Glucosamine is a natural building block of cartilage and is involved in the formation of synovial fluid. Glucosamine is crucial so that the articular cartilage remains healthy and smooth, painless movement of the joints is possible.
Furthermore, glucosamine is responsible for sufficient synovial fluid and unrestricted mobility of the joints. This is why this vital substance is particularly important for athletes and other people whose stress on the joints is particularly high.
The body's own production decreases with age, which is why the additional supply of glucosamine supports the maintenance of healthy joints.
Smooth, pain-free movement and function of the joints are only possible if the articular cartilage is healthy. Osteoarthritis means that the cartilage of the affected joint is damaged. Because the cartilage is the padding between the joints, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, inflammation, and limited mobility.
So far, the only pain relief has been anti-inflammatory medication or steroid injection (e.g. cortisone). However, these only mask the symptoms and relieve the pain - the condition of the cartilage continues to deteriorate.
The downward spiral continues because the dosage of the medication must be increased with increasing pain. This creates another problem because the drugs have harmful side effects and can cause osteoarthritis to progress faster.
Over the years, the only solution is an artificial joint that is used during an operation. But even with artificial joints, the problem is not solved, since these also have a limited lifespan and have to be replaced after some time.
A new approach to glucosamine and chondroitin
A number of natural supplements have had excellent results in recent years. In many cases, these could prevent worsening of the arthrosis and even cause the cartilage to rebuild.
These natural supplements also include a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These are vital substances that we ingest with food, which are also formed in small amounts in our bodies.
Extensive studies have been conducted with glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, which have proven that both glucosamine and chondroitin are effective in humans and animals.
What is glucosamine and how does it work?
- The body produces glucosamine as an amino sugar. The body obtains the necessary substances from the ingested food.
- This amino sugar is found in synovial fluid, connective tissue, and cartilage.
- It is particularly important for pain-free mobility of the joints.
- It also regulates the build-up and breakdown of the cartilage substance in synergy with the substance chondroitin
Healthy cartilage requires three things:
- Water for lubrication and supply
- Proteoglycans to bind and hold water
- Collagen to keep the proteoglycans in place
Proteoglycans act like a rope that loops itself through the collagen and is extremely important because they can store several times their own weight in water, which lubricates and supplies the collagen.
If the cartilage is damaged, the strands of the rope become weak and there are “leaks” to the outside, causing the collagen to lose its supply because the proteoglycans lose their hold and swim away. As a result, the cartilage cannot cushion impacts, cracks form and it can wear out completely.
Glucosamine is an important building block of water-loving proteoglycans. In addition to its function as a building block for the synthesis of proteoglycans, its mere presence is a stimulus for the cells that produce proteoglycans. In fact, glucosamine is a key factor that determines how many proteoglycans are produced by the cells.
Glucosamine has been shown to accelerate proteoglycan and collagen production and normalize cartilage metabolism, which helps prevent cartilage breakdown.
Due to the effects of glucosamine on cartilage metabolism, it can help the body repair damaged or worn cartilage. Glucosamine thus strengthens the body's natural repair mechanisms.
In addition to stimulating cartilage production, glucosamine also reduces joint pain and inflammation.
Glucosamine causes the fluid in the joints, the so-called joint lubricant, to be sufficiently viscous. This prevents damage or the premature wear of the joints.
Sufficient glucosamine thus ensures unrestricted and painless mobility of the person. With its stimulating effect on the new cartilage structure, glucosamine prevents the breakdown of existing cartilage and at the same time relieves pain.
- Glucosamine is used for the synthesis of glycoproteins, glycolipids, and glycosaminoglycan (also known as mucopolysaccharides). These compounds, which contain carbohydrates, occur in tendons, ligaments, cartilages, synovial fluid, mucous membranes and structures in the eyes, blood vessels and heart valves.
- Glucosamine can reduce catabolic activity by inhibiting the synthesis of protein-splitting enzymes and other substances that contribute to damage to the cartilage matrix.
- Glucosamine inhibits the collagenase enzymes that destroy cartilage. Glucosamine can have a positive effect on cartilage cells and can prevent the breakdown of the corpus matrix.
