Glucosamine is a molecule that occurs naturally within your body, but it’s also a popular dietary supplement. Often used to treat symptoms of bone and joint disorders, it’s also used to target several other inflammatory diseases.
What Is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that is chemically classified as an amino sugar. It serves as a building block for a variety of functional molecules in your body but is mostly recognized for developing and maintaining cartilage within your joints.
Glucosamine is also found in some animals, including shellfish shells, animal bones and fungi. Supplemental forms of glucosamine are often made from these natural sources.
Glucosamine is frequently used to both treat and prevent joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis. It may be taken orally or applied topically in a cream or salve.
One study demonstrated a significant anti-inflammatory impact when glucosamine was applied to cells involved in bone formation. Much of the research on glucosamine involves simultaneously supplementing with chondroitin — a compound similar to glucosamine, which is also involved in your body’s production and maintenance of healthy cartilage .
A study in over 200 people linked glucosamine supplements to a 28% and 24% reduction in two specific biochemical markers of inflammation: CRP and PGE. The same study found a 36% reduction of these inflammatory markers for people taking chondroitin.
Supports Healthy Joints
Glucosamine exists naturally in your body. One of its main roles is to support the healthy development of the tissues between your joints.
Articular cartilage is a type of smooth white tissue that covers the ends of your bones where they meet to form joints.
This kind of tissue allows bones to move freely across one another, minimizing friction and allowing for painless movement at your joints.
One small study in 41 cyclists found that supplementing with up to 3 grams of glucosamine daily reduced collagen degradation 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 articular joints of soccer players treated with 3 grams of glucosamine daily over a three-month period.
These results suggest a joint-protective effect of glucosamine.
Glucosamine has been specifically studied for its potential to treat symptoms and disease progression associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
Multiple studies indicate that supplementing daily with glucosamine sulphate 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.
Some early research in mice with osteoporosis also shows potential for supplemental use of glucosamine to improve bone strength.
Glucosamine is widely promoted as a treatment for interstitial cystitis (IC), a condition associated with a deficiency in the compound glycosaminoglycan.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Like interstitial cystitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is associated with a deficiency in glycosaminoglycan.
Very little research supports the notion that glucosamine can treat IBD. However, a study in mice with IBD indicated that supplementing with glucosamine may reduce inflammation.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Some sources claim that glucosamine may be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). However, supporting research is lacking.
Glaucoma is widely believed to be treatable with glucosamine.
If you’re considering using glucosamine, keep in mind the quality of the supplement you choose — as this could make a difference in how it affects you.