1. Chondroitin sulfate is a dietary supplement, used to boost the body’s natural supply of chondroitin. A natural compound present in healthy cartilage, chondroitin is used for the development and maintenance of joints. While many of the claimed health benefits of chondroitin supplementation have yet to be scientifically proven, chondroitin sulfate has shown promise in the treatment of several health conditions.

    Functions in the Body

    Chondroitin is a structural component of cartilage, the material that forms the cushion between bones in each of the body’s joints. By absorbing fluids and nutrients, chondroitin helps keep cartilage hydrated and healthy. According to The University of Maryland Medical Center, chondroitin may also help defend against joint deterioration by protecting against enzymes that break down cartilage.


    Most chondroitin supplements are derived from animal sources, such as beef and shark cartilage, although vegetarian versions are manufactured, some synthetic and others made from algae. Supplements are available in powder form, capsules and tablets. Chondroitin supplements are commonly used to treat joint pain and swelling from osteoarthritis or injury, heart disease, osteoporosis and high cholesterol. Chondroitin is also used in eye-drop form for dry eyes and combined with iron to treat iron-deficiency anemia.


    According to Medline Plus, chondroitin is approved by the FDA for use in eye drops, which means it has proven safe and effective for this purpose. Oral chondroitin sulfate supplementation has been shown to be effective for the relief of osteoarthritis pain and inflammation in several clinical studies, and some preliminary evidence exists that taking chondroitin supplements may lower heart attack risk. However, Medline Plus states that there is insufficient evidence to rate chondroitin supplements effective in the treatment or prevention of heart disease, high cholesterol or osteoporosis.


    Few side effects have been reported with short-term use of chondroitin, with mild stomach upset most common. However, little research has been done on safety and effectiveness of long-term chondroitin supplementation. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take chondroitin, as no research has been done to establish its safety under such circumstances. The University of Maryland Medical Center warns that chondroitin supplements may worsen asthma symptoms and can interact with certain prescription medications. Check with your health care provider before taking chondroitin supplements.

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