Fitness

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Fitness

Glucosamine - Chondroitin: Our Joints’ Allies!

by Nektaria Karakosta

Most people, especially over 60-65 years of age or those who have stressed their joints (knees, hips, wrists) due to excessive body weight or strenuous physical activity, will present changes in their joints: this is what we call “osteoarthritis”. This happens because the “lubricant” between the joint surfaces (the synovial fluid) is reduced and also the articular cartilage has been damaged. Can we protect our joints without resorting to conventional medication? Dr Athanassios Pagonas, orthopaedist, answers our questions.

 

Many studies have shown that substances found naturally in our body (glucosamine sulphate, chondroitin sulphate) lubricate our joints, regenerate the articular cartilage in a natural way and help the joints function properly. Ultimately, they gradually relieve pain and inflammation, restore mobility and protect the cartilage from damage, while promoting its repair.

 

► Glucosamine

It is a substance necessary for the production of connective tissue by the body. It is responsible for activating the production of substances necessary for the proper function of the joints, as well as for their repair. “Laboratory studies have shown that glucosamine has a mild anti-inflammatory activity. Many believe that long-term use of glucosamine –which is certainly possible, thanks to the absence of side effects– will suppress several inflammatory processes in the body and will protect from conditions such as osteoarthritis, while recent studies talk about its benefits in cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions”, explains Dr Athanassios Pagonas, orthopaedist.

 

► Chondroitin

“Chondroitin is another natural substance which helps to direct water and nutrients to the cartilage, so that it can remain spongy and healthy”, notes the expert. There are no food sources for this substance. So when the body cannot produce a sufficient amount of this substance, we have to resort to the use of dietary supplements. Chondroitin is available in chondroitin sulphate supplements, produced from bovine or shark cartilage.

 

► Use of supplements

“Who should take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements?”, we asked Dr Pagonas, according to whom the administration of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements (always in combination!) will benefit primarily those people who have early or moderate osteoarthritis (OA), for their protection.

For people with advanced osteoarthritis (cartilage destruction), the “use of chondroitin supplements can relieve pain, improve joint mobility, reduce the need for painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, and prevent or delay further joint destruction. The role of glucosamine and chondroitin is rather to delay the progress of the disease than to cure it”, notes Dr Pagonas, and elaborates: “The use of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements cannot cure osteoarthritis by itself, because all the other causes of this complex and common disease must also be inhibited. However, thanks to the absence of side effects (even after long-term use), these substances are an important weapon in the orthopaedist’s arsenal”.

Recent studies have shown that chondroitin reduces pain and improves functionality in patients with osteoarthritis of the arm, whereas an older study in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee showed that after two years of taking chondroitin sulphate, the patients showed significant reversal in articular space narrowing and drastic pain reduction.

Finally, athletes who stress their joints will benefit from regular use of glucosamine and chondroitin, thanks to the protection and delay in cartilage damage that these provide.

 

► Changes in lifestyle

Dietary supplements are helpful but not sufficient. If we wish to maintain our ability to move freely and comfortably, we must introduce or change some of our daily habits:

Maintaining the proper body weight is an important means of prevention, since excessive body weight places significant stress on the joints, particularly the knees.

Correct diet. Because joints need specific nutrients to function properly, we must pay particular attention to our diet as well.

 

 

who is who

Dr Athanassios Pagonas was born in Acharnes, Greece, in 1974. He studied medicine at the NAPOLI FEDERICO II University, from which he graduated with top grades and in 2009 he specialised in orthopaedics.

He worked as an assistant in the Surgical Clinic of the “Agia Olga” hospital, completed his rural service at the General Hospital of Amaliada and at the Health Office of Ancient Olympia. He completed his surgery specialisation training at the “Elpis” hospital and his orthopaedics specialisation training at “KAT” Hospital. Since 2005 he is the team doctor for the TAP-Acharnaikos football team and all the academies. Since 2009 he has maintained a private practice in the Acharnes area. He is also a partner of the Iatriko Athinon Hospital (Paleo Faliro clinic), of Mediterraneo Hospital and of NEON ATHINEON Hospital.

In 2006 he was awarded a scholarship to participate in a biomechanics workshop at the RIZZOLI Orthopaedics Institute of BOLOGNA where he trained in robotic surgery on the orthopaedic patient. In 2007 he was trained in upper limb clinical surgery and in microsurgery at the KAT Hospital, and in 2008 he underwent training at the Paediatric Orthopaedics Department of the same hospital. He has obtained the AO Course - Advance in Operative Fracture Management certificate.

He has participated in many Greek and international conferences and has published articles in Greek and international medical journals. He is an associate member of the Hellenic Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology, the Hellenic Society of Arthroscopy and the Hellenic Osteoporosis Foundation.

Agiou Nikolaou sq. & 14, Kapodistriou str., Acharnes, tel. +30 210 2460 023, mobile +306936923731, e-mail: nazedoctor@yahoo.gr

 

 

REFERENCES

1. Cem Gabay, Carole Medinger-Sadowski, Danielle Gascon, Frank Kolo, Axel Finckh. Symptomatic effect of chondroitin sulfate 4&6 in hand osteoarthritis the finger osteoarthritis chondroitin treatment study (FACTS). Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/art.30574

2. Kahan et al. Long-term effects of chondroitins 4 and 6 sulfate on knee osteoarthritis: The study on osteoarthritis progression prevention, a two-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2009; 60 (2): 524 DOI: 10.1002/art.24255