Supplements may help relieve achy joints

STAY FIT

Stay Fit

April 21, 2006|By MARY BETH REGAN | MARY BETH REGAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I run several miles a few times each week, and I work out with weights. I've had a little trouble with achy joints lately. A friend of mine takes glucosamine and suggested I take it as well. Have you ever heard of it?

The dietary supplement glucosamine has been grabbing headlines in the news lately, in part because it's so popular. Many runners and athletes take glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate because they say it helps their joints.

The National Arthritis Foundation urges members to ask their doctors about the dietary supplements because the group has interpreted recent studies to show them to be helpful in cases of moderate- to severe pain.

But the dietary supplements are hardly a slam-dunk. Experts don't agree on results of a recent federal study that looked at the effectiveness of the two supplements.

In February, a study of the two drugs -- the largest ever undertaken -- was reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. The lowdown: Researchers found no overall effect in all patients. However, there appeared to be some effect in patients with severe pain.

One major sticking point was that the study used glucosamine hydrochloride. Many nutritional experts and holistic pharmacists say people should take glucosamine sulfate.

To make sense of the debate, I checked with Brian Sanderoff, owner of Your Prescription For Health in Owings Mills. Sanderoff, a holistic pharmacist who has taught courses on herbalism and alternative medicine at the University of Maryland, recently opened a 10,000-square-foot Wellness Center.

"We really saw the results of this study as good news," Sanderoff says. "What it's saying is that if you've got moderate or severe pain this is going to help."

Sanderoff and his partner, Raymond Hinish, have a weekly radio show on WCBM and work with individual clients. Sanderoff has been working with patients since 1984. From his practice, he says he has seen great improvements in people taking glucosamine and chondroitin together.

"You need them both to work together," he said.

For runners, if there are no other issues, he suggests glucosamine and chondroitin as well as fish oil for Omega-3 fats. These supplements will help keeps the joints healthy, he says, adding: "This combination together is very powerful, especially for the knees."

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