- Glucosamine also has mild anti-inflammatory effects.
Glucosamine is recommended for:
- regular sporting activities
- chronic back pain
- persistent joint problems
- prevention in the beginning and advanced arthrosis
- prevention against joint wear
While glucosamine helps form proteoglycans that sit in the interstices of the cartilage, chondroitin sulfate acts like a “liquid magnet”.
Chondroitin has the property of pulling liquid into the proteoglycan molecules. This is important for two reasons:
- the liquid acts like a spongy buffer
- the liquid flushes nutrients into the cartilage
Articular cartilage has no blood supply, so all of its supply and lubrication comes from the synovial fluid that surrounds it. The production of synovial fluid is stimulated by the pressure exerted on it. Without the synovial fluid, the cartilage would be malnourished, drier, thinner and more fragile.
Chondroitin is a long-chain molecule with a negative charge. As these chains wrap around proteoglycans, they repel each other and form gaps between each proteoglycan. This space is known as the matrix of the cartilage into which the fluid flows.
There can be up to 10,000 of these chains on a single proteoglycan molecule - so we have a great water reservoir because these chains ensure that these molecules are apart and cannot stick together.
Chondroitin has the following positive functions:
- It protects cartilage, prevents it from breaking down and inhibits certain enzymes that break down cartilage.
- It affects the metabolism of other enzymes that remove fluid from the cartilage.
- It stimulates the production of proteoglycans, glucosamine, and collagen.
Glucosamine against arthritis
In the beginning, conventional medicine found very few substances that act against arthritic pain.
Then came NSAIDs - nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Back then, these very well-known remedies were new drugs with common names such as aspirin, ibuprofen and later naproxen sodium.
- They could pretty much mask arthritic pain. However, they did have some very serious side effects when taken over a long period of time at the doses necessary to relieve the pain that was getting worse.
- Everything from bleeding from the stomach to the breakdown of our lower digestive tract to liver failure is possible, if not inevitable if NSAIDs are taken long enough.
- At that time, it was not known that osteoarthritis could be made worse by taking painkillers.
That changes now. For more than 20 years, continual research into glucosamine and its effectiveness against arthritis in humans and animals has been carried out in America and large parts of Europe, such as Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
Glucosamine is different from analgesic medication. Glucosamine works in a completely different way because it is natural.
Glucosamine builds up and preserves cartilage, tendons and other connective tissue in the body by acting as a building block of these materials and inhibiting enzymes that destroy cartilage.
If the body is not adequately supplied with glucosamine, arthritis - especially arthrosis - can develop. The debilitating disease, which affects millions of people around the world, is characterized by a breakdown of the "shock absorbers" of the joints, especially those that bear weight, such as the hip or knee.
Glucosamine works by naturally reducing cartilage destruction, joint pain, swelling and loss of mobility. Not to mention the fact that glucosamine is much cheaper and comes from natural sources.
Glucosamine cannot cure arthritis, but it can have a very positive effect on joint pain. Because glucosamine works from the inside, so you bathe your joints in a proverbial warm and protective solution and work to heal your joints instead of just masking the pain, the positive effects become less apparent than with analgesic medication.
However, once you achieve this pain relief, glucosamine will protect your joints from further damage while intercepting future damage. Compared to glucosamine, it has been found that many NSAIDs can actually damage your arthritic joints and cause your arthritic pain to get worse as the joints continue to degrade.
If you need immediate pain relief, glucosamine can be taken along with painkillers. The pain is temporarily relieved, while the glucosamine builds up your cartilage and reduces your pain. Note that most clinical studies tested 1,500 mg of glucosamine per day.
Many people also find that chondroitin sulfate and MSM work against arthritic pain.
So, if possible, consider a product that also contains these two joint nutrients.
What foods contain glucosamine?
Today there are very few foods on the menu that contain natural sources of glucosamine. Marine animals such as lobster, shrimp, crab, and mussels are among the few examples from which the human body can get glucosamine. For this reason, a dietary supplement containing glucosamine is a real alternative.
How does a lack of glucosamine express itself?
Especially as we get older, it happens that the body is no longer able to produce glucosamine from the food we eat. The result is limited mobility, triggered by too watery or a lack of synovial fluid. As a rule, the knees and spine are affected, their movement often causes pain.
