Could glucosamine be right for you?
by Mr Lehel Balint
Finding the right glucosamine supplement could help ease aches, pains and stiffness
Glucosamine occurs naturally in the body, however as we get older, the amount our body can produce declines. It is used by the body to produce chemicals involved in building cartilage, tendons, ligaments and joint fluid, and research has shown supplementing a healthy diet with glucosamine could help ease achy joints and stiffness.
“Joints are cushioned by the cartilage and joint fluid that surrounds them,” explains Lehel Balint, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at BMI Droitwich Hospital. “In some people with osteoarthritis, the cartilage breaks down and becomes thin. This results in more joint friction, pain, and stiffness.
“Researchers think taking glucosamine supplements may increase the cartilage and fluid surrounding joints or help prevent the breakdown of these substances, or maybe both.”
What is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is an amino sugar molecule from which certain proteins and lipids are synthesized in the body. There are different forms, including glucosamine sulfate, which is present in the shells of shellfish, animal bones and bone marrow such as in some fungi.
The five types of glucosamine
- D-Glucosamine Hydrochloride (HCL), (from shellfish or vegetable sources)
- D-Glucosamine Sulphate 2KCl, (from shellfish sources)
- D-Glucosamine Sulphate NaCl
- N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG)
- Poly N-acetyl-glucosamine (Poly NAG)
“It is suggested the vegetable source (vegetarian) D-Glucosamine Hydrochloride HCL (Glucosamine HCL) is superior to the shellfish-derived (marine) versions because of purity,” says Mr Balint. Glucosamine (HCL) is thought to have approximately 85% working Glucosamines compared to 65% in the sulphate versions. “Concern was raised because some glucosamine sulfate products are made of shellfish and people allergic to shellfish could develop an allergic reaction,” explains Mr Balint.
What is the best glucosamine to take?
“If you’re suffering from osteoarthritis, take 1,500mg once daily or 500mg three times a day,” advises Mr Balint. However, glucosamine may not help everyone and there are different thoughts to the effectiveness of glucosamine in joint diseases.
“Currently OARSI (OsteoArthritis Research Society International) is recommending glucosamine as the second most effective treatment for moderate cases of osteoarthritis,” Mr Balint says. “Most of the research on glucosamine sulfate has measured its effectiveness on osteoarthritis of the knee. There is some evidence it might also help osteoarthritis of the hip or spine.” In addition to relieving pain, glucosamine might also slow the breakdown of joints in people with osteoarthritis who take it long-term.
If you’re suffering from stiff joints or aches and pains, consult your consultant to see if glucosamine is the right choice for you.