Dietary Supplements in the Joint Health Space

When it comes to selecting dietary supplements these days, it seems like there is a supplement available for almost anything, including arthritis! So why don’t we take a deep dive into the some of the supplements that have gained a lot of traction in the joint health space and see if there’s any evidence.


Proposed mode of action: Glucosamine is a naturally occurring sugar found in the extracellular matrix of the connective tissue in cartilage. Some studies suggest it has been shown to help with the synthesis of new cartilage and may reverse the effects of interleukin-1 (IL-1), a damaging protein known to cause joint inflammation and degeneration. Glucosamine supplements come in two forms – glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride. It is usually obtained from the shells of shell fish

Claims include:

  • Support bone strength
  • Support connective tissue production
  • Relieve symptoms of mild arthritis and mild osteoarthritis
  • relieve mild joint aches and pains.
  • relieve mild joint stiffness
  • support joint mobility


High quality studies have shown limited to no evidence that it is effective for the treatment of Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

  • It’s unclear whether glucosamine helps with osteoarthritis knee pain or whether either supplement reduce osteoarthritis pain in other joints.
  • A 2018 review of previous research revealed statistically significant results amongst people who were taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for their knee or hip osteoarthritis and showed small improvements on a pain scale, this does not mean the improvements in pain were notable.
  • Research results suggest that chondroitin is not effective for pain from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip.
  • The use of glucosamine is not recommended for the treatment of osteoarthritis.


  • Studies have found that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may interact with the anticoagulant, warfarin.
  • Overall, studies have not shown any other serious side effects.


Proposed mode of action: Chondroitin is also a natural substance found in the joint cartilage and synovial tissue. Chondroitin is said to helps to draw water and nutrients into the cartilage to keep it lubricated, spongy and healthy. Chondroitin is available as chondroitin sulfate supplements, which are made from bovine (cow) or shark cartilage.

Claims include:

  • It’s able to help support the maintenance of healthy, flexible joint tissue
  • Promotes joint mobility and comfort.
  • Prevents cartilage breakdown


  • Higher quality, independent studies suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin are no better than placebos at reducing pain or slowing the impacts of OA.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin remain safe for most people, but many doctors do not recommend these supplements as a way of managing arthritis due to lack of evidence.

In case you are thinking about trying a dietary supplement, here are some tips and things to be aware of so you can be an informed consumer

Dietary supplements can be beneficial to your health, especially if you have nutritional deficiencies or the diet is lacking in certain nutrients, but they can also come with health risks. If you are not able to eat certain foods that contain important nutrients, you may need to take a supplement but they shouldn’t replace the foods in your diet.

So, it’s very important that you talk with a health care professional to help you decide if a supplement is right for you.

  • Always be critical of the claims & benefits on the label – If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
  • Always check the ingredients, allergens and excipients, if you are not sure about anything on the label ask your pharmacist.
  • Check the warnings/contraindications and consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions or currently take any medication.
  • Read the storage instructions and check the expiry date.
  • Take only as described on the label and be careful of the dosage. Some supplements can have side effects or be harmful in high amounts. Taking higher doses does not mean you will get a better effect.
  • Be careful of mixing or combining multiple supplements, especially if you are currently taking any medication
  • Do not assume that the term “natural” to describe a product ensures that it is safe.

If you intend to take glucosamine or chondroitin supplements, please consult your primary health care providers or pharmacist before. They can do a better job caring for you if they know what dietary supplements you use and can make sure you take them safely.

Liu, X., Machado, G. C., Eyles, J. P., Ravi, V., & Hunter, D. J. (2018). Dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine, 52(3), 167–175.

Mary Zagotsis
Health Educator
Arthritis NSW

July 20223