Is Taking Glucosamine Sulfate Effective for Joint Pain?

What is Glucosamine Sulfate?

Glucosamine Sulfate Molecular Structure

The Molecular Structure of Glucosamine Sulfate

Glucosamine is a simple sugar produced in the human body. A combined form of glutamine and glucose, it plays a vital role in forming cartilage. It also occurs naturally in shellfish species as glucosamine sulfate, and a hydrochloride compound called glucosamine HCL. Cartilage is vital to joint health, for it cushions joints and adds stability. As joints move, cartilage wears away, and the body must replace it. If the body’s ability to make cartilage stops or slows below replacement levels, the result is a form of osteoarthritis characterized by joint pain.


An Over-The-Counter Supplement

Glucosamine Sulfate

Glucosamine Sulfate Supplements

Some European countries have approved medicinal glucosamine as a prescription treatment for arthritis and joint pain. However, the United States only permits the sale of Glucosamine only as an over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement. Beginning in 1980, researchers have conducted clinical studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of glucosamine sulfate to treat joint pain and limited mobility. Some studies show greater effectiveness for treatment of arthritis than common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Studies show glucosamine sulfate provides primary benefits for osteoarthritis including joint pain relief, and slowing cartilage breakdown. The studies also found significant reduction of inflammation and increased antioxidant protection. Glucosamine did not have side effects commonly associated with anti-inflammatory drugs, which can cause damage to stomach linings and gastric ulcers.

Getting the Right Amount of Glucosamine Sulfate In Your Diet

When used as an osteoarthritis treatment, 1,500 milligrams is a standard daily dosage. One can take it all-at-once or in as many as three 500-milligram doses. Based upon body weight, for persons weighing 200 lbs or more, the standard daily dosage is 2,000 milligrams per day for joint pain. Drugs classified as natural health supplements are available over the counter. However, they are not subject to strict standards for purity and strength applied to prescription drugs. For example, a recently conducted independent study showed that contents varied substantially from the labels by up to one-third less glucosamine sulfate than stated. A better practice requires certified analysis, or a third-party analysis or verification.


Are There Allergies and Side Effects from Taking Glucosamine Sulfate?

A three-year study found no severe side effects among subjects using 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine sulfate daily for joint pain. Of the reported side effects, the most common was mild gastrointestinal discomfort, and temporary effects included drowsiness, skin reactions, and headache. Some users may have concerns about use of the supplement by people with diabetes, because the glucosamine sulfate compound is a simple sugar (monosaccharide). Studies have not noted a change in blood sugar, but they have shown an increase in short-term insulin resistance. As a precaution, diabetics or pre-diabetics should have blood sugar levels monitored by a health care provider during early weeks of using the glucosamine supplement for joint pain.


Researchers have only performed toxicity studies for the general public, as a result, data on the effects of glucosamine sulfate supplementation for children and pregnant or lactating women is insufficient. While there is no evidence of toxicity at 1,500 milligrams or higher, the record does not provide a basis to recommend for these groups, nor to encourage these particular population groups to take it for joint pain.


Because sulfur is a naturally occurring essential nutrient in the human body, people can safely take glucosamine sulfate even if allergic or sensitive to sulfa drugs or food additives containing sulfites. Manufactures make glucosamine sulfate from the chitin exoskeleton of shellfish including lobster, crab, and shrimp. While pharmaceutical grade glucosamine sulfate does not generally contain shellfish contaminants, manufacturers advise persons with severe shellfish allergies to exercise caution when taking this shellfish-based supplement.


Take Care When Choosing Your Glucosamine Sulfate

Buyers may get an inferior product if the label does not clearly state that the contents are pure glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine HCL. Some supplements have paired glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin sulfate. Studies have shown that the body absorbs glucosamine. However, many researchers believe that, in supplement form, the body cannot absorb chondroitin sulfate. For this reason, they suggest glucosamine supplements without chondroitin. One should avoid glucosamine supplements that add sodium chloride (NaCl), potassium chloride, (KCl), or that include potassium as an ingredient. Without information to support effectiveness, one should avoid a joint pain supplement called NAG (N-Acetylglucosamine or N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine). It is a less common form of glucosamine noted for ineffectiveness for joint pain and expense.

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