Arthritis supplement use associated with lower marker of inflammation

Tuesday, November 20, 2012. An article published online on November 8, 2012 in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports an association between supplementation with glucosamine, chondroitin or fish oil and a reduction in serum C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. These supplements are regularly used by people with arthritis, a disease characterized by inflammation and joint degeneration.

Researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center analyzed data from 9,947 men and women who participated in the 1999-2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Subject interviews provided information concerning health behaviors and diet, including the type and frequency of dietary supplements used during the prior thirty days. Regular use of a supplement was defined as consumption during at least twenty days per month. Inflammation was assessed via blood sample analysis for serum high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP).

Higher CRP levels were observed in association with greater age and body mass index. Increased dietary fiber was associated with lower CRP. Participants who reported regular use of glucosamine had CRP levels that were 17 percent less on average in comparison with those who didn’t use glucosamine. For chondroitin users, the reduction in CRP averaged 22 percent and for fish oil users, CRP levels averaged 16 percent lower. When supplement use was analyzed by gender, women were found to experience greater effects from glucosamine and chondroitin in comparison with men; however, men, but not women, experienced a reduction in CRP in association with the use of ginseng.

The authors remark that fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation via inhibition of nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-kB), as well as by inhibition of proinflammatory omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids by displacement of omega-6 stores in cell membranes. “To our knowledge, this is the largest study that has investigated the association between use of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements and a marker of inflammation in humans,” they report. “Our finding of lower hs-CRP levels among users of glucosamine and chondroitin supports laboratory studies which suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation may reduce inflammation via inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B activation.”

“Given the number of diseases with which inflammation is associated, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, there is a need to find safe and effective ways to reduce inflammation,” they conclude. “Research suggests that these three supplements have excellent safety profiles, supporting their potential role in disease prevention. It is therefore important that the potential antiinflammatory role of these supplements be further investigated.”

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