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Will taking glucosamine and chondroitin supplements help my aching knees?

Achy knees can result from mild osteoarthritis, a chronic (and common) condition where wear and tear causes the cartilage inside your joints to deteriorate.

Cartilage acts as a cushion between bones; without it, bone rubs against bone resulting in pain and stiffness.

Your body naturally produces glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to build and maintain cartilage. This has led some people to take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements in hope of boosting their body's natural arthritis defense.

Does it work?

Some studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements "might lessen pain in 30 to 50 percent of patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis," says James McKoy, M.D., a rheumatologist at the Kaiser Permanente Clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

However, the results are less promising for people with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The bottom line:

"I believe it is worthwhile to take both high-quality glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate," says Dr. McKoy. If you decide to give it a try, keep in mind that there are no manufacturing regulations, so quality and effectiveness can vary.

"Look for a product with the word 'standardized' on the label, and buy from a reputable source," advises Dr. McKoy. "If you experience no relief after four to six weeks, stop spending your money on it."

This Live Right Live Well Q&A was written by journalist Jennifer Viegas.


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Health - Oh, My Aching Knees!