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BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 13 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3690

Glucosamine is ineffective against low back pain

Glucosamine is a popular treatment for osteoarthritis with a patchy evidence base. Researchers from Norway are now fairly sure glucosamine doesn’t work for people with low back pain, after their trial found that the drug had no effect on pain, disability, or quality of life.

Adults with longstanding low back pain and evidence of osteoarthritis on magnetic resonance imaging took glucosamine or a placebo for six months. Both groups felt better at the end of treatment and six months later, with matching scores measuring pain related disability and quality of life. A similar proportion of both groups used other treatments such as sessions with a chiropractor, physiotherapy, or analgesic drugs.

The trial was powerful enough to be convincing, say the authors. Glucosamine didn’t work for this population of Norwegian adults, and doctors probably shouldn’t prescribe it. Their 250 participants had a mean age close to 50 and a mean body mass index of 25.4. Three quarters had had low back pain for at least four years, although most were still in work.

Short telomeres suggest higher cancer risk

The nucleoprotein ends of chromosomes, known as telomeres, shorten with each cell cycle, and this provides a measure of biological age similar to the rings on a tree trunk. As telomeres shorten, chromosomes become more unstable, and there is some evidence that short telomeres are associated with the development and spread of cancers. Researchers recently explored this theory in a prospective cohort of Italian adults who have been tracked since 1995. Adults with the shortest telomeres at baseline had the highest risk of cancer over 10 years (hazard ratio per 1 SD decrease in loge transformed telomere length, 1.60, 95% CI 1.30 to 1.98) and the highest risk of death from cancer (2.13, 1.58 to 2.86). The researchers measured telomere length in white …

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