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Chondroitin Sulfate

Review of Chondroitin Sulfate

What is Chondroitin Sulfate?

Chondroitin is an important structural component of cartilage.  It is an essential component of connective tissue and helps to provide elasticity and other functions.  Like Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulfate plays a major role in the formation of cartilage.  Chondroitin is regularly used by athletes –  normally in conjunction with glucosamine – to reduce the cause of pain associated with injury, to speed the recovery rate from injury, and to reduce the risk of getting injured.

Who Should Consider Taking Chondroitin Sulfate supplements?

Anyone, who trains regularly, in either high impact repetitive sports (like running, rugby, football etc.), trains with heavy weights, and wants to reduce the risk of getting injured or speed the rate of recovery from an existing injury will benefit from chondroitin.

Summary of Chondroitin Sulfate's Phyiological Effects:

  • Increases water storage within cartilage
  • Protects joints from damage caused by impact injuries
  • Provides building blocks for repair and growth of new cartilage
  • Slows down the breakdown of cartilage
  • Reduces the pain associated with joint injuries
  • Promotes the growth of new cartilage

Chondroitin Sulfate Research

Chondroitin works in three ways to protect and improve the functioning of cartilage: 1) It has a very strong affinity with water and will draw in additional water into the cartilage. The extra water within the cartilage improves the protective capacity of the cartilage by making it more resistant to the pressure placed on joints during impact; 2) It provides building blocks for repair and maintenance of cartilage (Tiraloche et al., 2005), and; 3) Chondroitin inhibits certain enzymes that would otherwise lead to the breakdown of cartilage tissue (Michel et al., 2005).

Chondroitin supplementation has been demonstrated to reduce the amount of pain associated with injury as well as to slow the progression of cartilage loss (Ubelhart et al., 1998; Deal and Moskowiwitz, 1999).  Chondroitin doesn’t even have to be taken on a regular basis to have a positive effect (Uebelhart et al., 2004).  In this research, consuming chondroitin twice a day (800mg per day) for 2, 3 month periods, during a year, reduced cartilage loss and symptoms of pain at the end of the year.  This supports the idea that chondroitin has a prolonged effect even after you stop taking it.

Is Chondroitin Sulfate effective?

Chondroitin is highly effective at reducing the pain associated with arthritis and and joint injuries as well as reducing the progression of cartilage loss.  It can also stimulate the growth of new cartilage.

How to take Chondroitin Sulfate?

To reduce the risk of injury you should aim to take approximately 400mg per day.  To increase the rate of recovery from injury aim for about 800mg per day.  For treatment of osteoarthritus the recommended dose is 800mg per day (Simanek et al., 2005). Consider taking chondroitin for two months, followed by a two month gap.  Research suggests that chondroitin is more effective when combined with glucosamine (Leffler et al., 2003).

Chondroitin References

Deal, C. L. and Moskowitz, R. W. (1999) Neutraceuticals as therapeutic agents in osteoarthritis, chondroitin sulfate, and collagen hydrolysate. Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America. 25, 379-395. 

Leffler, C. T., Philippi, A. F., Leffler, S. G., Mosure, J. C. and Kim, P. D. (1999) Glucosamine, chondroitin, and manganese ascorbate for degenerative joint disease of the knee or low back: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Mil Med. 164 (2), 85-91. 

Michel, B. A., Stucki, G., Frey, D., De Vathaire, F., Vignon, E., Bruehlmann, P., Ubelhart, D. (2005) Chondroitins 4 and 6 sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomised, controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 52, 779-786. 

Simanek, V., Kren, V., Ulrichova, J. and Gallo, J. (2005) The efficiacy of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis: are these saccharides drugs or nutraceuticals? Biomed. Papers. 149 (1), 51-56. 

Tiraloche, G., Girard, C., Chouinard, L., Sampalis, J., Moquin, L., Ionescu, M., Reiner, A., Poole, A. R. and Laverty, S. (2005) Effect of oral glucosamine on cartilage degradation in a rabbit model of osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 52, 1118-1128. 

Ubelhart, D., Malaise, M., Marcolongo, R., DeVathaire, F. Piperno, M., Mailleux, E., Fioravanti, A., Matoso, L. and Vignon, E. (2004) Intermittent treatment of knee osteoarthritis with oral chondroitin sulfate: a one-year, randomised, double-blind, multicentre study versus placebo. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 269-276. 

Ubelhart, D., Thonar, E. J., Delmas, P. D., Chantraine, A. and Vignon, E. (1998) Effects of oral chondroitin sulfate on the progression of knee osteoarthritis: a pilot study. Osteoarthritus and Cartilage. 6, S39-S46.