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Pros and Cons Of Glucosamine Supplement For Joint Health

Pros and Cons Of Glucosamine Supplement For Joint Health

Keng Yau Chan
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Healthy joints need healthy cartilage, and glucosamine plays a vital role in the formation and maintenance of healthy cartilage. However, glucosamine does not occur naturally on its own. Instead our body produces glucosamine (an amino sugar) from glucose (a sugar) and glutamine (an amino acid).

 

How Our Body Produces Glutamine

 

As the body ages, it needs more antioxidants to help maintain healthy cell regeneration. A diet rich in glutamine and antioxidants provides the body with material to stimulate glucosamine production and help prevent osteoarthritis.

 

Besides this, glucosamine can also be man-made and today, there are many glucosamine supplements in the market, which are often sold in combination with chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine sulfate, N-acetyl glucosamine, poly-N-acetyl glucosamine and glucosamine hydrochloride are all derived from animal sources or made in the laboratory.

 

Glucosamine hydrochloride is made in the laboratory using fermented corn as partial material and therefore cannot be considered a natural source of glucosamine.

 

Sources of Supplemental Glucosamine
Source Glucosamine Hydrochloride Glucosamine Sulfate Chondroitin Sulfate
Animal
  • Extracted from chitin, a material present in the shells of shellfish (e.g. crabs, lobsters and shrimp)
  • Extracted from chitin, a material present in the shells of shellfish (e.g. crabs, lobsters and shrimp)
  • Bovine cartilage
  • Shark cartilage
Man-made
  • Made in the laboratory using fermented corn as partial material
  • Made in the laboratory
  • Made in the laboratory

Benefits Of Glucosamine

 

1. Glucosamine stimulates chondrocytes (cartilage cells) to produce more proteoglycans. Proteoglycans is a class of proteins with high polysaccharide content that hold many times their own weight in water, which both lubricates and nourishes collagen. In the whole scheme of things, healthy cartilage requires water for both lubrication and nourishment – proteoglycans attracts and hold this water, and collagen in turn, keep proteoglycans in place.

 

2. Glucosamine normalises cartilage metabolism. This helps keep cartilage from breaking down and further rebuilds damaged cartilage. In short, glucosamine strengthens the body’s natural repair mechanisms.

 

3. Glucosamine reduces joint pain and inflammation.

 

4. The human body needs glucosamine to produce chemicals involved in building cartilage, tendons, ligaments, synovial fluid (the thick fluid that surrounds joints), nails, skin, eyes, and heart valves.

 

5. Glucosamine helps cartilage absorb water to keep joints lubricated. It plays a role in the mucous secretion of the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts.

 

6. The body needs glucosamine to produce glycosaminoglycans, which are major components of cartilage.

 

Cons Of Glucosamine

 

Apart from the environmental impact and contamination issues, there are other concerns about supplemental glucosamine. They include insulin resistance, overall ineffectiveness, and interactions with medications.

 

1. Insulin Resistance

 

Glucosamine is 10 times more potent than regular glucose in causing insulin resistance in animals. It activates a metabolic pathway in the body that leads to the deterioration of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and causes insulin resistance, two factors associatedwith diabetes.

 

Johns Hopkins scientists found that activation of this pathway causes proteins to be coated in sugar, preventing them from passing along insulin’s message to regulate blood glucose. High doses or prolonged use of glucosamine can cause the death of pancreatic cells and increase the risk of developing diabetes according to a Universit Laval study published in the Journal of Endocrinology.

 

2. May Not Reduce Joint Pain

 

The Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) was a large, randomised, placebo-controlled trial funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Both short-term and long-term studies by GAIT researchers found that glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate did not fare better than a placebo in reducing the pain of knee osteoarthritis or slowing down cartilage loss.

 

Similar results were yielded after researchers reviewed trials involving 3803 patients with knee or osteoarthritis. They reported that glucosamine, chondroitin and their combination did not result in a relevant reduction of joint pain or affect joint space narrowing compared with a placebo.

 

A study showed that taking glucosamine sulfate for six months did not benefit people suffering from lower back pain and degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis.

 

A meta-analysis of clinical trials concluded that chondroitln had little or no effect on pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knees or hips.

 

3. Interactions With Medication (Such As Warfarin)

 

Glucosamine supplements must not be taken with warfarin. It should be noted that warfarin slows blood clotting. Several reports show that taking glucosamine supplements with or without chondroitin increases the effect of warfarin, slowing blood clotting even more. This can cause serious bruising and bleeding. Taking glucosamine hydrochloride or glucosamine sulfate along with some medications for cancer may decrease the effectiveness of the medications.

 

4. Glucosamine Sulfate Side Effects

 

Glucosamine sulfate can cause somg mild side effects including nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. Uncommon side effects are drowsiness, skin reactions, and headache.

 

Avoid taking glucosamine sulfate while pregnant or breast-feeding. There is currently insufficient reliable scientific information to know if glucosamine sulfate is safe to take during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.

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Keng Yau Chan
Keng Yau Chan

Keng Yau is a Malaysian-based editor & writer for YesMyWellness.com. Fitness as a career wasn't always in his first choice and in fact, he was quite an obese lad before! However, after a major health scare, Keng Yau has decided to pursue a healthy lifestyle and solidify his commitment by completing Associate Degree of Applied Fitness from Australian College of Physical Education and is also an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor. He has worked for major fitness centres and often volunteers in public and community health initiatives.

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