Should You Take Glucosamine Supplements?

Health / Life

Blackmores Glucosamine supplement / Photo by Shutterstock


Glucosamine is a naturally-occurring substance in the body. It is an essential building block for the ligaments, tendons, cartilages, synovial fluid, and other parts of the joints.

For people whose joints are undergoing the age-related wearing and tearing called arthritis, glucosamine is supplemented through glucosamine supplements, which are typically made from shellfish or made in a laboratory.


The components of Glucosamine supplements

There are different forms of glucosamine supplements, which would also have different components. The most common ones are glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl-glucosamine.

The components of glucosamine supplements are important too when considering which type of glucosamine supplement you’ll be taking. According to the National Institutes of Health, these forms of glucosamine would have similarities but they may have different effects when taken as a supplement.

Glucosamine supplements may also contain other ingredients, the most common of which are chondroitin sulfate, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), or shark cartilage


Glucosamine sulfate capsule / Photo by Shutterstock


Should you try recommended Glucosamine supplements?

Glucosamine supplements are not just used for osteoarthritis. According to the National Institutes of Health, people also use glucosamine supplements for glaucoma, weight loss, interstitial cystitis, jaw pain, joint pain, back pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and ulcerative colitis.

In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Therapy reported in its 2007 National Health Interview Survey that 19.9% of the adults in the United States who regularly took dietary supplements took glucosamine, making it the second most popular dietary supplement in the country after fish oil, omega-3, or DHA.

However, it’s important to consult your doctor before you take any kind of supplements. This is because certain medications may interact with glucosamine or because certain health issues may be affected by glucosamine supplements.


Glucosamine supplement can treat back pain / Photo by Getty Images

What are the side effects of Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is naturally present in the body so it is generally considered safe. However, there are some cases wherein they can interact with certain medications or cause certain health issues.

The potential side effects of glucosamine supplements include indigestion, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, skin reactions, and headaches. There are also reports that glucosamine may cause the cholesterol, insulin, and blood sugar levels to change. This is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes or high cholesterol.

The glucosamine in supplements are typically sourced from shellfish, so it can also cause allergic reactions in people with a seafood or shellfish allergy.


Man suffering from nausea / Photo by Getty Images


The risks of Glucosamine supplements

Aside from the potential side effects, there are certain risks of glucosamine supplement use. The National Institutes of Health reported that glucosamine supplements may not be safe for people with asthma, diabetes, glaucoma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and shellfish allergies.

There are certain cases where glucosamine supplements affected people with these conditions, so it may be better to look for alternatives.

For pregnant and breastfeeding women, there aren’t enough reliable scientific evidence that considers it safe to take glucosamine supplements so it may be best to avoid taking them.


                                                                                                 Asthma / Photo by Getty Images


The effect of Glucosamine on Osteoarthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the largest study to have investigated the effect of glucosamine on osteoarthritis is the 2006 Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT).

The 2006 GAIT study involved 1,600 individuals with knee osteoarthritis, which was carried out in three phases. In the first phase, a small subset of individuals with moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis reported significant pain relief from the glucosamine-chondroitin supplement.

In the second phase in 2008, the researchers found that glucosamine and chondroitin didn’t significantly slow down joint damage.

Finally, in the third phase in 2010, the researchers concluded that glucosamine and chondroitin were as effective as celecoxib for knee osteoarthritis. Celecoxib is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used for treating arthritis.


Stages of Osteoarthritis / Photo by Getty Images


Glucosamine and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it would be better for you to not take glucosamine supplements. According to Arthritis Research UK, glucosamine supplements may increase the blood sugar levels and interact with anti-diabetic treatments.

In a 2007 study published in The American Journal of Medical Sciences, researchers found that glucosamine may worsen insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes, especially in doses used to treat osteoarthritis.

Others refute this claim, explaining that there is no interaction between glucosamine and diabetes because it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels or insulin resistance. However, it may be better to consult your doctor before taking glucosamine if you have diabetes.


Diabetic people should not take glucosamine supplement as it may increase the blood sugar level / Photo by Getty Images