Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties apart from being used for supple joints and a healthy cartilage.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine (GluN, 2-amino-2-deoxy-β-d-glucopyranose) and its acetylated derivative, N-acetyl glucosamine, are naturally occurring amino sugars found in the human body (R).

It is also an essential noncellular component of connective tissue, cartilage, ligaments and other structures in humans (R).

There are three salt forms:

  • Glucosamine Hydrochloride (HCI).
  • Glucosamine Sulfate (better absorbed than glucosamine HCI).
  • N-acetyl Glucosamine

In the US, it is the most common non-vitamin, non-mineral, dietary supplements used by adults (R).

European League Against Rheumatism guidelines recommend this supplement for the treatment of osteoarthritis, which is the most common chronic joint disease in the older patients (R).

Health Benefits of Glucosamine

1) Glucosamine Relieves Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

Glucosamine improves symptoms and decreases structural progression in osteoarthritis (OA) when compared to the NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs) and placebo (R).

Several clinical trials have demonstrated the symptom-modifying and joint space narrowing effects in OA patients (R).

In one study osteoarthritis patients given a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate for 6 months had a decrease in pain, stiffness, functional limitation and joint swelling (R1, R2).

It is one of the most common nutritional supplement used by athletes (R).

It is also used by athletes with osteoarthritis (R).

Glucosamine administration in athletes with acute knee injury demonstrated a significant improvement in knee flexion and extension after 28 days when compared to the placebo (R).

2) Glucosamine Exerts an Anti-Inflammatory Action

Glucosamine inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators such as cytokines (R).

It suppresses inflammatory cell activation in animals (R).

Glucosamine might be used for treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) (R).

Children with chronic inflammatory bowel disease, given N-acetyl glucosamine orally, showed a clear improvement in their symptoms (R).

3) Glucosamine Reduces the Risk of Lung Cancer

One study has revealed that there was the greatest reduction (51%) of lung cancer associated with high use of Glucosamine (R).

This may be explained by its anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces the expression of inflammatory genes and inhibits cell proliferation through inhibition of the transcription factor NFkB (R).

In another study, it was found to arrest lung cancer cells in the G1/S phase (by the inhibition of cyclin E and Skp2 protein expression) (R).

4) Glucosamine Suppresses the Formation of Fat Accumulation

Glucosamine administration inhibits  the formation of atherosclerotic lesion (fat accumulation) and infiltration of inflammatory cells into the lesion (R).

It modulates endothelial cell activation, and may exhibit an anti-inflammatory action on atherosclerosis  (R).

5) Glucosamine is an Antioxidant

Glucosamine hydrochloride shows considerable superoxide/hydroxyl radical scavenging ability, which can help protect cells from oxidation (R1, R2).

6) Glucosamine is Good for the Skin

Glucosamine compounds have been reported to have several beneficial effects on the skin and the skin cells. It has been shown to accelerate wound healing, improve skin hydration and decrease wrinkles (R1R2).

In addition, it also inhibits tyrosinase activation which in turn inhibits melanin production and is therefore useful in the treatment of disorders of hyperpigmentation (R).

An anti-aging neck and decolletage cream containing N-acetyl glucosamine delivered significant firming and smoothing effects with reduced hyperpigmentation in women seeking rejuvenation (R).

Technical Section

  • Synthesized in the body via the Hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP) (R).
  • Exerts its therapeutic effect in osteoarthritis by inhibition of the COX-2 enzyme (R).
  • Suppresses the TNF-α-induced production of MCP-1, expression of ICAM-1, and abrogated the phosphorylation of p38MAPK and NF-κB (R).
  • Increases glutathione biosynthesis and effects transcription regulation (R).
  • Efficiently promotes cell death by inhibiting TGase 2 (transglutaminase 2)-mediated NF-kappaB activation in drug-resistant breast cancer cells (R).
  • Specific glucose transporters  – GLUT 1, 2  and 4 – transport the extracellular glucosamine into muscle and adipose tissues (R).
  • Suppressed the TNF-α-induced activation of intestinal epithelial and endothelial cells, improved the clinical symptoms, colonic inflammation and tissue injury in dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis in rats, suppressed the IL-1β-induced activation of synovial cells.
  • Activates endothelial cells possibly via O-GlcNAc modification (R).
  • It stimulates hyaluronic acid synthesis (R).


Coadministration with paracetamol and statin may inhibit the metabolism of these drugs by lowering the concentration of paracetamol metabolites, which may have an influence on the side effects of these drugs (R).

Increased levels also impair insulin secretion. Although there is some evidence for worsening glucose parameters especially in pre-diabetic subsets, the majority of evidence suggests that there is no severe effect in either healthy or pre-diabetic people (R).

External use could increase the activity of Hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP) (R).

There have been reports of worsening of chronic liver disease symptoms with supplementation (R1, R2).

Reports from the FDA and WHO suggest that the use of Warfarin and Glucosamine was associated with an altered coagulation (manifested by increased bleeding or bruising) (R).

Side Effects

Glucosamine at a dosage of 1500 mg per day is said to be safe as in many clinical studies.

It causes only minor side effects such as stomach upset, heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, nausea and diarrhea (R1, R2).


In most clinical studies on treating osteoarthritis the typical dose used was 500 mg three times a day (or) 1500 mg once-a-day (R).

Steady-state peak concentrations at the therapeutic dose of 15oo mg in humans were in line with those found to be effective in selected lab studies (R).

Injected into muscles for osteoarthritis: 400 mg of glucosamine sulfate has been injected twice weekly (R). N-acetyl-glucosamine is also available as an enema.

It is not recommended for children since its safety in children has not been studied.

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