What is Glucosamine? Glucosamine is an important building block, found in high concentrations in joints, needed for the manufacture of cartilage and also plays a role in the formation of collagen. Cartilage is the spongy material, that acts as a cushion to our joint when we make any physical movement. Collagen is the main structural component in tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, and is found in large quantities in our skin. Glucosamine is usually sold as either glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL). The raw material is derived from chitin, a biopolymer that is present in the exoskeletons of marine invertebrates.
Glucosamine is regularly used by athletes – normally in conjunction with chondroitin – to reduce the cause of pain associated with injury, to speed the recovery rate from injury, and to reduce the risk of getting injured.
Who might benefit from Glucosamine supplements? Anyone, who trains regularly, in either high impact repetitive sports (like running, rugby, football etc.), trains with heavy weights, and wants to reduce the risk of getting injured or to speed the rate of recovery from an existing injury. Glucosamine has proved to be very popular amongst athletes as a treatment for injuries and as a prevention of further injuries.
What does research say about Glucosamine supplementation? Glucosamine has proved to be effective at improving the rate of recovery from injury and in reducing the amount and severity of joint pain (Deal and Moskowitz, 1999). One of the major benefits of glucosamine, compared with nonsteroidal anti-inflamatory drugs (NSAIDs), is that they can reduce the symptoms without the side-effects. Perhaps, of more importance, is the way that Glucosamine doesn’t just treat the symptoms of pain it actually helps to rebuild damaged cartilage (Houpt et al., 1999). Glucosamine, works by actually building more cartilage (Tiraloche et al., 2005).
Glucosamine, like chondroitin, is known as a symptomatic slow-acting drug for osteoarthritis (SYSADOA). This means that there is a delay of 2+ weeks before there is a noticeable improvement (Simanek et al., 2005). However, because glucosamine works by building new cartilage, even if you stop taking glucosamine it will be several weeks before your symptoms will worsen again.
Glucosamine should be of interest to all athletes, but especially endurance runners, who cause damage to their cartilage through the repetitive pounding motion of running. The good news is that glucosamine 2KCL appears to be highly effective at treating injuries and if taken on a regular basis will help to reverse some of the damage already done to joints.
One interesting piece of research, with glucosamine, found that glucosamine may actually significantly reduce atherosclerosis – the furring, or hardening, of arteries – and therefore may actually help to protect against vascular diseases (Duan et al., 2005).
Is Glucosamine effective? Research has shown that glucosamine significantly reduces the level of joint pain and speeds up the heeling process. It speeds up recovery, and reduces the risk of injury, by actually re-growing new cartilage.
How should I take Glucosamine? If you are looking to try to prevent injury they can take 400-800mg of glucosamine per day. For improved speed of recovery, aim to take 1200-1600mg of glucosamine per day. Research suggests that glucosamine is more effective when combined with chondroitin (Leffler et al., 2003).
Deal, C. L. and Moskowitz, R. W. (1999) Neutraceuticals as therapeutic agents in osteoarthritis, chondroitin sulfate, and collagen hydrolysate. Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America. 25, 379-395.
Duan, W., Paka, L. and Pillarisetti, S. (2005) Distinct effects of glucose and glucosamine on vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells: Evidence for a protective role for glucosamine in atherosclerosis. Cardiovascular Diabetology. 4: 16.
Houpt, J. B., McMillan, R., Wein, C. and Paget-Dellio, S. D. (1999) Effect of glucosamine hydrochloride in the treatment of pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. Journal of Rheumatology. 26, 2423-2430.
Leffler, C. T., Philippi, A. F., Leffler, S. G., Mosure, J. C. and Kim, P. D. (1999) Glucosamine, chondroitin, and manganese ascorbate for degenerative joint disease of the knee or low back: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Mil Med. 164 (2), 85-91.
Simanek, V., Kren, V., Ulrichova, J. and Gallo, J. (2005) The efficiacy of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis: are these saccharides drugs or nutraceuticals? Biomed Papers. 149 (1), 51-56.
Tiraloche, G., Girard, C., Chouinard, L., Sampalis, J., Moquin, L., Ionescu, M., Reiner, A., Poole, A. R. and Laverty, S. (2005) Effect of oral glucosamine on cartilage degradation in a rabbit model of osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 52, 1118-1128.
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