Loss of chondroitin from the cartilage is a major cause of osteoarthritis.
Where do you get chrondroitin?
There are no significant dietary sources of chondroitin, so you have no choice but to get it from a supplement. Supplements are made from natural sources such as shark or beef cartilage or by synthetic means.
Chondroitin helps keep cartilage healthy by absorbing fluid (particularly water) into it and providing the building blocks to produce new cartilage.
It has anti-inflammatory actions, controls the formation of new cartilage and improves production of synovial fluid (the ‘oil’ that lubricates joints).
Many clinical trials found it effective in reducing pain, improving function and mobility and reducing NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen) and analgesic consumption.
Too little chrondroitin
Lack of chondroitin contributes to joint pain and the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Deficiency may also be a factor in dry-eye syndrome, psoriasis and coronary artery disease, but it is too early to make any firm conclusions on this.
Too much chrondroitin
Chondroitin is safe and relatively free from side effects when taken at recommended doses. Some people get mild stomach upset (diarrhoea, constipation).
Other adverse effects have been reported rarely or are theoretically possible. These include headache, rash, hair loss, chest pain, raised blood pressure, and breathing difficulties.
Supplements are the only way to get more chondroitin into your body. The recommended dose is 400mg taken three times a day, or 600mg twice a day.
For treating osteoarthritis and joint pain, most studies suggest it needs to be taken for at least several weeks and perhaps as long as two to four months to show its effectiveness if taken alone. Combine it with glucosamine and this shortens the time to a maximum of two or three months.
Because chondroitin is chemically similar to heparin (an anticoagulant or blood thinner), it is theoretically possible for it to increase the effects of such medication. Hence, do not take chondroitin if you are on blood-thinning medication without discussing it with your doctor first.
Some trials found that the benefits of taking chondroitin meant subjects take fewer analgesics, and so minimise any side effects due to these drugs. It is essential to discuss this with your doctor before changing prescribed therapy.
Chondroitin is usually combined with glucosamine, which makes it more effective and you’ll see any benefits sooner.
One researcher in the US found that chondroitin unexpectedly might be involved in making existing prostate cancer worse. New research is required, but it is a warning that should not be ignored. Do not take chondroitin if you have any reason to suspect or know of prostate problems. Speak to your doctor.