Football players who take glucosamine are protecting their joints. Japanese researchers gave supplements containing glucosamine to 21 students who did two hours of soccer training five days a week, and found that this protected the students’ cartilage.
Glucosamine is an amino sugar. The body synthesises it itself, and uses it as a building block for cartilage and synovial fluid. Taking glucosamine supplements – made from the shells of crabs and shrimps – aids the recovery of damaged joints, studies suggest. The effect is mild.
Whether supplementation is of benefit to people with arthritis is a subject of debate, but more people agree that athletes can protect their joints in this way.
Soccer is of course a healthy activity, but it is not good for the joints. The researchers wanted to know whether glucosamine supplementation could protect soccer players’ joints. So they gave the students 1.5 or 3 g glucosamine every day for 3 months, and then examined their urine for indicators of cartilage breakdown and build up.
A marker for cartilage breakdown is the C-terminal telopeptide of type II collagen [CTX-II]. This is released when collagenases break down type II collagen. Cartilage consists for 90-95 percent of type II collagen.
When the soccer players took glucosamine, the concentration of the catabolic marker CTX-II decreased. Glucosamine supplementation seemed to increase synthesis of the anabolic marker CPII slightly, but the effect was not significant.A marker for build up of joint cartilage is the C-terminal propeptide of type II collagen [CPII]. This is released when the body makes new type II collagen.
The ratio CTX-II/CPII was higher in the soccer players than in non-athletes, which suggests that soccer places considerable strain on the joints. Glucosamine supplementation appears to improve the CTX-II/CPII ratio, however.
“Glucosamine is expected to exert a chondroprotective action in soccer players by preventing type II collagen degradation but maintaining type II collagen synthesis”, the Japanese researchers conclude. By the way, they were funded by the Japanese government.