A landmark research study has recently been completed that tested a natural remedy for osteoarthritis -- the most common form of arthritis. It was published in January 2001 in the British medical journal “The Lancet” (2). Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes a breakdown of the cartilage in the joints.
Cartilage is the tough, elastic connective tissue that coats the ends of the bones inside the joints. When cartilage deteriorates, the bones can begin to grind together, causing pain and limitations in movement and flexibility. Up until now,anti-inflammatory drugs have been the most common treatment for arthritis symptoms, but they can have major side effects and may even worsen the condition (1).
Sulfur-containing compounds such as glucosamine sulfate and MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane), hold great promise to benefit people with joint-cartilage problems. Sulfur is particularly concentrated in the nails, skin, and connective tissue of the joints. In one study of MSM in 1998, Univ. of California School of
Medicine professor Ronald Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., followed 16 patients with degenerative arthritis or joint disease. The patients who took MSM daily for six weeks reported an 80 percent reduction in pain.
The most recent arthritis breakthrough study, published in January 2001 in “The Lancet”, researched the long term use of glucosamine sulphate as a natural arthritis treatment. Glucosamine is licensed in parts of Europe as a drug, but it is widely available in the UK and USA as a nutritional supplement.
Researcher Jean Yves Reginster of Belgium and his colleagues discovered that glucosamine sulphate not only improves the uncomfortable symptoms of arthritis, but can protect and benefit the actual structure of the joints as well. Glucosamine is a natural substance found in cartilage, that tends to be lost as people age. Glucosamine supplements are derived from chitin, a substance found in the shells of shrimp, lobsters, and crabs.
In the trial, 212 patients with knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned 1500 mg. of glucosamine sulphate or placebo once daily for 3 years. Researchers measured the joint space width in the knee joint at the beginning of the study and again after 1 and 3 years. The patients on placebo had a progressive joint-space narrowing, whereas there was no joint-space loss in the patients on glucosamine sulphate. Symptoms worsened slightly in the patients on placebo, while there was significant betterment, reduced pain, and increased function after treatment with glucosamine.
The researchers wrote that the long-term positive results of glucosamine for arthritis could be due to the effects it has on cartilage metabolism, including stimulation of constructive growth activities and the prevention of tissue breakdown.
1.Lancet 1985 “Acetabular bone destruction related to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs”.
2.Lancet 2001 “Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial”.