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Glucosamine is a supplement derived from shellfish that can provide minor pain relief. Glucosamine sulfate slightly delays the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

Our evidence-based analysis on glucosamine features 191 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Glucosamine

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

Glucosamine is a supplement derived from shellfish.

Glucosamine is primarily sold as a joint health supplement. Studies show that supplementing glucosamine sulfate will reduce the rate of collagen (joint tissue) degradation and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Though glucosamine is comparable to acetaminophen, the reference drug for osteoarthritis, in potency, it is not as reliable.

Studies on athletes supplementing glucosamine are limited, but preliminary evidence suggests doses as high as 3,000mg of glucosamine sulfate may be able to slow joint degradation. This effect is most relevant for athletes participating in high impact sports, like running.

Though preliminary evidence suggested glucosamine supplementation could cause insulin resistance, follow up studies conclude that glucosamine supplementation does not affect glucose metabolism.

Glucosamine is very safe to supplement and its most common side-effect is flatulence. Glucosamine supplementation cannot cure osteoarthritis, but it can slow the progression of the disease.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

To supplement glucosamine, take 300 – 500 mg, three times a day, for a total daily dose of 900 – 1,500 mg. The benefits of glucosamine are dose-dependent, and studies use up to 2,000 – 3,000 mg a day, taken in several doses.

Glucosamine sulfate salts are the best way to supplement glucosamine, with glucosamine sulfate as a close second. Glucosamine hydrochloride is ineffective. N-Acetylglucosamine is not glucosamine and should be considered a different supplement.

Glucosamine should be supplemented alongside food.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Glucosamine has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
grade-a Minor Very High See all 8 studies
There appears to be a decrease in pain, with one meta-analysis noting that over the long term it account for "a 13 point reduction on a scale of 0-100". Although present, it is not as effective as most painkillers and may be exclusive to osteoarthritis
grade-a Minor Very High See all 19 studies
There appears to be a small decrease in osteoarthritis symptoms associated with glucosamine (as sulfate, not hydrochloride) which is somewhat unreliable but consistently outperforms placebo on meta-analyses. The magnitude of reduction, however, is somewhat minor but still comparable to acetominophen
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
This biomarker of collagen degradation has been twice noted to be suppressed in athletes given 3g glucosamine sulfate daily, suggesting that prevention of collagen degradation applies (without measuring collagen per se)
grade-c Minor - See study
May be able to accelerate the rate of tissue injuries, limited evidence however
grade-c Minor - See study
An increase in range of motion has been noted alongside general osteoarthritis symptom reduction
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Can decrease the rate of collagen degradation in this disease state; lack of reference drugs prevents gauging potency
grade-c - - See study
No significant benefits seen on lower back pain; all benefits associated with glucosamine are related to the knee
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
Limited evidence suggests that glucosamine's benefits do not extend to the jaw

Studies Excluded from Consideration

  • Excluded due to being a subgroup analysis of another study included in the table[1]

  • Highly confounded with all manners of Traditional Chinese Medicine[2]

  • Confounded with Chondroitin Sulfate[3]

  • Excluded due to using injections of glucosamine (not applicable to oral supplementation)[4][5][6]

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Glucosamine

Supplementing for better joint health
A quick look at supplements proven to possibly help you with joint pain.

Things to Note

Is a Form Of

Primary Function:

Do Not Confuse With

Glucose, Chitosan

Goes Well With

  • Chondroitin (merely for reducing joint swelling, with the synergism against osteoarthritis not being supported)

  • Boswellia serrata (synergistic in rats for reducing the development of arthritis)

  • D-pinitol (synergistic in rats for reducing inflammation)

Caution Notice

Possible allergic reactions in response to shellfish

  • Although there does not appear to be a large adverse interaction between glucosamine and diabetes (some schools of thought believe that glucosamine induces insulin resistance, which doesn't appear to be that reliable in humans after oral ingestion) it still seems to be prudent to ask a medical doctor about using glucosamine if one is pre-diabetic or diabetic

  • Although glucosamine per se is not allergenic, other bioactives from its source (shellfish) may be found in some dietary supplements and thus persons with shellfish allergies should take caution in using glucosamine supplementation

Click here to see all 191 references.