I think my horse seems more comfortable since I started him on a joint supplement, but my friend says there’s no research showing they actually work. Who’s right? — CS from Dearborn, MI
And the award goes to… you!
While it’s challenging for supplement manufacturers to perform and publish research because of FDA regulations and other restrictions, there’s definitely work being done in this critical area. Let me share of few of my favorites.
First, let’s talk absorption. Misconceptions abound in this particular area, but fortunately several studies show that all the major joint supplement ingredients — glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid (HA) and MSM — are absorbed from the digestive tract and available for use throughout the body.1,2
Moving on to the question of whether joint supplements “work” or not, one study provides objective evidence that oral HA reduces joint swelling after surgery to remove an OCD in the hock.3 Another, eight-year study demonstrated that consistent use of an oral glucosamine / chondroitin supplement resulted in a decreased need for hock joint injections to maintain soundness in a group of show hunters/jumpers,4 (or in non-vet speak, the supplement helped keep the joint structures healthy enough that the horses required fewer joint injections).
Finally, A group of researchers in Europe showed that MSM exerts a protective effect on oxidative and inflammatory exercise induced injury in the horse,5 (or, in layman’s terms, MSM has been shown to help reduce the wear and tear of joint tissues caused by exercise).
These are just a few of the many, many examples of research on joint supplements. I recommend you point these out to your friend and settle up your friendly wager!
1. Biopharm Drug Dispos. 2004 Apr;25(3):109-16. The bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate after oral and intravenous single dose administration in the horse. Du J, White N, Eddington ND.
2. Proc 17th Equine Nutr Physiol Soc:141-2. A study of the absorption of methylsulfonylmethane in horses. Pratt SE, Clarke AF, Riddolls L, McKee S.
3. Equine Vet J. 2006 Jul;38(4):375-8. Oral hyaluronan gel reduces post operative tarsocrural effusion in the yearling Thoroughbred. Bergin BJ, Pierce SW, Bramlage LR, Stromberg A.
4. Intern J Appl Res Vet Med. Vol. 4, No. 2, 2006. Effects of oral glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplementation on frequency of intra-articular therapy of the horse tarsus. Martha R. Rodgers, VMD.
5. Acta Vet Scand. 2008 Nov 7;50:45. The effect of methyl sulphonyl methane supplementation on biomarkers of oxidative stress in sport horses following jumping exercise. Maranon G, Munoz-Escassi B, Manley W, et al.