Health Benefits of Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a compound that’s naturally produced by your body. Most commonly, it exists in your cartilage and helps create the proteins and fats that repair your cartilage when it’s damaged.

Glucosamine isn’t commonly found in foods, but it is often sold as a supplement in drops, capsules, or topical forms. Supplements can be made from the shells of shellfish or be produced artificially. Taking glucosamine supplements may offer health benefits, particularly for joint pain such as arthritis. 

Health Benefits

Glucosamine supplements can provide some important health benefits. Early trials suggest that glucosamine may have some antioxidant effects that can improve your eye health — which is particularly helpful for people with conditions like glaucoma.

In addition, glucosamine can provide benefits like:

Reduced Joint Pain

Studies around the world have shown that glucosamine appears to reduce joint pain, especially among people with osteoarthritis. In fact, the scientific support for glucosamine is so strong that the compound is available as a medicinal substance — not just as a supplement — in the U.K. and other areas of Europe. 

Supplements of combined glucosamine and chondroitin — a related compound also found in cartilage — have been shown to be as effective as osteoarthritis medications such as celecoxib (CeleBREX). For people who do not react well to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like celecoxib, glucosamine supplements may be a safe and effective way to reduce symptoms of arthritis.

May Reduce Inflammation

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may also help reduce chronic inflammation, which is linked to a number of potential health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. This may be part of the reason why glucosamine reduces arthritis pain. Studies have linked regular consumption of glucosamine supplements with lower levels of inflammation. Regularly taking the supplements can help lower your risk of a number of chronic conditions. 

May Improve Bone Health

While more research needs to be done, early studies suggest that glucosamine supplements may help prevent the progression of osteoporosis post-menopause. Glucosamine appears to help reduce the weakening of bones by supporting healthy bone growth. This makes the supplements especially helpful for people who are at risk of developing osteoporosis as they age.

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Health Risks

Although glucosamine offers many health benefits and can improve your body’s overall function, consuming supplements does carry some risk. Some people experience an upset stomach, bloating, or insomnia, although these symptoms are mild and generally go away after supplementing your diet for a few weeks.

May Trigger Shellfish Allergies

Since many glucosamine supplements are made from shellfish shell extracts, it’s possible that these supplements could trigger shellfish allergies. If you have a shellfish allergy, be careful when choosing a glucosamine supplement, and check the source of the compound before taking it. Look for supplements that are vegan, since these will not include any animal components.

May Affect Blood Sugar

Some studies suggest that glucosamine supplements may negatively affect insulin resistance. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor before adding these supplements to your routine. 

May Affect Liver Function  

In several case studies, people who took supplements that included glucosamine developed significant liver damage. However, these supplements contained several other active ingredients, and specific amounts of glucosamine in the supplements were not available. Supplements containing only glucosamine, or glucosamine and chondroitin, have not been linked to these problems.

Amounts and Dosage

The currently studied dosage for oral glucosamine supplementation is 1,500 milligrams daily. This can be taken in one dose or as several doses over the course of the day.

Different studies disagree when it comes to how much supplemental glucosamine the body actually absorbs and uses in the joints, but most suggest that up to 90% of glucosamine that you take at least makes it to your liver. Some trials suggest that higher doses than 1,500 milligrams may be more effective at treating osteoarthritis, but these higher doses have not been tested for safety yet. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Epidemiology: “Association between use of specialty dietary supplements and C-reactive protein concentrations.”

Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases: “Combined chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for painful knee osteoarthritis: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, non-inferiority trial versus celecoxib.”

Brahmachari, G. Discovery and Development of Anti-Inflammatory Agents from Natural Products, Elsevier Inc., 2019.

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Harvard Health Publishing: “Understanding acute and chronic inflammation.”

Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science: “Protective effects of glucosamine on oxidative-stress and ischemia/reperfusion-induced retinal injury.”

Mayo Clinic: “Glucosamine: Does it affect blood sugar?”

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (U.K.): “Change in the classification of certain glucosamine products.”

Molecules: “Dietary Natural N-Acetyl-d-Glucosamine Prevents Bone Loss in Ovariectomized Rat Model of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis.”

National Center for Biotechnology Information: “D-Glucosamine.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Glucosamine Sulfate.”

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