From the NOW Quality Control Department
Chondroitin sulfate (CS) is a major component of our cartilage that helps cushion our joints. It is believed to provide structure, hold water and nutrients, and promote elasticity in cartilage. It also appears to inhibit the enzymes that can destroy cartilage tissue. These properties have made Chondroitin Sulfate a popular dietary supplement for people seeking to nourish their joint tissues. Chondroitin is marketed alone or in combination with other joint supplements, usually with Glucosamine (another compound believed key to cartilage formation and repair).1,2
A significant source of Chondroitin sulfate is animal cartilage. The major commercially available source is bovine (cow). Only bovine sources are used in NOW products because the clinical studies on effectiveness of chondroitin are based on bovine material. Other animal sources are also available from porcine (pork), chicken and shark. The finite source of raw materials, coupled with the recent interest in finding natural substances to aid in the maintenance of joint health, has created a significant demand that affects the availability of CS. NOW Foods has been facing the challenge of not only finding material that meets our strict specifications, but is also reasonably priced.
We have obtained supplies of Chondroitin sulfate from various sources. Our Quality Control Group analyses samples from these sources. Quality Control determines the percentage of Chondroitin sulfate present. Results obtained ranged from as little as 2.7% to greater than 90%, with everything in-between. NOW scientists use HPLC instrumentation to qualify raw materials, allowing for much tighter controls on the materials purchased. This enables us to ensure that NOW’s CS products are of the highest quality.
The industry-wide methods for analysis of Chondroitin sulfate are titration methods using Cetylpyridinium Chloride or CPC titration from USP3. This is an older limited method which can be tricked by the use of less expensive adulterants, such as the drug heparin. The titration method cannot distinguish between Chondroitin sulfate and other materials, like proteins.
Our in-house analysis method consists of an enzymatic digestion of Chondroitin sulfate (a biopolymer) into smaller components, which are then analyzed using High Performance Liquid Chromatography or HPLC. This allows for a more accurate quantitative determination, as the enzyme used is very specific and will digest only Chondroitin. In addition, this method can distinguish between different sources of Chondroitin. This allows for a high level of quality control not previously available. This method was developed by NOW scientists and has been accepted by AOAC International, an FDA-approved contractor and developer of analytical test methods, for further development as a worldwide standard test method for Chondroitin sulfate products.
NOW scientists have also developed the already published method for testing Glucosamine, in any form, which is now a Official AOAC International Standard Method.4
1 Deal, CL. Neutraceuticals as Therapeutical Agents in Osteoarthritis. Rheum Dis Clin North Am, 1999; 25:379-395
2 Chavez, ML. Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin Sulfates. Hosp Pharm. 1997;32(9):1275-12858
3 USP 29 : Content of Chondroitin Sulfate Sodium, 2006; 2307
4 J. Zhou, T. Waszkuc, F. Mohammed, C. Ray, R. Buren, W. Wang, H.Nguyen, J. Jabusch, D. Sullivan, X. Kou, Q. Yang, A. Solyom, J. Wang, T. Peng, Q. Zheng, M. Blumhorst, M. Nagarajan, B. Podhola, L. Huang, C. Shevchuk, R. Das, K. Orellana, K. Reif. Determination of Glucosamine in Raw Materials and Dietary Supplements Containing Glucosamine Sulfate and/or Glucosamine Hydrochloride by High Performance Liquid Chromatography with FMOC-Su Derivatization: Collaborative Study. Published in Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL, July/August, 2005