Glucosamine sulfate, long considered beneficial for arthritis, is getting popular for another reason – helping heart disease. While it may seem odd, there is research on this topic. In this review, I'll look at the research linking glucosamine supplements to reductions in heart disease and heart attacks. Does it work or is it just a scam? The only way to know is to review the research and see what we can discover.
Glucosamine Heart Disease Research
Researchers in the UK, conducted a study involving 466,000 men and women, age 40-69 years, who did not have heart disease symptoms. The people, who were followed from 2006 to 2016 completed questionnaires about their lifestyles, what they were eating and what supplements they were taking. So what did they find? Those who said they regularly took glucosamine supplements had:
- 15% lower risk of total heart disease events (heart attack etc)
- 9% -22% lower risk stroke and dying from heart disease
They further noted 12% less heart disease in those who never smoked and an 18% reduction in heart disease in former smokers. The reduction was even greater – 37% -in current smokers.
Does this mean smokers should be taking glucosamine supplements? No, because quitting smoking reduces heart disease risk even more than taking supplements.
These reductions in heart disease risk were independent of things like alcohol intake, smoking, diet, exercise, diabetes, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the taking of other supplements -including fish oil.
In other words, glucosamine – by itself – seemed to reduce heart disease risk and death from heart disease.
In a previous investigation, researchers in Australia noted glucosamine supplements were associated with fewer heart attacks and angina (chest pain). Here, researchers looked at 266,000 people over age 45. Like the UK study, this was also a very large investigation.
Researchers in the US, looking at 77,000 people saw glucosamine supplements were associated with significant reductions in overall death as well as dying from cancer too. More specifically, they noted the supplement was associated with:
- 18% lower risk of death from heart disease
- 13% lower death from cancers
- 33% reduction in death from all causes
Here, the use of chondrotin supplements didn't seem to matter. The effect appeared greatest with glucocosamine alone.
Problems With The Research
The research summarized above is interesting but it's wise to remember none of them prove glucosamine reduces heart disease, heart attacks, cancer or strokes. Rather, the results so far, only suggest there is an association between taking this supplement and lower rates of disease. Correlation (association) does not necessary mean the supplement is related to reducing heart disease risk.
Another issue is that none of the studies gave us information about the type of glucosamine used. This supplement may appear in 3 different forms:
Which form reduces heart attacks the most? Do they all work the same? We don't know.
Another issue is how much glucosamine did people take? While we can't be certain, we can assume most were taking this supplement for arthritis. If that is the case, then odds are, they were taking about 1500 mg per day. This is the dosage thought to be effective for arthritis.
How Long Does It Take To Work?
None of the studies tell us how long someone would have to take the supplement for it to be effective against heart disease. The research tells us habitual use is associated with fewer heart attacks but how long is that? For example, is it one year or 10 years? For those who have heart disease, it's wise to remember this is not something that will work overnight.
Glucosamine vs. Chondroitin
Most supplements contain a combination of chondroitin and glucosamine. Do they work better together? With respect to helping heart disease, at least one study has noted chondroitin may not be needed.
As an aside, I don't recommend men take chondroitin sulfate supplements.
How Does It Work?
Several mechanisms of action have been proposed.
Studies usually show eating fewer refined carbs leads to less heart disease. Animal studies suggest glucosamine sulfate may mimic the effects of eating a low carbohydrate diet. When mice are given the supplement, the tend to live longer.
Another way may be by reducing inflammation. Too much cellular inflammation is thought to play a role in many diseases. At least one study has noted the supplement can reduce C reactive protein (CRP) a marker for cellular inflammation.
Some evidence hints glucosamine may have anti-inflammatory effects.
At this point, how it works is open to speculation.
Glucosamine Side Effects
This supplement has been around a long time and is expected to be safe in most people. Here is a list of things to consider if you take this product:
- Start with less than suggested for the first week
- Taking the supplement with food may reduce GI upset
- Stop taking at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Speak to your doctor/pharmacist if you take any medicine, like blood thinners
- At least one study has noted an increased in pressure inside the eye. If you have glaucoma, talk to your doctor.
- If your are a diabetic, monitor your blood sugar. Some diabetics have told me glucosamine raised their glucose levels.
- If pregnant/breastfeeding, talk to your doctor/pharmacist first
Which Brands Do I like?
If this is a supplement you want to start taking, here are the brands I suggest taking a look at:
Here's a quick run down on heart disease research and this supplement.
|There's more than 1 study||Studies don't “prove” it works|
|Studies contain large numbers of people||We don't know which version of the supplement works best|
|The supplement is easy to find||There may be some drug interactions|
|It probably also helps arthritis||We need a placebo controlled study to know for sure|
Does Glucosamine Work?
