What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a simple compound derived from glucose (blood sugar) and the amino acid glutamine and is built into cartilage and many other tissues. Glucosamine helps cartilage cells (chondrocytes) to produce more collagen fibers and proteoglycans, which are necessary for cartilage to absorb and keep water. Glucosamine helps keep cartilage healthy and may help the body repair damaged cartilage.

Glucosamine sulfate, which is used in most studies, is found in small quantities in food. It is produced in our joints by cells that make cartilage. Glucosamine sulfate is actively absorbed and is incorporated into cartilage. Cells that make cartilage use glucosamine as raw material for proteins that bind water in cartilage. These proteins are called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Also, glucosamine stimulates cartilage-producing cells to produce GAGs. Glucosamine supplements are typically derived from animal cartilage.

Reviews of glucosamine sulfate research in humans agree that the evidence supports the theory that glucosamine sulfate improves osteoarthritis symptoms and may have a role in correcting the cause of the disease. There are at least nine randomized, controlled trials in humans, comparing glucosamine sulfate to either a placebo or to pain medications. Glucosamine is administered either orally or by injection. All nine trials show glucosamine sulfate to work better than the placebo or as good as pain medications.

Glucosamine is a complex "amino sugar" and forms a building block of glycosaminoglycans which are, in turn, building blocks of cartilage.
Harris H. McIlwain, MD
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring amino sugar found in human joints and connective tissues. It is useful in maintaining lubrication in the joints, stimulate cartilage repair chemistry, and slowing the breakdown of cartilage for cartilage repair. 
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Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

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Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Glucosamine is an amino-sugar that your body naturally makes. It acts as a building block for making and repairing cartilage and helping it hold water. Retaining water is important for keeping your joints nicely lubricated and allowing you to move as smoothly as Gene Kelly. If the cartilage in your joints is rough and ragged from osteoarthritis, taking glucosamine may help rebuild it and reduce pain and stiffness. Randomized studies are not definitive, but many swear it helps their bodies repair and maintain cartilage.

Continue Learning about Glucosamine

Who should not take glucosamine?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Before taking glucosamine, you should speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether it is...
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Does glucosamine cause tingling in hands and feet?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
There seems to be little evidence that glucosamine causes tingling in the hands and feet. In a l...
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What is the function of glucosamine in cartilage?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
The function of glucosamine in cartilage is to stimulate the formation and repair of cartilage. ...
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Are there any side effects of glucosamine?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
As a nutritional supplement, glucosamine is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.