Glucosamine sulfate is a natural occurring chemical found in the body. It is used in the body to produce other chemicals that help build tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the fluid surrounding joints. This is where the supplement is touted as a pain reliever for osteoarthritis, especially with osteoarthritis of the knees. It may also slow the breakdown of joints and prevent the condition from getting worse. The effectiveness of glucosamine in patients with osteoarthritis and joint pain continues to be debated.
Now there’s another reason to consider using glucosamine…to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). A prospective study was done in the U.K. where researchers examined the association between regular use of glucosamine and CVD risk in close to 500,000 people without known CVD at baseline. They completed a supplement use questionnaire where 20% of the respondents answered “yes” when asked if they used glucosamine regularly.
During a 7-year follow-up, 10,200 adverse CVD events occurred. After adjusting for multiple variables, regular glucosamine users had significantly lower risks for overall adverse CVD events including CV-related death, coronary heart disease and nonfatal stroke than did non-users.
These results are plausible considering glucosamine has anti-inflammatory properties and regular use is associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation. It is best to wait for a randomized trial to repeat and confirm these findings as the study design (questionnaires) may not be as reliable.
One last thing is that the form of glucosamine supplement (glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, N acetyl glucosamine) was not collected. Therefore it’s difficult to assess whether the association between various forms of glucosamine supplement and CVD risk might differ. Glucosamine is closely regulated in most European countries where it is only sold by prescription. However, in the U.S. and Australia it is a dietary supplement and sold over-the-counter where it is not regulated.
Ma H et al. Association of habitual glucosamine use with risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective study in U.K. Biobank. BMJ 2019 May 14;365:l1628.