When it comes to reducing the risk of heart attacks and heart disease, the research so far is intriguing but it will take more studies to know for sure if there is a genuine effect or if this is just a random fluke. Hopefully one day we will have a better handle on this. Until then, if you want to try this supplement, know it may take years before any effect occurs. Also remember exercise and eating healthy have far more proof than taking this supplement.
I just bought to try doctors best as it seemed to have the best price
I have been using move free so this is a move away from the hcl
thanks for your post on this
Joe Cannon says
Hi Tony, thanks I hope it works for you. Doctors Best is a fine brand. I have some of their supplements myself.
I just received it and will finish my move free and then try doctors best.
I just bought sage extract 4:1 to try.
it says 3200 mg per 2 capsules from 800 mg of 4:1
it suggests 1 per meal twice a day.
I assume from what I have read this is a safe dosage and many sites claim this has many benefits
I am curious what you think on this product.
as always thanks for your reviews
Joe Cannon says
Tony, what reason are you using sage for? Cholesterol? Like all herbs, people use it for different reasons. I always prefer starting new supplements with taking less than recommended for the first week to see how we respond. If you tell me the reasons why your taking sage extract, I can try to look into the research for you.
Tony Mantor says
Cholesterol and they say it can help stabilize blood sugar as well
I added turmeric and a 50/50 spirilna/chlorella Supplement
3 months ago and that seemed to help a lot
Just trying to stay away from the pharmaceuticals
Joe Cannon says
Tony, so I looked into sage for you. I located a study published in 2011 showing sage can help: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21506190?dopt=Abstract
The sage also appeared to boost HDL too. the phytonutrient, quercetin is found in sage and so researchers may tell you how much quercetin their sage supplements contain.
As an aside, in my video on how to lower advanced glycation end-products, I mentioned quercetin as one of the ways. Heres a link to my video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ4ttihYNmc&t=89s
This study on cholesterol levels used Salvia officinalis so it’s not known if other types would have the same effect. It looks like they used 500 mg 3 times a day (1500 mg total) for two months. Id begin with less than 1500 mg per day just to be safe and see how you respond – thats “sage advice” for all supplements.
I also located this study published in 2016 noting sage helped the effects of a statin med and metformin (diabetes drug)
I noticed in this study the researchers said sage boosted HDL levels similar to the placebo. That may be a weakness of the study as I’d expect no significant improvement from a placebo (the placebo was toast powder).
thanks for your input
that is what I found and the most important is boosting the HDL while helping stabilize blood sugars and overall health.
I have got my overall cholesterol under control but the HDL is staying at 46 which is still a bit lower than I would like so I thought this might help
as always your feedback is awesome
I added tumeric and a 50/50 blend of spirulina/chorella a few months ago and it has helped some.
I bought the Doctors Best from your link
thanks again !!
Joe Cannon says
Tony, I forget if I ever mentioned policosanol for raising HDL. There are studies showing it may work
Here’s a brand of policosanol I like from Now Foods
Your HDL is still higher than “normal” so that is good 🙂 I’ve been wanting to write something on things which boost HDL to go with my video on how to lower LDL levels https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5CsS5Lgiww&t=24s
thought I would give you an update.
the sage did not appear to work so I dropped it a few months ago.
I have stayed with your recommended glucosamine for now
I added black garlic to my diet
I also added coq10 and grape seed extract a few months ago.
My physical had my cholesterol numbers at
ldl: 90 ( a little higher than I have been. it was down to 56 once)
what is your thoughts on fish oil, flaxseed oil and krill oil. I have been taking these capsules and wonder it I need all three. My doctor once suggested fish oil and flaxseed. I added the krill later.
Joe Cannon says
Tony, thanks for the update. your numbers are still pretty darn good – better than most people. Im sure your doctor is very pleased with what you continue to accomplish. I like fish oil and ground flaxseeds. I looked at some of the fish oil research here: https://joe-cannon.com/lower-blood-pressure-naturally/
I put flax seeds on oatmeal. It adds fiber to the diet and there’s even some evidence flax can help reduce blood pressure: https://joe-cannon.com/flaxseeds-blood-pressure-review/
You may have seen this review I wrote too: https://joe-cannon.com/lower-blood-pressure-naturally/
Some people tell me they love krill. I don’t think the evidence is as good as for fish oil but if you’re happy with it then thats fine.
I use 2 TB flaxseed meal in my morning smoothie and love it.
I use fish oil, flaxseed oil capsules and krill oil as well.
Doesn’t hurt and not that expensive so I guess I will continue to use them in my daily regiment
I am trying to find a way to lower my supplements and still keep my numbers where they are
supplements get expensive lol
My BP last physical was 117/72 and my doctor really liked my overall numbers
Joe Cannon says
Tony, Im sure your numbers are better than 99% of the people your doctor sees. I hear ya about the supplements. I try to take as few as possible too. If what you are taking is working for you then stick with just those.
I will look policosanol up.
I just got the labs for my cholesterol today.
My HDL dropped from 46.
