Glucosamine supplements may cut heart disease risk

GlucosamineCC: StevePB at Unsplash

Glucosamine is a drug that usually helps to build cartilage. Because of this, a lot of patients who suffer from arthritis or osteoarthritis take it to support their joints. According to recent research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), it may also cut your heart disease risk.

What is Glucosamine?

Everyone produces glucosamine themselves. It’s found in joint cartilage, and when you don’t produce enough of it you may suffer from arthritis or osteoarthritis. The supplemental version of it was developed in the late-18th-century. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that it was produced in a form that’s safe enough for humans to use.

Today, it’s possible to purchase Glucosamine supplements and use them to offset the effects of joint diseases. Unfortunately, scientists aren’t quite sure how it works. One theory is that they reduce the effects of joint inflammation, which then relieves pain. Another is that it protects your joint cartilage, which then limits degeneration.

What does the latest research reveal?

The research published in the BMJ found that glucosamine lowers your risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) events. The researchers used a prospective cohort study to analyze data from over 400,000 patients between 2006 and 2010. They asked participants to complete a questionnaire that included details of their supplement use. They then monitored these patients through to 2016.

After adjusting their findings for lifestyle habits and other influencing factors that increase CVD risk, the researchers found that glucosamine use significantly lowers your risk of having an event. Although their findings are promising, they don’t yet indicate that taking the supplement acts as a definitive protective factor. Instead, the findings could act as a promising platform for further research to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Why might glucosamine reduce heart disease risks?

Previous areas of research have revealed that eating a low-carbohydrate diet can protect you against heart disease. As this supplement mimics the effects of such diets, it may be that it’s generating similar cardioprotective effects as a result. Additionally, studies focusing on animals have found that the supplement may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. During its later stages, atherosclerosis significantly increases a person’s chances of experiencing CVD events.

Does this mean you should start using the supplement?

Around 20% of the population already does so. Although there are no significant harms that come with taking glucosamine, it’s always wise to seek advice from a physician before adding any supplement to your diet. This is especially important when you’re taking a medication that’s easily disrupted by other medications. For example, warfarin.

In addition to using supplements, you may want to consider other ways to reduce your CVD risk profile. Focus on the positive lifestyle changes you can make and implement them. The most accessible preventative treatments include exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Ideally, you’ll also achieve a good night’s sleep, reduce your stress levels, and modify any existing risk factors such as balancing conditions such as diabetes.

While the research into glucosamine looks promising, there’s still work to be done. Watch this space for (potential) updates on more in-depth studies.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.