Inadequate synovial fluid also leads to faster joint wear. The body cannot stop this wear itself, because the aminosugar is also responsible for the regeneration of worn cartilage.
Glucosamine intake and use
The recommended daily dose is approximately 1,500 mg. This dose can usually only be achieved by taking a dietary supplement. The daily requirement can be taken as a single dose or divided into three doses before meals with sufficient water.
If glucosamine is administered in therapy to compensate for a deficiency, it should run for a period of six months. Those who take a dietary supplement containing glucosamine for the first time can notice positive changes after one to three months - provided the glucosamine product is taken daily.
For whom is glucosamine particularly important?
Basically, everyone has a need for glucosamine to ensure the mobility of the joints. This is increased
- in osteoarthritis
- for chronic back and knee pain
- for athletes, especially strength athletes
- in advancing age
What experts say about glucosamine:
1. Glucosamine relieves pain in osteoarthritis
According to researchers at Creighton University in Nebraska, the supply of glucosamine is used to alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis. The results of their studies also suggest that glucosamine has an inhibitory effect on the further development of this disease.
2. Glucosamine inhibits inflammation
According to Sven-David Müller Nortmann, one of the main effects of this body's own substance is that fewer cartilage-destroying enzymes are released. It also promotes the breakdown of inflammatory substances in the body.
3. Glucosamine stops cartilage destruction
A long-term study by Belgian professor Jean-Yves Regnister confirmed that the supply of glucosamine blocks damage to cartilage cells. At the same time, the study verified the supportive effect in of building new cartilage.
4. Remedy for joint and back pain
Other studies have shown that glucosamine has a soothing effect on pain in the joints and back. Aminosugar has also proven to be useful as a preventive measure for athletes or people who are overweight and have increased joint stress.
Glucosamine side effects and interactions
If the recommended dosage is observed, no side effects are expected. In this case, taking glucosamine in the form of nutritional supplements is harmless. If you are taking medication at the same time, you should check with your doctor in advance that there are no interactions with the preparation.
How safe is glucosamine really?
Glucosamine is generally a very safe substance. It has been clinically studied since the early 1980s - so people have been taking it for over 20 years without a problem. There are only a few things to consider when taking glucosamine.
Allergies against seafood
Since most of the glucosamine comes from seafood (some manufacturers offer glucosamine from corn), you should consult your doctor before starting glucosamine therapy. If the seafood glucosamine is pure, it is theoretically possible that people who are allergic to seafood can take glucosamine.
Since allergy sufferers react to the proteins in seafood and glucosamine is obtained from chitin, a carbohydrate, it is generally okay to test glucosamine under the supervision of a doctor, since the processing by which the glucosamine is obtained, the proteins and the antigens that the body would normally respond to.
However, the official recommendation is that people who are allergic to seafood should avoid glucosamine.
Glucosamine and diabetics
Insulin levels can fluctuate with glucosamine, especially for diabetics. Technically speaking, glucosamine is a carbohydrate (a sugar), but the body cannot convert glucosamine to glucose. Therefore, glucosamine does not provide any direct additional sources of glucose.
In diabetic patients, many factors can lead to changing blood levels, so it is very important to consult your doctor before starting glucosamine therapy. You should also be very careful in monitoring your blood sugar levels while taking glucosamine. Read the latest update on glucosamine for diabetics.
Glucosamine and pregnant and breastfeeding women
Pregnant women should avoid glucosamine. There are not enough long-term studies on fetuses to make it clear that glucosamine is 100% safe for the developing fetus. There is no evidence that it could be harmful, but it is still better to play it safe in such a situation.
Extremely high amounts of glucosamine (multiple amounts of the daily dose) can cause digestive problems such as loose stool, diarrhea or nausea.
Glucosamine - a long-term success story
With the exception of the warnings above, glucosamine has a long track record and is considered very safe.
Note that each box of aspirin is stated to be for temporary (non-permanent) relief from arthritic pain only. Not only are they foreign substances (glucosamine is natural and is currently in your joints), the newer generation of analgesic drugs also have some potentially dangerous side effects. Painkillers also only mask the pain and only make things worse.
