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Chondroitin was first extracted and purified in the 1960s. It is currently manufactured from natural sources (shark/beef cartilage or bovine trachea) or by synthetic means. The consensus of expert and industry opinions supports the use of chondroitin and its common partner agent, glucosamine, for improving symptoms and stopping (or possibly reversing) the degenerative process of osteoarthritis.
Multiple controlled clinical trials since the 1980s have examined the use of oral chondroitin in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and other locations (spine, hips, finger joints). Most of these studies have reported significant benefits in terms of symptoms (such as pain), function (such as mobility), and reduced medication requirements (such as anti-inflammatories). However, most studies have been brief (six month duration) with methodological weaknesses. Despite these weaknesses and potential for bias in the available results, the weight of scientific evidence points to a beneficial effect when chondroitin is used for 6-24 months. Longer-term effects are not clear. Early studies of chondroitin applied to the skin have also been conducted.
Chondroitin is frequently used with glucosamine. Glucosamine has independently been demonstrated to benefit patients with osteoarthritis (particularly of the knee). It remains unclear if there is added benefit of using these two agents together compared to using either alone.
Several studies have shown promise for using chondroitin for interstitial cystitis, which is a chronic inflammation of the bladder. Chondroitin sulfate may also be helpful in patients with overactive bladder or unstable bladder control. Additional evidence is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Coronary artery disease (secondary prevention):
Several studies in the early 1970s assessed the use of oral chondroitin for the prevention of subsequent coronary events in patients with a history of heart disease or heart attack. Although favorable results were reported, due to methodological weaknesses in this research and the widespread current availability of more proven drug therapies for patients in this setting, a recommendation cannot be made in this area.
There is preliminary research administering intravesicular chondroitin in patients diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. Additional evidence is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Iron absorption enhancement:
Early research suggests that taking chondroitin with iron may enhance iron absorption in healthy individuals. It is unclear whether taking chondroitin would help patients with iron deficiencies absorb more iron. More research needs to be done in this area before a strong recommendation can be made.
Chondroitin is sometimes used as a component of eye solutions used for keratoconjunctivitis, corneal preservation, and intraocular pressure. These solutions should only be used under the supervision of an ophthalmologist. Additional study is needed in this area.
Early study suggests that chondroitin may help treat psoriasis. Well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm these results.
Muscle soreness (delayed onset):
Chondroitin was thought to be beneficial for delayed onset muscle soreness because chondroitin sulfate is often used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for osteoarthritis. However, early research does not support this use. More research is needed in this area to confirm these results.
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