It is a molecule that occurs naturally in the body, but it is also a popular dietary supplement.
Used most often to treat the symptoms of bone and joint disorders, it is also used to attack other inflammatory diseases.
This article explores glucosamine benefits, dosage, and side effects.
What is glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound chemically classified as an amino sugar.
It serves as a building block for various functional molecules in your body but is primarily recognized for developing and maintaining cartilage within your joints.
Glucosamine is also found in some animals and other non-human tissues, including:
- Seafood shells.
- Animal bones.
Supplemental forms of glucosamine are often produced from these natural sources.
Glucosamine is frequently used to treat and prevent joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis. It can be taken orally or applied topically in a cream or ointment.
Glucosamine is a chemical compound that occurs naturally in human and animal tissues. In humans, it helps build cartilage and is commonly used as a dietary supplement to treat joint disorders such as osteoarthritis.
May reduce inflammation
Glucosamine is often used supplementally to treat the symptoms of various inflammatory conditions.
Although the mechanisms of glucosamine are not yet well understood, it appears to reduce inflammation quickly.
A test-tube study demonstrated a significant anti-inflammatory impact when glucosamine was applied to cells involved in bone formation.
Much of the research on glucosamine involves simultaneous supplementation with chondroitin, a compound similar to glucosamine, which is also involved in producing and maintaining healthy cartilage in your body.
A study in more than 200 people linked glucosamine supplementation with a 28% and 24% reduction in two specific biochemical markers of inflammation: CRP and PGE. However, these results were not statistically significant.
It is worth noting that the same study found a 36% reduction in these inflammatory markers for people taking chondroitin. This result was, in fact, significant.
Other studies add to these findings. Many participants taking chondroitin also report that they simultaneously supplement with glucosamine.
Therefore, it is not clear whether the results are driven by chondroitin alone or by combining both supplements taken together.
Ultimately, more research is needed on glucosamine’s role in reducing inflammatory markers in your body.
How glucosamine works in treating the disease is not well understood, but some research indicates that it can reduce inflammation, mainly when used with chondroitin supplements.
Contributes to the health of your joints
Glucosamine exists naturally in your body. One of its primary functions is to support the healthy development of tissues between the joints.
Articular cartilage is a type of smooth white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they join to form joints.
This type of tissue, along with a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid, allows bones to move freely with each other, minimizing friction and allowing painless movements in your joints.
Glucosamine helps form various chemical compounds involved in creating joint cartilage and synovial fluid.
Some studies indicate that supplemental glucosamine can protect joint tissue by preventing cartilage breakdown.
A small study in 41 cyclists found that supplementation with up to 3 grams of glucosamine per day reduced collagen breakdown in the knees by 27% compared to 8% in the placebo group.
Another small study found a significantly reduced ratio of collagen breakdown to collagen synthesis markers in the joints of soccer players treated with 3 grams of glucosamine daily for three months.
These results suggest a protective effect of glucosamine in the joints. However, more research is needed.
Glucosamine is involved in the development of tissues crucial for proper joint function.
Although more studies are needed, some research indicates that glucosamine supplements can protect and improve your joints against damage.
They are often used to treat bone and joint disorders.
Glucosamine supplements are frequently taken to treat various bone and joint conditions.
This molecule has been specifically studied for its potential to treat symptoms and disease progression associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Several studies indicate that daily glucosamine sulfate supplementation may offer effective long-term treatment for osteoarthritis by providing a significant reduction in pain, maintenance of joint space, and overall slowing of disease progression.
Some studies have revealed significantly reduced markers of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in mice treated with various forms of glucosamine.
Conversely, a human study did not show any significant change in RA progression using glucosamine. However, study participants reported significant improvement in symptom management.
Some initial research in mice with osteoporosis also shows a potential for the supplemental use of glucosamine to improve bone strength.
While these results are encouraging, more research on humans is needed to understand the mechanisms and best applications of glucosamine in joint and bone diseases.
Although glucosamine is frequently used to treat various bone and joint conditions, more research is needed on its effects.
Other uses of glucosamine
While people use glucosamine to treat various chronic inflammatory diseases, the scientific data supporting this use is limited.
Glucosamine is widely promoted as a treatment for interstitial cystitis (IC), a condition associated with a deficiency in the compound glycosaminoglycan.
