Glucosamine: What are its benefits to the joints?

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Glucosamine is produced and found naturally in the human body. The highest natural concentration of glucosamine is found in the joints, specifically in cartilage, and is essential for the synthesis of glucosaminoglycans (GAGs), compounds that keep joints healthy and flexible. The body uses glucosamine to build and repair cartilage. Cartilage is a flexible, tough, elastic connective tissue that protects the bones in joints, provides cushioning, and prevents bones from rubbing together.

Osteoarthritis & Glucosamine

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused by insufficient regeneration of cartilage in the joints, most commonly in the knee and hip. It worsens over time and causes joint pain, difficulty walking and possibly disability.
Glucosamine is a popular dietary supplement used to treat osteoarthritis. But how do glucosamine supplements work? In 2 ways! 1. By reducing inflammation, which is one of the main causes of joint cartilage degeneration. 2. By rebuilding the degenerated cartilage, as it is an essential component for building the cartilage of the joint.
Studies have highlighted the effect of glucosamine in relieving joint pain, mainly through a gradual reduction in inflammation, as well as other symptoms over time. Numerous studies have shown that taking 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulphate daily for three years improved overall symptoms - including pain, stiffness and function - compared to a placebo. Glucosamine supplements are usually available as tablets or capsules, but are also available as injections.

Who may benefit from glucosamine supplementation?

- People with knee and/or hip osteoarthritis
- People with chondropathy
- People with rheumatoid arthritis
- People who have suffered a musculoskeletal injury (e.g. athletes, injury from an accident, etc.)

The main types of glucosamine include:

Glucosamine can be combined with chondroitin sulfate, MSM, collagen – mainly type II -, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant extracts with proven anti-inflammatory activity, such as turmeric.

Dosage and Side Effects

In general, glucosamine should be taken after a meal, in the dosage recommended by the supplement. Doses usually range from 300-500 mg with each meal, adding up to a total daily dose of 900-1,500 mg. Most studies use 1,000-1,500 mg per day.

As people age, their cartilage may become less flexible and begins to decline. This can lead to pain, inflammation and tissue damage, which, for example, occurs in osteoarthritis. There is some evidence that glucosamine may slow this process and benefit cartilage health.

The side effects of glucosamine appear to be mild and rare, but may include:

  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Rashes

Risks

Like in nutrition, in the case of supplements, "one size fits all" approach does not apply, as each of us is unique. Thus, there are certain cases where glucosamine administration is not recommended and these are the following:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is not recommended to use glucosamine during these periods, as its effect is unknown.
Cancer. Some supplements reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatment.
Diabetes. Glucosamine supplements may affect glucose levels in the body. This could make them unsuitable for people with diabetes or glucose intolerance.
Asthma. Glucosamine can cause several side effects, including shortness of breath in people with asthma
Allergies. Glucosamine products derived from shellfish are contraindicated in people who are allergic to fish and/or shellfish.
Extra Tip: It should be emphasized that in order to see if a glucosamine supplement is effective, we need to take it for at least 3 months consistently.


In conclusion

Glucosamine is a promising and safe ingredient for joint health. Supplements appear to be able to help symptoms of osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions of the musculoskeletal system. It is safe for most people to consume as a supplement, but it can cause physiologically mild side effects such as nausea, heartburn or diarrhea. The most appropriate form of supplementation appears to be glucosamine sulphate, administered for at least 3 months, in dosages ranging between 1000-1500mg. Holland & Barrett provides a wide range of glucosamine products that can serve individual needs and help improve our movement and therefore our quality of life.



Scientific References

Simental-Mendía, M., et al. (2018). Effect of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.

Sodha, R., et al. (2013). The use of glucosamine for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of randomised control trials.

Saengnipanthkul S,et al. (2019). Differentiation of patented crystalline glucosamine sulfate from other glucosamine preparations will optimize osteoarthritis treatment. Int J Rheum Dis.  Mar;22(3):376-385.

Henrotin Y, Marty M, Mobasheri A. (2014). What is the current status of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis? Maturitas. Jul. 79(4):487.



Katia Annousi

Dietitian & Nutritionist, QMU

Wellness Coach

Specialized in Eating Disorders & Metabolic Diseases