What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar made from the shells of sea creatures and animal cartilage. It is not common in our diet which is why most people get their glucosamine intake through supplements.
Glucosamine supplement is made from chitin - the hard outer shells of crustaceans including crabs, lobsters and shrimps.
Supplements are available in the following forms: as glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride or n-acetyl glucosamine. These products come in tablets, capsules or as powder. The chemical makeup of each is slightly different, although all are forms of glucosamine.
You can take glucosamine as a stand-alone supplement, although it’s often taken with chondroitin (another supplement thought to promote healthy joints) and sometimes with manganese which is good for the bones.
Why do I need Glucosamine?
Glucosamine helps the body build cartilage which is the connective tissue that cushions the joints. Our bodies produce less glucosamine as we age so a daily glucosamine supplement may makeup some of the shortfall (although more studies are needed). The research seems to suggest that glucosamine supplements can delay the breakdown of cartilage as well as rebuild it.
Some studies suggest it may be effective in reducing the inflammation and pain of osteoarthritis (a condition caused by stiffening cartilage) but once again the research is conflicting.
Glucosamine also produces joint fluids called glycoproteins which may speed up healing.
Glucosamine is often taken by adults who suffer from osteoarthritis. It is also popular with runners and other athletes who take it when they have knee pain. According to an Internet Poll on runnersworld.com* some 94.5% of respondents said they had tried glucosamine and chondroitin and 79.8% said their symptoms had improved.
Our bone density decreases as we age. If you are over 50 and you wake with morning stiffness and aching joints, then it may be worth considering a daily supplement of glucosamine.
Can too much Glucosamine be harmful?
There is no daily recommended value. A typical daily dose tends to be 1500mg daily (or 500mg three times a day).
Too much glucosamine can upset your stomach - causing bloating, indigestion, diarrhoea and nausea. To lessen symptoms it is best to take glucosamine with food.
As glucosamine supplements are made from shellfish, anyone with a shellfish allergy should check whether glucosamine is safe to take.
You should seek advice before taking glucosamine if you are taking blood-thinning such as Warfarin, as glucosamine may increase the drug’s blood thinning effect increasing your risk of bleeding and bruising.
You should also consult your doctor if you are a diabetic taking insulin as glucosamine may change the dose that you need to keep blood sugar in check.