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.

Continue Learning about Glucosamine

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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.