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September 2013

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Linked to Liver Problems

The use of products containing glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate has been linked to changes in liver function in people with chronic liver disease, a study reports.

Glucosamine is a compound that is naturally made in humans. It is involved in the creation of molecules that form cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate is a molecule that is found naturally in the body. It has mostly been used to treat joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis, and problems with the chewing muscles and joints. Although few cases of possible liver toxicity have been reported with regard to use of these substances, researchers in the current study set out to determine the frequency of glucosamine liver toxicity in people with liver disease.

The researchers administered a questionnaire to 151 people with an average age of 59 years-old and chronic liver disease. The subjects reported on the frequency of consumption of glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate. Researchers looked for a possible link between the use of these products and changes in liver function test results.

A total of 23 subjects reported having taken products that contained glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate before or at the time of the questionnaire. The researchers identified two people with altered liver function tests temporarily associated with glucosamine treatment, one of whom experienced a skin rash caused by the treatment. The team reported that a review of these two individuals, as well as cases described in the literature, suggests possible liver toxicity linked to glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate use.

The authors concluded that consuming products that contain glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate is frequent among people with chronic liver disease. They emphasized that this should be taken into account due to changes in liver function tests that are not attributed to the underlying disease. However, more research is required in order to better understand and confirm these findings.

For more information about glucosamine or chondroitin, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Cerda C, Bruguera M, Parés A. Hepatotoxicity associated with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in patients with chronic liver disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Aug 28;19(32):5381-4. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i32.5381. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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