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Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, 
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

 

We recommend these supplements (often they can be found in the same pill) for athletes who are involved in sports that involves pounding and stress on the joints. It can be found in numerous places on the internet or at your local drugstore as it is becoming a quite popular for arthritis sufferers as well.

Stiff, aching joints are believed by many people to be an inevitable part of aging, yet many factors contribute to minor joint aches and pains, including genetics, weight, age and sports-related activities. The top three structural components necessary for joint support in one state-of-the-art supplement: Glucosamine Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate and Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). Each of these dynamic ingredients plays a role in the complex connective tissue matrix that is responsible for cushioning joints and bones.

Glucosamine is a chemical compound of Glucose and an Amine molecule (a nitrogen atom with two hydrogen atoms) that supports the maintenance of cartilage and the connective tissues in the body. Glucosamine is among the most popular joint supplements – and at 1500mg per day appears to be quite safe and effective – but approximately 4-8 eight weeks may be necessary before the joint benefits of glucosamine become evident.  Glucosamine sulfate is an amino acid derivative of glucose and plays an important role in the formation of connective tissue. Connective tissue is the "cement" that holds the skeleton together and is extremely important for joint maintenance. Cartilage cushions human joints, and when it wears down over time and the body's ability to replace it slows or ceases, the result is osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. This painful and potentially disabling condition often goes along with aging. Glucosamine hydrochloride supports the body's immune system in maintaining cartilage health. Cartilage loss is caused by enzymatic degradation.

For active athletes, the slightest injury can result in developing "secondary" osteoarthritis. Athletes can lose functional capability in one or more joints very quickly, and of course a lifetime of debilitating pain. To perform at peak level, your joints must be in top condition. Given the availability of glucosamine without prescription, the smart athlete is already taking a glucosamine formula as a preventive measure.

Chondroitin sulfate is another natural substance found in the body. It prevents other body enzymes from degrading the building blocks of joint cartilage. The type sold in health-food stores and pharmacies is derived from animal products.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are natural substances found in and around the cells of cartilage. Researchers believe these substances may help in the repair and maintenance of cartilage. In addition, researchers believe that glucosamine inhibits inflammation and stimulates cartilage cell growth, while chondroitin sulfate provides cartilage with strength and resilience. Currently, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are classified as dietary supplements.

Glucosamine/ Chondroitin

  • Dietary supplements for the treatment of osteoarthritis

  • Scientific studies support pain relief in 60% of people with knee arthritis

  • Building blocks or “vitamins” for cartilage

  • Derived from shellfish shells and cow cartilage

  • No FDA standardization – may contain less product than advertised/ may contain other ingredients not advertised

  • Recommended Daily Dose:
    - 1500 to 2500 mg Glucosamine Sulfate
    - 1200 mg Chondoitin Sulfate

Background:

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements are used to slow the progression of osteoarthritis — the deterioration of cartilage between joint bones — and reduce associated pain. They are both naturally occurring molecules in the body. Glucosamine is thought to promote the formation and repair of cartilage. Chondroitin is believed to promote water retention and elasticity in cartilage and inhibit enzymes that break down cartilage.

Glucosamine is sold in many forms, including glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl), and N-acetylglucosamine (NAG), and may also contain a potassium chloride or sodium chloride salt. However, there appears to be no conclusive evidence that one form is better than another. Chondroitin is typically sold as chondroitin sulfate.


Testing & Results:

Currently, glucosamine and chondroitin are not considered drugs in the U.S. and are not required to be tested for quality by any governmental or other agency prior to sale. 

In December 1999 and January 2000 a consumer group purchased a total of 25 brands of glucosamine, chondroitin and combined glucosamine/chondroitin products. These products were then tested to determine whether they possessed the labeled amounts of the claimed glucosamine and/or chondroitin ingredients.

Overall, nearly one-third of the products did not pass testing. Among glucosamine/chondroitin combination products, however, almost half (6 out of 13) did not pass — all due to low chondroitin levels. Similarly, the two chondroitin-only products tested did not pass. In contrast, all ten of the glucosamine-only products passed testing. One possible explanation for the low pass rate for chondroitin-containing products is economic — chondroitin costs manufacturers approximately four times as much as glucosamine.

[Note: On January 29, 2001, the consumer group removed one of the originally approved glucosamine/chondroitin combination products from its list of products passing this review. The product, based on information in its Supplement Facts panel, contained an amount of manganese in excess of the new Upper Tolerable Intake Level (UL) for manganese set by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine earlier in January. The UL is the highest level of chronic daily intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population. As intake increases above the UL, the risk of adverse effects may increase. For adults, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for manganese is now 2 mg per day and the UL is 11 mg per day.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

Background:

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), also known as dimethyl sulfone or DMSO2, is used as a dietary supplement primarily for treating pain associated with osteoarthritis. It has also been proposed as treatment for other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation of the bladder wall (interstitial cystitis), snoring, muscle spasm, and as an anti-cancer agent. All of these uses, including those for arthritis, however, are based on limited research and have not been well established. Many additional claims are found on MSM products, including skin-softening and nail-strengthening, but are also not well supported with research.

MSM is a compound that occurs naturally in both plants and animals, although its biological role is not known. The mechanism by which MSM may work is also not well understood, although it is known to contribute sulfur to the body which can then be used to synthesize certain amino acids (building blocks for proteins) and it can act as an antioxidant. MSM is chemically related to DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) which itself had earlier been used in many of the same ways as MSM. Unlike MSM, however, DMSO is a chemical solvent. DMSO was found to cause a range of adverse reactions and is no longer approved as a supplement — it can only be used on a limited basis under medical supervision.

Neither the U.S. government nor any other agency is responsible for routinely testing MSM supplements or other dietary supplements for their contents or quality. ConsumerLab.com, as part of its mission to independently evaluate products that affect health, wellness, and nutrition, purchased many of the leading MSM products sold in the U.S. and tested them for their quality.

Testing & Results:

In February and March 2001, a consumer group purchased 17 different MSM dietary supplements, several of which also contained other ingredients, such as glucosamine and/or chondroitin or vitamin C.

These products were tested to determine whether they contained the amounts of MSM stated on the labels. Products were also tested for DMSO contamination. Although probably not a health risk in small amounts, DMSO in products indicates poor manufacturing.

Of these 17 MSM products, two failed testing because they respectively contained only 85% and 88% of their labeled amounts of MSM. One of the products that did not pass was also found to have a small amount (0.05% by weight) of DMSO. All of the other products had less than this amount of DMSO or no detectable DMSO at all. Listed below, alphabetically by name, are the products that passed the group's independent testing of MSM supplements. Any MSM combination product that failed to pass another consumer group product review was not eligible for evaluation in the MSM Product Review.) 

Conclusion

The addition of a comprehensive joint support formula to a daily nutritional plan is a proactive way to promote healthy, mobile joint function for health-conscious individuals of all ages and lifestyles but is strongly advised for those involved in demanding gymnastics related sports

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