Glucosamine is an incredibly popular supplement for joint health. It’s been intensely studied for its potential benefits at alleviating pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and old sports injuries.
Numerous research studies have found that glucosamine increases water retention in joints, boosts cartilage synthesis, and reduces joint pain.
Glucosamine’s benefits make it one of the best options for a joint supplement–here’s a run-down on why these benefits are so helpful for joint pain.
1. Glucosamine helps reduce inflammation and joint pain
2. Glucosamine may also increase the synthesis of cartilage tissue
For this reason, you’ll find glucosamine as a key ingredient in many of the top joint supplement on the market that are targeted for people with degenerative arthritis.
3. Glucosamine upregulates synthesis of the building blocks of cartilage
According to a study published by researchers in Italy, glucosamine sulfate increases the synthesis of a type of protein called proteoglycan, which make up a significant amount of the mass in cartilage (5).
This finding suggests that glucosamine’s benefits for cartilage aren’t merely a reduction in pain: they could be indicative of a true improvement in the structural strength of cartilage.
4. Glucosamine could help reduce pain from old sports injuries
A study on people with injury-related, non-arthritic knee pain experienced significant improvements in pain after taking 2000 mg of glucosamine for twelve weeks (6).
This is great news, as it indicates that glucosamine’s mechanism of action is more general than just reducing pain from arthritis: it can also work for sports injury-related pain.
5. Glucosamine works better for joint pain than back pain
In contrast to the above results on knee and hip pain, research from Norway suggests glucosamine is not as helpful when you have chronic low back pain (7).
The findings from this study indicate that glucosamine’s benefits are best-suited for the knees, ankles, and hips, as opposed to the lower back.
Glucosamine side effects
Research shows glucosamine is safe and well-tolerated by almost everyone. Clinical trials have not found any significant difference in the rate of side effects in glucosamine versus placebo.
Glucosamine is derived from shellfish, so it could trigger shellfish allergies. The only potential adverse effect to be aware of is the fact that glucosamine is derived from marine shells, so anyone with a severe shellfish allergy should avoid glucosamine supplements.
Best results come from around 1500 mg per day. That number comes from a study that tested doses from 750 to 3000 mg per day (8).
Above 1500 mg per day your body can’t absorb any more glucosamine. Higher doses are still safe, but don’t provide any additional benefits in terms of bioavailability.
Glucosamine benefits FAQ
Q: Is glucosamine in food?
A: Glucosamine is not found in any foods in any significant amount.
It’s a naturally-occurring compound, but you couldn’t get a dose anywhere near what’s used in clinical supplementation studies even in a very healthy diet.
The only way to get glucosamine in any significant amount is to use a glucosamine supplement.
Q: Is there anyone who should not take glucosamine?
A: Since glucosamine is derived from shellfish, you should not take glucosamine if you know you have a shellfish allergy.
Q: Do any joint supplements really work?
A: The best scientific research supports small but significant benefits from joint supplements based on glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM as well.
Quercetin is another supplement for joint health that has some research supporting it, as does fish oil.
In both of these cases, these joint supplement ingredients are thought to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, cutting down on the cellular-level aggravation in the joint.
Q: How does glucosamine work?
A: Glucosamine is a precursor to a type of compound called glycosaminoglycan, which in turn is used both as a building block for cartilage, and as a lubricant and shock absorber inside joints.
Research on cartilage tissue suggests that glucosamine increases cartilage water content and increases cartilage protein synthesis, plus boosts the supply of lubricating and shock-absorbing fluids in the joint space.
Q: How long does glucosamine stay in your system?
A: Scientific research has estimated the elimination half-life of glucosamine at about 15 hours, meaning that after taking a full dose of glucosamine, half of it has been eliminated from your body 15 hours later (9).
This means that after you stop taking glucosamine, it will take a few days for it to get totally eliminated from your system.
Thanks to this relatively long elimination half life, you don’t have to take glucosamine any more often than once every day.
Related: Our best glucosamine picks
Glucosamine is one of the most commonly-recommended joint supplements, and rightly so. A range of scientific studies have suggested that it can decrease joint pain and improve cartilage health.
Glucosamine could help both with arthritic joint pain and chronic joint pain from lingering sports injuries.
Glucosamine is safe and well-tolerated, making it a great option if you are looking to add a joint health supplement to your routine.