The Role of Glucosamine and Chondroitin in Joint Health: A Scientific Overview

Glucosamine and chondroitin are compounds often found in over-the-counter (OTC) supplements targeted at improving joint health. They are particularly popular for their purported benefits in osteoarthritis (OA) management.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are natural substances found in and around the cells of cartilage. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that plays a role in cartilage formation and repair, while chondroitin sulfate is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water. Together, they are often used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, especially of the knee.

A study on the human pharmacokinetics of oral ingestion of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, taken separately or in combination, revealed that while the circulating levels of chondroitin sulfate in human plasma are about 20 microg/ml, ingestion does not alter the endogenous concentration or disaccharide composition of chondroitin sulfate. This suggests that pain relief following ingestion of chondroitin sulfate does not depend on simultaneous or prior intake of glucosamine (Jackson et al., 2010).

Studies have shown mixed results regarding the effectiveness of glucosamine and chondroitin in treating osteoarthritis. For instance, a research evaluating the efficacy and safety of a combination of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate for knee and hip osteoarthritis found that this combination is an effective agent that controls OA symptoms and has a good safety level (Karateev et al., 2020). However, other studies, such as the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), suggested that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination did not reduce pain effectively in the overall group of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (Clegg et al., 2006).

Generally, glucosamine and chondroitin are considered safe for most people. However, like any supplement, they can have side effects. These are generally mild and may include stomach upset, constipation, diarrhea, and headaches.

Recent research has focused on different sources and combinations of glucosamine and chondroitin. For example, a study on the pharmacokinetic comparison of chitosan-derived and biofermentation-derived glucosamine as nutritional supplementation revealed that biofermentation-derived glucosamine could be a sustainable source of raw materials for glucosamine supplement (Kang et al., 2022).

While glucosamine and chondroitin are popular for their potential benefits in joint health, particularly in osteoarthritis management, their effectiveness can vary. Studies show mixed results, with some indicating benefits in symptom control and others suggesting limited efficacy. The choice to use these supplements should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals, considering the individual’s specific health needs and the latest scientific evidence.


Jackson, C. G., Plaas, A., Sandy, J., Hua, C., Kim-Rolands, S., Barnhill, J., … & Clegg, D. (2010). The human pharmacokinetics of oral ingestion of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate taken separately or in combination. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 18(3), 297-302. DOI: 10.1016/j.joca.2009.10.013

Karateev, A., Barysheva, Y. V., Belokon’, Y. V., Bolshakova, T., Grabovetskaya, Y. Y., Dolzhenkova, E., … & Chernov, A. (2020). Evaluation of the efficacy and safety of a combination of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate for knee and hip osteoarthritis in real clinical practice. Modern Rheumatology Journal, 14, 82-90. DOI: 10.14412/1996-7012-2020-4-82-90

Clegg, D., Reda, D., Harris, C., Klein, M., O’dell, J., Hooper, M., … & Williams, H. J. (2006). Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis. The New England Journal of Medicine, 354(8), 795-808. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMOA052771

Kang, H., Kim, S. J., Yeo, E.-j., Hong, J., Rajgopal, A., Hu, C., … & Park, E. (2022). Pharmacokinetic Comparison of Chitosan-Derived and Biofermentation-Derived Glucosamine in Nutritional Supplement for Bone Health. Nutrients, 14. DOI: 10.3390/nu14153213

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