French authorities issue warning for populations to avoid joint health supplements

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Nandy Photos
©iStock/Nandy Photos
Select populations should avoid consuming food supplements containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulphate, French authorities warn after receiving a series of reported adverse events.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) identifies​ a number of effects linked to these supplements that include digestive disorders, abdominal pain, skin rashes, itching, hepatitis or purpura (lesions caused by bleeding beneath the skin).

The Agency advises pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, diabetic or pre-diabetics, asthmatics, those with food allergies or on sodium, potassium or calcium-restricted diets, to refrain from consuming these food supplements.

“The expert assessment identified specific populations for whom the consumption of food supplements containing glucosamine or chondroitin sulphate presents a risk,”​ the Agency said. “These population groups should not consume such products.”

Synadiet disagreement

However, a French-based national union for food supplements, Synadiet criticised the Agency’s comments, pointing out that ANSES mentions 74 reports of adverse effects in 9 years (from 2009 to 2018).

“ANSES estimated that of these cases only 9 are likely and 2 are very likely attributable to the intake of dietary supplements containing glucosamine and / or chondroitin,”​ Synadiet said.

“The observed effects are essentially moderate and of hepatic or gastroenterological order and disappear as soon as the decision is made.”

The Union went on to reassure the general public about the safety of glucosamine and chondroitin-targeted dietary supplements, highlighting the usefulness of these products is widely recognized by expert consensus and supported by numerous scientific works.

“These dietary supplements have their place in the strategy of management of populations for which a pathology is not declared but whose discomfort is important enough to consider the use of anti-inflammatories with known adverse effects.”

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate are molecules naturally present in the connective and cartilage tissues of the human body, and ensure, among other things, the structure and elasticity of cartilage, tendons and skin.

Joint supplement market

Most European countries market these two compounds as medications and food supplements. In France, many food supplements containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulphate claiming to contribute to joint comfort are available on the market.

Synadiet estimate the French market for glucosamine and chondroitin products is around 2.2 million boxes per year, which they say add up to around 1 proven adverse effect per 1.8 million boxes sold.

ANSES also advise food supplement manufacturers to report any adverse reactions to the nutrivigilance scheme that are likely to relate to the consumption of food supplements.

The Agency also recommend that manufacturers take appropriate measures to better inform consumers about the risks associated with the consumption of these food supplements by these specific populations.

“ANSES also considers it necessary that the maximum authorised daily doses of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate in food supplements be standardised at European level based on safety data from robust safety studies - currently lacking - for these two compounds.”

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