Chondroitin Sulfate Background and Benefits
Chondroitin sulfate is a chain of alternating molecules of glucuronic acid and N-acetylgalactosamine. This chain may contain over 100 molecules of simple sugars, although the specific quantities and positions can vary. The name “chondroitin sulfate” implies that the sulfate ion forms a salt with the chondroitin chain, although the two components actually form a covalent bond. Chondroitin sulfate is typically attached to a protein to form a proteoglycan.
For example, it is an essential component in cartilage that allows cartilage to resist compression. This property is the result of the sulfate groups in chondroitin becoming highly charged when they are packed tightly together. Chondroitin sulfate is also an important component of extracellular matrices that helps to maintain tissue integrity. This function is most common with large proteoglycans known as lecticans.
Lecticans are also a major component in extracellular matrices within the brain. The chains of sugar molecules in chondroitin sulfate help to stabilize neural synapses in perineuronal nets. This property is most useful when the central nervous system is injured.
Animal cartilage is the primary commercial source of chondroitin sulfate, especially the ears, nose and trachea. Cartilage from birds, sharks and other fish are also used to produce chondroitin sulfate. The precise composition of chondroitin sulfate supplements varies considerably, since it isn’t a specific substance.
Uses of Chondroitin Sulfate
The most common uses for chondroitin sulfate in health supplements is for joint support and mobility. Additional uses include the support of bones, bladder and skin.
Skin health support
Some research indicates that chondroitin sulfate supplements can help to manage the discomfort of chronic skin conditions. This study involved regimens lasting between two and three months.
Bone health support
Chondroitin sulfate may help to manage the discomfort caused by narrowing spaces between bones. This use is often combined with glucosamine hydrochloride.
Bladder function support
Some preparations of chondroitin sulfate can help to maintain healthy functions of the bladder.
Joint health and function
Oral supplements of chondroitin sulfate can help to manage joint discomfort, especially in the knees or hand. They may also be able to manage the progression of joint conditions.
Signs You May Need Chondroitin Sulfate
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common signs that indicate you may need chondroitin sulfate supplements, especially when the back or knees are affected. This sign is most applicable in cases of osteoarthritis that aren’t far advanced. People with bone conditions that are characterized by narrowing joint spaces may benefit from chondroitin sulfate. Chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the bladder and skin may also show that chondroitin sulfate supplements could help you.