The clinical trials I have seen used 500 mg, 3 times a day so I thought I could use the sage extract of 1 per day in the morning which is 1600 mg instead of the 2 per day at 3200 to help raise it.
I still try to run everyday as well.
You suggested Bergamot and olive leaf almost 2 years ago which I have been using and I believe it has helped.
I also use the Kyolic Aged Garlic at 2400 mg per day as you suggested almost a year ago.
Other than that I use the normal omega 3, krill oil, turmeric, K2, and flaxseed oil pills
I changed to the glucosamine you like this month because it seems to be better in ingredients.
I am on a mostly plant-based diet with very little meat, zero medications and would rather spend on supplements instead.
Your thoughts on the sage
I truly like your reviews and some of your comments to me have really been beneficial.
Thanks again for all you do !!
Joe Cannon says
Tony since there was just a 4 point difference in HDL from your past to the current test, I wonder if that could be a sensitively issue with the blood test? In other words, could the test accurately detect a 4 point difference in HDL levels? Im not sure. Maybe a doctor could give you better insights on this. The good news is all your other values are fantastic! you are knocking them out of the park!! Also, doctors tend to place more emphasis on lowering LDL than raising HDL so you have that in your favor.
The research on sage is interesting. I’d like to see a couple of more studies on it before I took it ats gospel. still, sage is pretty inexpensive and since its a spice you could add it to foods too.
I have a bit of confusion on HDL.
They say optimum is 60 and some say 40 or above for men, 50 or above for women so is 40 a good number to feel comfortable with or continue to try to get closer to 50?
I am going to use 1 capsule of sage per day instead of the 2 they suggest, which is 1600 mg to see if it helps at all.
one of the studies I looked at used 500 mg capsules 3 times a day so I get the same value, just in one serving
Thanks again !!
Joe Cannon says
Tony, an HDL of 40 is often said to be “normal” but higer levels are usually seen as better. An HDL of 60 or more is sometimes called a “negative risk factor for heart disease.” The idea is a level of 60 or more removes cholesterol faster than we can deliver it, thus reducing the odds of it contributing to plaque buildup. You are very close to 60 so I don’t think you have much to worry about.
Further confusing the issue are those with really high HDL levels like 100 and above. There is some speculation having very high HDL levels may be a way the body compensates for having dysfunctional HDL. In other words, the HDL they make doesn’t work well and so the body tries to compensate by making more to even things up. Again this is nothing for you to worry about.
I’ve used glucosamine for years. I didn’t know there were different kinds. Sure enough, when I looked, Ive been taking glucosamine HCL. Im going to switch to glucosamine sulfate and see if I notice any difference.
Thank you joe!
Joe Cannon says
John, yes, its my experience a lot of supplements are glucosamne HCL rather than glucosamine sulfate. Some people tell me they have had good results with the HCL version. I think glucosamine sulfate has more positive research. Let me know if you notice any differences in your arthritis pain.
Linda Hughes says
Thanks for your response. Yes, your answer was helpful and I appreciate it. The allergy is set off by food containing sulfates, in particular most commercially dried fruit, which is how I became aware of it in the first place. What was worse was the popular yeast infection remedy… never again!
I couldn’t remember what was added to the glucosamine HCL that I saw in the store, but, you are right it was MSM, I will investigate the links that you sent me. Thanks again, great blog you have here.
Joe Cannon says
Thanks Linda, do keep me posted on how you are doing and if you have any other questions 🙂
Linda Hughes says
I have another question related to glucosamine. I am allergic to sulfa, my reactions are so bad that I don’t want to experiment to get the answer to my question. Reading labels, I see that there is usually a sulphate in most of the the glucosamine chondroiten supplements. Then, I see that there are sulfates in quite a few of the glucosamine only.
And I have found some without, so this must be the glucosamine hcl. But, they always pair this one with other ingredients that also list a sulphate. Are these sulphates the same thing as what I am allergic to? And if so, could you recommend a glucosamine that will not have any sulfates? I ask not because of this heart disease study, but, because I am an older athlete and have knee joint issues. Thanks in advance.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Linda, are you also allergic to foods containing sulfate as well? Just wondering if this is just a thing with supplements? Foods containing sulfate includes canned veggies, potato chips and pickles.
glucosamine HCL does not contain sulfate so you are correct. Some supplements combine glucosamine HCL along with chondroitin sulfate. If your allergic to sulfate, then it may be wise to avoid these products. you can purchase glucosamine HCL by itself. Some supplements may combine glucosamien HCL with a sulfate containing molecule called MSM. It may be good to avoid those too.
two Another supplements that may help arthritis pain – which dont contain sulfates are
It usually takes 4-8 weeks for arthritis supplements to kick in. If you are going to try a supplement, start with just 1 at a time to see how it works. Always start with less than suggested for the first week to see how you respond.
Hope that helps Linda. Ig you have any other questions, just ask