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Clayton's Health Facts: Chondroitin.

Clayton South, SPN (ISSA), is a recognized expert in the bodybuilding / fitness industry with over 150 bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition publications to his credit.

1. What is it and where does it come from?

Chondroitin sulfate is one of the major constituents of cartilage. Animal studies indicate that chondroitin sulfate promotes the healing of bone. It has also been shown to help restore joint function in people with osteoarthritis.

In addition, chondroitin sulfate may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attacks, as well as help prevent kidney stones. Chondroitin sulfate consists of repeating chains of molecules called mucopolysaccharides. It is a primary part of cartilage. Classified as a type of glycosaminoglycan, chondroitin sulfate is rich in sulfur and is a relative of glucosamine. Animal cartilage is the only significant food source of Chondroitin sulfate.

2. What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Not only does chondroitin provide structure and holds water and nutrients, but it allows other molecules to move through cartilage. This is a very important property, as there is no blood supply to cartilage. As a result, joint healing is greatly increased through supplementation. Chondroitin and similar compounds are also exist in the bladder and lining of blood vessels. Here they help to prevent abnormal movement of blood, urine, or components across the barrier of the vessel or bladder wall.

Japanese researchers have found that Chondroitin sulfate in synovial fluid collected from the temporomandibular joint provides a useful indicator of the degree of damage there, and that chondroitin may play a role in determining the viscosity and elasticity of tissues and fluids. A recent in vitro study done by scientists in Belgium found that chondroitin had potentially beneficial effects on human cartilage cells.

3. Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?
Because the body makes chondroitin, the possibility of a dietary deficiency is uncertain. A daily requirement has not been set. Chondroitin sulfate may be used to rebuild and repair joint cartilage affected by osteoarthritis and possibly other forms of arthritis.

4. How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
For atherosclerosis, researchers have used very high amounts, such as 5 grams twice per day with meals, lowering the amount to 500 mg three times per day after a couple of months. However, before taking such high amounts, people should consult a nutritionally oriented doctor. For osteoarthritis, the typical level is 400 mg three times per day. Chondroitin is often combined with the similar arthritis-relieving supplement glucosamine. Chondroitin may also be combined with vitamin C. Most products potency ranges from 400 to 600 mg. Nausea might occur at intakes greater than 10 grams per day. No other adverse side-effects have been reported.