Chondroitin sulfate is a popular supplement that people often use to help manage joint pain.
Though it’s naturally produced in the body, some people choose to take it as a supplement for its potential joint-building properties. Many of these people take it for osteoarthritis (OA).
This article explains everything you need to know about chondroitin sulfate, including its benefits, recommended dosage, and some potential downsides.
We use the terms “chondroitin sulfate” and “chondroitin” interchangeably throughout this article.
Chondroitin sulfate is a compound present naturally in the body as an essential part of hyaline cartilage, a tissue that cushions your joints.
You can also find it as a dietary supplement, often combined with glucosamine, another structural component of cartilage (
In addition, you can also find it in certain animal-based foods, including bone broths, stews, soups, and other dishes that contain cuts of meat with connective tissue.
People commonly use it to help combat the symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage at the ends of your bones wears down, causing pain and increasing the risk of fracture (
However, the data on the effectiveness of chondroitin sulfate is mixed. Scientists need to do more high quality studies to investigate its effects.
Chondroitin sulfate is a compound in the body that helps form hyaline cartilage, a connective tissue that cushions the joints. People commonly take it in supplement form to help with symptoms of osteoarthritis.
While research on taking chondroitin sulfate has had mixed results, some studies show it may have some potential health benefits.
May decrease joint pain
People take chondroitin sulfate supplements most commonly to help manage osteoarthritis, a common bone disorder that affects the cartilage surrounding your joints.
Proponents say that when taken as a supplement, it increases the synthesis of various cartilage components while also preventing cartilage breakdown (
A 2018 review of 26 studies showed that taking chondroitin supplements may improve pain symptoms and joint function compared with taking a placebo (
A 2020 review suggests that it may slow the progression of OA, while also decreasing the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, which come with their own side effects (6).
On the other hand, several studies did not find enough evidence to suggest that chondroitin can help relieve OA symptoms, including joint stiffness or pain (
Several professional agencies, such as the Osteoarthritis Research Society International and the American College of Rheumatology, discourage people from using chondroitin due to the mixed evidence on its effectiveness (
While chondroitin supplements may address the symptoms of OA, they do not provide a permanent cure.
Therefore, it’s important to create a balanced OA treatment regimen with your healthcare team. This may include the following:
- Regular exercise. Exercise builds muscle and bone mass to prevent the progression of OA (
- Weight loss. Losing excess body weight reduces stress on your joints (13).
- Pharmaceuticals. Certain drugs may help prevent bone and cartilage loss, while others may reduce pain (
- Other supplements. Other supplements, such as glucosamine, fish oil, vitamin D, curcumin, and collagen, may have anti-inflammatory or bone-building properties to help relieve OA symptoms.
Protects the eyes during surgery
Healthcare professionals also often use chondroitin sulfate in a solution form during cataract surgery and other eye surgeries.
When combined with other compounds in a solution, chondroitin can help protect parts of the eye during surgery and help prevent complications (
Chondroitin is also an ingredient in several types of prescription eye drops that eye doctors often use for relieving dry, irritated eyes (16).
People most commonly use chondroitin sulfate supplements to help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis, though data on its effectiveness is mixed. Scientists need to do more research in this area.
While taking chondroitin sulfate may help you control OA symptoms, it comes with a few potential downsides that you should be aware of.
May cause upset stomach
Taking chondroitin has been found to be safe. However, one of the main potential side effects users may experience is stomach discomfort.
More specifically, some people experience (
You may be able to avoid an upset stomach by splitting your daily chondroitin dose into two different doses you take at different times of the day.
Some data suggest that chondroitin sulfate may interact with warfarin (Coumadin), a common blood thinning medication (
More specifically, if you’re taking chondroitin alongside warfarin, you may be at an increased risk of bleeding (
Therefore, it’s extremely important to discuss taking chondroitin with a healthcare professional, especially if you are on a blood thinner, such as warfarin.
Avoid when pregnant or breastfeeding
As with most dietary supplements, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking chondroitin.
We don’t know enough about its safety for these populations (
While chondroitin sulfate may provide several joint health benefits, there are some downsides to be aware of. As with many supplements, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take chondroitin.
When it comes to dosing for chondroitin sulfate, most research suggests 800–1,200 mg daily, by mouth, is most effective for its joint-related benefits (
Some people split their daily dose into two half doses to reduce any potential digestive side effects.
While it’s readily available over the counter, more regulated prescription versions are also available with a doctor’s order (6).
Chondroitin is considered a slow-acting supplement because it takes time to build up in the joints. This means that it may take some time before you see an effect.
It’s also important to note that most chondroitin supplements are sourced from animals. Thus, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you’ll want to look for a vegan-friendly version.
As always, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional to help you decide on a dosage that works best for you.
Most research suggests a daily chondroitin sulfate dosage of 800–1,200 mg to promote joint health.
When you’re purchasing chondroitin, there are numerous options available. They range in price and quality.
To determine ones of higher quality, you’ll want to look for those are third-party tested.
Third-party testing means that the manufacturer has sent the product to an independent company that specializes in testing the quality of the supplement based on a number of factors.
Supplements that have gone through third-party testing will provide the best quality and are more likely to be free of any potential contaminants.
It’s best to find a brand that is third-party tested to ensure quality and purity.
You’ll often find chondroitin paired with glucosamine, another cartilage-building compound that the body produces naturally.
Experts often recommend taking these two supplements together to maximize their potential benefits for joint health (
In fact, one 2015 study saw a significant improvement in pain levels when people took glucosamine and chondroitin together. However, the study did not find an improvement in pain when taken separately (
Chondroitin and glucosamine are often combined in doses of 1,500 mg of glucosamine and 1,200 mg of chondroitin per day (
Therefore, when you’re taking chondroitin, you may want to consider taking glucosamine at the same time to maximize the potential benefits.
It’s important to note that scientists need to do more research on the combined effects of these compounds.
Chondroitin often comes combined with glucosamine, another joint supplement. This may enhance its effect.
Chondroitin is a common supplement people use to relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis.
While several studies suggest that chondroitin can be an effective supplement for relieving pain and stiffness associated with OA, others have found no improvements. Therefore, the current research results are mixed and more studies are needed.
When taken in a dosage of 800–1,200 mg per day, chondroitin is considered safe for most populations, except for those taking certain blood thinners and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you are interested in taking chondroitin sulfate, be sure to speak with a healthcare professional to see if it’s right for you.