many healthcare providers (even those skeptical about dietary supplements and alternative medicines) began recommending glucosamine wholeheartedly. For a time, it seemed that glucosamine had made the jump from alternative medicine into the world of conventional medicine.
However, later studies often showed little or no benefit for glucosamine use. It is not yet clear exactly why these discrepancies have occurred. The early, positive studies mostly used a specific, patented brand of glucosamine sulfate, and the studies were often funded by the maker of the supplement. The later, less positive studies were generally not funded by that manufacturer. This has led to much speculation that the early studies were somehow flawed.
However, there is another, perhaps equally plausible explanation. Some researchers believe that only glucosamine sulfate is effective for arthritis. Therefore, studies of other commonly used types of glucosamine (such as glucosamine hydrochloride) might not show positive results. However, there is no strong evidence that this is actually the case.
Currently, it is simply not clear if glucosamine really works for arthritis. More research is necessary to determine the cause of the mixed results of studies.
There is preliminary evidence that glucosamine might be effective for arthritis of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), although more research is necessary to confirm these findings. There is not enough evidence to recommend the use of glucosamine for treating glaucoma or for promoting weight loss.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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