The nutritional supplement glucosamine can ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis and may even modify the course of the disease.
This was the finding of a three year randomised placebo controlled European trial, involving 212 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either 1500 mg of oral glucosamine sulphate or placebo, once daily, for three years. Benefit was assessed by weightbearing X-rays of each knee, taken after one year and at the end of the study. All patients in the placebo group showed joint deterioration whereas those taking glucosamine did not. Placebo patients also reported a worsening of symptoms while those taking the supplement reported improvement (Lancet, 2001; 357: 251-6).
This study is something of a breakthrough for pundits of nutritional supplements. An accompanying commentary suggests that glucosamine could represent a new era not just in the treatment of osteoarthritis, but also when doctors must begin to "accommodate the possibility that many nutritional products may have valuable therapeutic effects" (Lancet, 2001; 357: 247).