Despite being one of the most commonly used natural treatments for knee pain; glucosamine appears ineffectual in repairing cartilage deterioration.

Published in Arthritis and Rheumatology, a new study has found that daily consumption of a glucosamine-based drink does little to assuage knee pain, slow the rate of bone bruises, or prevent the breakdown of essential cartilage in the knee area.

A naturally occurring compound in the human body, glucosamine is crucial to strengthening cartilage and, thus, padding bones and joints. As a supplement, the substance is made primarily of mollusk shells, ostensibly to aid the body with cartilage production and general joint strength. With around 10 percent of the population incorporating supplementary glucosamine into their daily routines, it's one of the most popular supplements on the market.

The study involved 201 participants with a history of knee problems, with each undergoing a 24-week test period during which they consumed a glucosamine beverage or a placebo beverage each day. 98 participants belonged to the glucosamine test group; the remaining 103 made up the control group. The study was double-blind for optimal results. MRI scans were also utilized for a clearer picture of the benefits - if any - of glucosamine. Urine tests were also conducted, checking for reduced presence of C-telopeptides of type II collagen (CTX-II), a signifier of cartilage tissue damage.

The study ultimately found that the glucosamine group and the placebo control group reported very similar results, with the glucosamine group showing no signs of reduction in cartilage corrosion. Nor did the supplement provide pain relief or better the functions of patient's knees. Overall, 70 percent of participants experienced no change, while 18 percent experience worsened conditions. Just 10 percent felt an improvement. Further, there was no change in the levels of CTX-II detected in participants' urine. 

"Our study found no evidence that drinking glucosamine supplement reduced knee cartilage damage, relieved pain or improved function in individuals with chronic knee pain," confirmed the lead author of the study, Dr. C. Kent Kwoh of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. "We looked at multiple different ways that glucosamine might help. None of them showed any benefit." 

Interestingly, the study was funded by the Coca-Cola Company's Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness, which has previously sold orange juice with added glucosamine. For now, however, the drink has been discontinued, and it's unclear if the company will bring it back to shelves in light of these recent findings.

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