Because glucosamine is a precursor to this compound, it is theorized that glucosamine supplements can help control HF.
Unfortunately, reliable scientific data is lacking to support this theory.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Like interstitial cystitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is associated with a deficiency of glycosaminoglycans.
Very little research supports the idea that glucosamine can treat IBD. However, a study in mice with IBD indicated that glucosamine supplementation could reduce inflammation.
Ultimately, more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Some sources claim that glucosamine may be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). However, supporting research is lacking.
One study evaluated the effect of using glucosamine sulfate in conjunction with traditional therapy for relapsing-remitting MS. The results did not show a significant impact on the relapse rate of disease progression due to glucosamine.
Glaucoma is believed to be treatable with glucosamine.
Some initial research indicates that glucosamine sulfate may promote eye health by reducing inflammation and antioxidant effects on the retina.
Conversely, a small study indicated that consuming too much glucosamine can harm people with glaucoma.
In general, the current data is not conclusive.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Some sources claim that glucosamine is an effective TMJ or temporomandibular joint therapy. However, the research to support this claim is insufficient.
One small study showed a significant reduction in pain and inflammatory markers and increased jaw mobility in participants who received a combined glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin supplement.
Another small study did not reveal any significant short-term effects of glucosamine hydrochloride supplements for people with TMJ. However, a significant improvement in long-term pain management was reported.
The results of these studies are promising, but they do not offer enough data to support definitive conclusions. More research is needed.
Although glucosamine is often considered an effective treatment for various conditions, there is no conclusive data on its impact.
Does Glucosamine Work?
Although broad claims are made about the positive effects of glucosamine in many diseases, the available research only supports its use for a limited range of conditions.
Currently, the most substantial evidence supports the use of glucosamine sulfate for the long-term treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms. That being said, it may not work for everyone.
It is less likely to be an effective treatment for other inflammatory diseases or conditions based on the available data.
If you are considering using glucosamine, consider the quality of the supplement you choose, as this could make a difference in how it affects you.
In some countries, including the US, there is very little regulation of dietary supplements. Therefore, labels can be misleading.
It is always best to check the third-party certification to ensure you get precisely what you are paying for. Manufacturers who want a third party to test their products for purity tend to have higher standards.
ConsumerLab, NSF International, and US Pharmacopeia (USP) are some independent companies that provide certification services. If you see one of their logos on your supplement, it is probably good quality.
Most research supports the use of glucosamine sulfate solely to control osteoarthritis symptoms. It is less likely to be effective in other applications.
Dosage forms and supplements
The typical dose of glucosamine is 1,500 mg per day, which you can take all at once or in smaller doses throughout the day.
Glucosamine supplements are made from natural sources, such as shellfish or mushroom shells, or are artificially manufactured in a laboratory.
Glucosamine supplements are available in three forms:
- Glucosamine sulfate.
- Glucosamine hydrochloride.
- N-acetyl glucosamine.
Glucosamine sulfate is also sometimes sold in combination with chondroitin sulfate.
Most scientific data indicates the most excellent efficacy for glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine sulfate combined with chondroitin.
Glucosamine is usually given at 1,500 mg per day. Of the available forms, glucosamine sulfate, with or without chondroitin, is probably the most effective.
Possible risks and side effects
Glucosamine supplements are probably safe for most people. However, there are some risks.
Possible adverse reactions include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain.
You should not take glucosamine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding due to a lack of evidence to support its safety.
Glucosamine can worsen blood sugar control for people with diabetes, although this risk is relatively low. If you have diabetes or are taking diabetes medications, talk to your doctor before taking glucosamine.
Glucosamine is probably safe for most people. Some mild gastrointestinal disorders have been reported. If you have diabetes, glucosamine can make your blood sugar control worse.
The bottom line
- Glucosamine exists naturally within your body and plays a vital role in developing and maintaining healthy joints.
- Although glucosamine is used to treat a variety of joint, bone, and inflammatory conditions, including IBD, interstitial cystitis, and TMJ, most research only supports its efficacy for treating osteoarthritis symptoms in the long term.
- It seems safe for most people at a dose of 1,500 mg per day, but it can cause mild side effects.
- If you are looking for osteoarthritis relief, a glucosamine supplement may be worth taking, but be sure to speak with your doctor first.