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Q
Improving Arthritis Treatment?

I have read in "The Arthritis Cure" that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, along with glucosamine and chondroitin, are beneficial in treating arthritis. Can you tell me if the research backs up these claims, and if so, what the risks are of taking avocado/soybean unsaponifiables? 

A
Answer (Published 10/26/2009)

The remedy you ask about is made from an extract of avocado and soybean oils and is often recommended to reduce arthritis pain and slow the progress of the disease. I discussed your question with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of The Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, who has recently written about this subject in a chapter in Integrative Rheumatology, a book to be published in 2010 by Oxford University Press, and a new volume in the Weil Integrative Medicine Library of which I am the general editor (go to www.oup.com and search using the term "Weil Integrative Medicine").

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Dr. Low Dog says that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables or ASUs, for short, are derived from the oily fractions of avocado (100 mg) and soybean (200 mg) and have an excellent safety profile and good evidence of benefit. She reports that four high-quality clinical trials have demonstrated that ASUs eased the pain and stiffness of knee and hip osteoarthritis and reduced the need for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly used to treat arthritis. NSAIDs pose a risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding when taken long-term.

Dr. Low Dog further explains that the active components of the ASUs mixture have not been identified and that their mechanism of action is not well understood. However, she adds that there are no toxicity issues associated with these products. Because ASUs have a slow onset of action, if you want to use them, she recommends continuing to take your current pain medication for the first 4-6 weeks and then tapering off slowly. The dose of ASUs is 300-600 mg per day.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Learn more about glucosamine.

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