Questionable Effectiveness of Glucosamine.

Glucosamine is a simple molecule of glucose and an amine (nitrogen and two molecules of hydrogen). Our body manufactures Glucosamine naturally and it also can be sourced from food. Glucosamine is an important building block involved in glycosaminoglycans manufacturing – molecules found in cartilage. It also helps incorporation of sulphur into cartilage.

Lately, there has been a lot of discussions in the media regarding Glucosamine. Many people are taking it for years to ease the symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis or as a general support for their joints. However, after many laboratory tests and numerous clinical trials, it has been established that Glucosamine Sulphate on its own or together with Chondroitin does not provide any major improvement to damaged cartilage comparing to placebo, but it does help to alleviate the pain by reducing the inflammation.

Glucosamine has been almost exclusively researched and used in clinical environment for the treatment of Osteoarthritis. Many studies have shown that Glucosamine Sulphate produces much better results than NSAIDs and placebos in relieving the pain and inflammation of Osteoarthritis. Detailed human studies on the absorption, distribution, and elimination of orally administered Glucosamine Sulphate show an absorption rate as high as 98%. Once absorbed, it is taken up by joint tissues, where it is incorporated into the cartilage, ligaments and tendons. In theory, the advantage of Glucosamine is that it gets to the root of the problem by reducing pain and helping the body heal and repair damaged joints. Clinical studies showed that symptomatic relief can take up to 12 weeks to become apparent. Research has also demonstrated the Glucosamine Sulphate inhibits a number of inflammatory markers known to be involved in osteoarthritis, such as cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), PGE2 and NFkappaB. Thus Glucosamine is being noted for its role as a symptom- and structure-modifying supplement in the treatment of Osteoarthritis.

Some clinical studies have shown that taking Glucosamine in combination with Chondroitin provides positive result in pain management and cartilage restoration, but these results were not significant. However, most of the studies were done using Glucosamine in its sulphate form, which is not the best form of Glucosamine. The best form of Glucosamine as a supplement is Glucosamine Hydrochloride. Glucosamine Sulphate is usually  sourced from shellfish and contains 50-60% active glucosamine. D-Glucosamine Hydrochloride (HCL) has at least 83% of active glucosamine, which makes it much more effective. It is derived from the mushroom strain – aspergillus niger – which makes it suitable for vegans and those allergic to shellfish.

While some of my customers were swearing by taking Glucosamine, others found it useless. The things to note is that:

a) Glucosamine is not a fast working supplement. It can take up to 3-4 months before any noticeable result.

b) D-Glucosamine HCL is more effective than it’s sulphate form.

c) The effectiveness of any supplement, including Glucosamine, depends on the severity of condition and the lifestyle of the ones affected by it. The treatment of any inflammation should consist of a combination of things, i. e. taking other supplements that support the absorption, changing diet accordingly, etc. It would be naive to think that Glucosamine will help to restore cartilage, and decrease the pain and inflammation, while a person that takes it, keeps smoking and drinking on a regular basis, eat highly processed foods and generally doesn’t do anything to repair the damage done. Every supplement, just like every prescription drug, should be taken with a support of an appropriate diet and lifestyle changes. Otherwise it might as well be a waste of money.

It is important to also consider that the best results from Glucosamine treatment in medical trials were produced when Glucosamine was taken in combination with chondroitin, Omega-3 oils (especially Krill oil), collagen, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and MSM. This makes it quite expensive treatment, considering that it is a lengthy process and is not guaranteed to work.

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