Glucosamine is made up of glucose, the sugar that the body burns for fuel, and an amino
acid called glutamine. It is an important part of the mucopolysacharides, which provide
structure to the bone, cartilage, skin, nails, hair, and other body tissues. Glucosamine
is a major building block of the water-loving proteoglycans. Specifically, it is needed to
make the glycosaminglycans (GAG), proteins that bind water in the cartilage matrix.
Besides providing raw material for the synthesis of proteoglycans and GAGs, glucosamine
acts as a stimulant to the cells that produce these products, the chondrocytes. In fact,
glucosamine has been found to be the key factor in determining how many proteoglycans are
produced by the chondrocytes. If there is a lot of glucosamine present, then a lot of
proteoglycans will be produced, and lot of water will be held in its proper place.
Glucosamine has also been shown to spur the chondrocytes to produce more collagen, and it
also normalises cartilage metabolism, which helps to keep the cartilage from breaking
Because glucosamine starts the production of these key elements of the cartilage matrix,
and then protects them, it can actually help the body to repair damaged or eroded
cartilage. In other words, glucosamine strengthens the bodys natural repair
Where glucosamine helps to form the proteoglycans that sit within the spaces in the
cartilage netting, chondroitin sulphates act like liquid magnets.
Chondroitin is a long chain of repeating sugars, and as such helps to attract fluid into
the proteoglycan molecules, which is important for two reasons:
The fluid acts as a spongy shock absorber.
The fluid sweeps nutrients into the cartilage. Articular cartilage has no blood supply, so
all of its nourishment and lubrication comes from the liquid the ebbs and flows as
pressure to the joint is applied and released. Without this fluid, cartilage would become
malnourished, drier, thinner, and more fragile.
Chondroitins are found in most animal tissues, especially in the gristle
around the joints. Some of the chondroitins we eat are absorbed into the body intact and
incorporated into various tissues, including articular cartilage.
Besides drawing in precious fluid, chondroitin:
Protects existing cartilage from premature breakdown by inhibiting the action of certain
cartilage destroying enzymes.
Interferes with other enzymes that attempt to starve cartilage by cutting off
the transport of nutrients.
Stimulates the production of proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, and collagen, the
cartilage matrix molecules that serve as building blocks for healthy new cartilage.
Works synergistically with glucosamine.
Supplemental chondroitin sulphates work very much like the naturally occurring
chondroitins in the cartilage, thus protecting the old cartilage from premature breakdown
and stimulating the synthesis of new cartilage.
In osteoarthritis, we have a two-fold problem:
The body does not produce enough proteoglycans and collagen, the building blocks needed to
keep the cartilage healthy.
At the same time the cartilage-chewing enzymes are hard at work, destroying
the working cartilage.
Working together synergistically, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphates stimulate the
synthesis of new cartilage, while simultaneously keeping the cartilage-busting enzymes
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