What are Glucosamine and Chondroitin?

There can be very few people who haven´t heard the words glucosamine and chondroitin in relation to joint health, but what exactly are they and how do they work? These products are some of the most popular nutritional supplements in the UK. Numerous research studies testify to their popularity and effectiveness. Most studies indicate that a mixture of Glucosamine and Chondroitin (pronounced Kondroytin) are the most effective. Glucosamine in its natural form exists in all of our joints and muscles, playing a role in the everyday mobility and smooth working of cartilage, tendons and ligaments. It is a major building block of the complex proteins called glycosaminoglycans that in turn form part of the structure of cartilage. It is essential for the production of new cartilage and the synthesis of the joint´s oil (synovial fluid), helping to make it thicker and more cushioning. It strengthens the jelly-like centre of intervertebral discs and is also needed for healthy formation of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, bone, ligaments and mucous membranes.

Glucosamine sulphate is a substance that is naturally made in the body from a sugar (glucose) and an amino acid (glutamine). Larger quantities are needed when damaged joints are healing and, as production of glucosamine is normally a slow process, it is often in short supply. It is therefore frequently taken orally as a nutritional supplement.  Research Information


Chondroitin sulphate is closely related to glucosamine and is usually combined with it for additional benefit. It supplies building blocks for making structural substances known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in joints. It attracts water into joints, which act as a shock absorber as well as a nutrient transport system.

Chondroitin sulphate inhibits enzymes that break down cartilage, while stimulating those involved in the production of structural substances such as proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans and collagen. However chondroitin is a very expensive ingredient, costing roughly four times as much, gram for gram, as glucosamine, so many people forsake this ingredient - on the grounds of cost - and buy glucosamine on its own missing out on the benefits of chondroitin.