March 2023

Clarifying Recent Glucosamine Research

Several new studies were recently added to our glucosamine monograph. The findings from some of these studies aren’t exactly straightforward, and it’s possible you’ve seen misleading headlines reporting the results. Here’s what you should know.

Recent observational research has linked glucosamine use with a higher risk of heart disease. If patients ask you about this, it’s important to explain some details. Glucosamine users in this study tended to be older, had other health concerns, and were taking blood thinners or drugs for high cholesterol. Additionally, other observational research has actually found that glucosamine use is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease-related events, like a heart attack. In general, observational research makes it difficult to determine a cause-and-effect relationship, particularly when there are multiple studies with opposing outcomes. For now, whether there’s any link between glucosamine and heart disease isn’t clear.

You might also get questions about its use for cancer. Another recent observational study found that taking glucosamine might be linked with a reduced risk of death from certain kinds of cancer. Explain to patients that this study failed to provide many important details, including the type of glucosamine used, dosing, frequency, or duration. Additionally, the people taking glucosamine in this study generally reported healthier lifestyles than those not taking glucosamine, which suggests that there may have been other factors associated with this risk reduction. There are also several studies with murky findings for a number of other conditions, including gout and stroke. These studies have the same issues with determining cause and effect.

In general, tell patients not to take headlines at face value. They can sound both promising and alarming, but they often don’t paint the whole picture. Check out our recently updated monograph, as well as our CE/CME course on Understanding Glucosamine and Chondroitin, to learn more.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.