Many joint supplements promising relief from pain and stiffness don't do what they claim. That's the latest word from a new Consumer Reports
magazine investigation that found seven of 16 product tested didn't contain the active ingredients listed on the label.
Researchers for the magazine tested supplements bought online or from stores in the New York area between August and October 2012 using outside labs. They sought to gauge which of the products contained, on average, at least 90 percent of its labeled amounts of the active ingredients glucosamine and chondroitin.
In addition, they determined which products passed a dissolution test — a measure of how well they could be absorbed by the body — and fell within acceptable limits for four heavy-metal contaminants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The results showed all of the products contained their labeled amounts of glucosamine and none contained worrisome amounts of lead or other heavy metals.
But six products — CVS Triple Strength, Finest Natural Triple Strength (Walgreens), Natural Factors Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sulfates, Spring Valley Triple Strength (Walmart), Trigosamine Max Strength, and 365 Everyday Value Extra Strength (Whole Foods) — fell below their claimed levels of chondroitin, averaging only 79 to 87 percent of the labeled amount.
A seventh product, Nature Made Triple Flex Triple Strength, averaged only 65 percent of its claimed chondroitin. What’s more, the 365 Everyday Value and Trigosamine pills also didn’t dissolve sufficiently.
The magazine noted U.S. consumers spent $753 million in 2012 on supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin, chiefly to relieve pain and stiffness from arthritis.
Glucosamine salt (either hydrochloride or sulfate) and chondroitin sulfate are ingredients that occur naturally in and around the cartilage that cushions the joints. Some research has suggested that the combination might reduce pain in certain people with osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint disease that affects 27 million Americans. But studies have offered conflicting findings on the supplements' benefits and effectiveness, Consumer Reports noted.
The report also noted glucosamine and chondroitin have a good safety record, but may interact with some drugs, particularly blood thinners. People who take warfarin (Coumadin and generic) or another blood-thinning drugs should talk to their doctors before taking such supplements.
Painkillers, such as ibuprofen (Advil and generic) and naproxen (Aleve and generic) as well as injections of steroids can offer limited benefits to arthritis suffers and can cause side effects, the magazine noted.
Other options to ease arthritis pain:
Weight loss. Shedding pounds takes pressure off the knees when walking, which can ease pain.
Exercise. Strength training can help build up the muscles that support joints, while aerobic exercise can ease stiffness by keeping joints flexible and lubricated.
Mechanical aids. A cane, crutch, or walker can take a load off painful knees, and insurance may cover them.
Heat and cold. A heating pad can ease stiffness and soreness in joints. For acute pain and swelling, switch to ice packs.
Acupuncture, Massage. Both approaches have been shown in scientific studies to offer modest relief from chronic pain due to osteoarthritis and other ailments.
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