If you stop taking painkillers, the pain will come back quickly.
Glucosamine ensures a lasting effect. Even if you stop taking it, you will be protected for a period of time. Taking a daily dose is the best way to best reduce joint problems and protect your joints. Glucosamine will become more effective over a long period of time if you continue to take it.
Glucosamine research results
The latest major clinical test results have arrived... Are glucosamine and chondroitin better than pain relievers?
With the ever-increasing interest in how to overcome the restrictions of a life with osteoarthritis, especially since two important prescription medications have been withdrawn from the market, two major clinical studies have recently shown that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate work better than traditional pain relievers.
The "GAIT" (Glucosamine / Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial) study reported after five years of recruitment, testing, and analysis that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin were effective in treating moderate to severe knee pain due to osteoarthritis.
Directed by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), one of the world's leading medical research centers, 13 top-rated research universities in the United States conducted randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel efficiency studies on over 1,500 osteoarthritis patients.
For 24 weeks, each participant received a daily dose of either:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin, a combination of both
- analgesic drug
- or a placebo
The pain levels of all patients were assessed at the beginning of the study and after the end of four weeks.
The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin significantly reduced pain compared to placebo and analgesic medication using the WOMAC Pain Index (Western Ontario and McMaster Osteoarthritis Index).
The study was funded with taxpayers' money, not manufacturers.
Around the same time that the study results of the university-based GAIT study were published in the United States, an independent, clinic-based European study (known as the GUIDE study) released its results. This also showed the extraordinary advantages of glucosamine.
The Glucosamine Efficacy (GUIDE) study reported that glucosamine sulfate may be the preferred symptomatic treatment for knee osteoarthritis.
Dr. Herrero-Beaumont of the Fundacíón Jiménez Díaz in Madrid rated glucosamine sulfate as more effective than paracetamol in a multi-center, randomized, placebo and reference controlled, double-blind study in the treatment of joint pain.
This means that the study was conducted in several clinics, randomized to prevent bias, tested against both placebo and real medication and that doctors didn't know who was taking the placebo or the glucosamine. It was an exceptionally well-designed study with millions of dollars and the results speak for themselves.
The Glucosamine Unum in The Efficacy (GUIDE) study took place in 13 different European clinics and compared a daily dose of 1,500 mg glucosamine sulfate and a much larger, 3,000 mg dose of the over-the-counter drug acetaminophen with placebo on 318 patients.
After 24 weeks of monitoring osteoarthritis patients, the study clearly showed the better effectiveness of the glucosamine supplement (even at half the dose of the drug) in several areas of discomfort and mobility.
The study confirmed that glucosamine proved to be more effective than the most commonly used pain reliever, acetaminophen!
- Glucosamine was used alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the main reason for disabilities in the elderly. Osteoarthritis is an age-related disease of the articular cartilage, which leads to a structural change in the joints.
- Glucosamine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body from glucose and glutamine.
- Glucosamine is one of the main components of glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid, and proteoglycan, all of which are crucial for the formation of cartilage.
- Glucosamine supplements have been used to treat osteoarthritis, back pain, joint pain, and glaucoma. Most glucosamine studies involved people with knee osteoarthritis.
- The sources of glucosamine in supplements are usually seafood, although synthetic glucosamine is also available.
Glucosamine side effects
- Glucosamine is well tolerated. In a three-year study with a daily intake of 1500 mg of glucosamine, no serious side effects were found.
- Glucosamine hydrochloride has been used safely in studies lasting up to 24 weeks.
- The most common side effect of taking glucosamine is mild indigestion.
- People with an allergy to seafood should avoid glucosamine supplements derived from seafood and should instead take a vegetarian glucosamine supplement.
- There were concerns about the effects on insulin levels and blood sugar levels. However, tests done on healthy, obese people who had type 2 diabetes showed no effect on hemoglobin A1C or blood sugar levels after taking the glucosamine supplements for 3 months.
- There were also concerns that glucosamine could increase cholesterol and blood pressure. However, no negative effects on cholesterol or blood pressure were found in people who took glucosamine supplements for up to 3 years.