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What Are Chondroprotectors and Do They Really Work?
Chondroprotectors are dietary supplements that are prescribed to people with joint diseases, as well as to people who are actively involved in sports. However, recent studies have questioned their effect. So let’s figure out whether it is beneficial to take them or if you should avoid them.
What Are Chondroprotectors?
Chondroprotectors (symptomatic delayed-action drugs) are a group of drugs used for the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis and tendinopathies, as well as other joint diseases as part of complex therapy.
Under this complex definition, you will find the usual dietary supplements, which are often advised to those who are actively involved in sports. Their main task is to protect our joints. These nutritional supplements enter the joints along with synovial fluid, strengthen cartilage and slow down its degradation.
Cartilage tissue consists of chondrocytes, chondroblasts and an amorphous substance (collagen fibers, hyaluronic acid, and proteins). In the human body, there are three distinguished types of cartilage, which are hyaline (articular surfaces of long bones, the ends of the ribs, partly in the nasal septum, trachea, and bronchi), elastic (auricle, external auditory canal, larynx, respiratory throat) and fibrous (intervertebral discs and transition points tendons in the bone).
The problem is that there are no blood vessels in the cartilaginous tissue, and nutrients enter them along with the synovial fluid (washes the joints and is a lubricant) and the surrounding cartilage tissues. They cannot be restored in a natural way, that is, if for some reason it is worn out or torn (trauma, age, disease), this problem can only be solved in an invasive way. The only way to maintain this tissue in a healthy state is to feed it with special additives. At least that was previously believed.
We think that many who are actively involved in sports are familiar with the name “glucosamine” which is one of the most popular (and cheap) options. This substance is produced by cartilage, is a component of chondroitin and is part of the synovial fluid.
Should People Use Chondroprotectors?
Chondroprotectors are often prescribed for people with inflammatory processes in the joints. Indications for use include osteoarthrosis (gonarthrosis, coxarthrosis, and arthrosis of small joints), tendinopathies (periarthritis and tendonitis), spondylarthrosis, periodontal disease, and the post-operative rehabilitation. They may also be offered to you as dietary supplements if you are actively involved in sports just for the prevention and strengthening of joints and ligaments.
The problem with chondroprotectors is that they are quite expensive, and as a result of taking them, only a very small part of the drug is absorbed. Injections are more effective, but to achieve the desired result you need to get injections for at least three months. It is rather painful and uncomfortable.
Studies conducted with laboratory mice in 2017 showed that chondroprotectors remove inflammation from the joints. And studies in 2018 on the effects of hyaluronic acid showed that injections significantly reduce pain, help fight inflammation and increase the production of joint lubrication.
Tests in this area are ongoing, and scientists hope to find the best option that really works and is cheaper. Expensive supplements work, but their effect can be a placebo. The research data obtained are rather contradictory, therefore experts cannot give a definite answer. The fact that they really relieve inflammation and pain does not raise doubts, but other "magical properties" remain unconfirmed.
What Can Replace Chondroprotectors?
Chondroprotectors contain gelatin. Gelatin is a partially hydrolyzed animal collagen that is, the main protein of connective tissue. It is useful for consumption because during metabolism part of it is converts into oligosaccharides, which are extremely useful for immunity and digestion. Another part is able to reach connective tissue and heal it. Not in vain, doctors recommend including gelatine-containing products for various cartilage diseases.
However, it has been scientifically proven that fish chondroitin sulfate is 100 times more biologically active than animal origin. Most chondroitin sulfate is in sharks and stingrays, however, not everyone can afford to eat such rare foods every day. You may also find it in salmon, keta, and trout.