Glucosamine is an amino sugar, or, a sugar and amino acid (in this case, glutamine) molecule chemically bound together. Glucosamine is the most important building block of joint cartilage. As we age, production of glucosamine and repair of joints may not keep pace with wear-and-tear damage. So people use supplemental glucosamine to ensure that there is an ample supply of this critical joint nutrient. Most glucosamine supplements are derived from the shells of shrimp, lobster, or crab. Vegetarian glucosamines are available also.
In joint supplements, glucosamine is usually paired with the related compound chondroitin, which is a large molecule that's essentially a long chain of glucosamine molecules. The two most common forms of glucosamine in supplements are glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride.
Glucosamine: Health Benefits
Glucosamine supplements supply the single most important nutritional factor for lubricating and maintaining joints, preserving joint mobility and slowing the deterioration of joint cartilage. Many studies have shown glucosamine to provide relief of joint pain and improvement of symptoms in people suffering from osteoarthritis but these effects were not seen immediately. Glucosamine may also fight joint inflammation and inhibit the production of enzymes that destroy cartilage, although more studies are needed to identify the mechanism.
Glucosamine Sulfate or Glucosamine Hydrochloride?
To keep glucosamine molecules stable and prevent deterioration before consumption, manufacturers must attach glucosamine to another ion: a sulfate (glucosamine sulfate) or a chloride ion (glucosamine hydrochloride) are the most common types. There is little evidence that one is superior to the other, or that the body absorbs either type differently.
Using Glucosamine Supplements
General recommended dosage: 1500mg daily. For best results, consume this amount in 2 or 3 divided doses, with food. It may take several weeks of using glucosamine supplements before joint discomfort begins to improve. Consistency in dosing is very important. Once results are experienced, glucosamine can be used indefinitely and will not present side-effects. Glucosamine supplements are available in capsule, tablet, liquid, and powder form.
Side-effects and Cautions:
Glucosamine may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort in some people. Those with diabetes should consult a physician before taking glucosamine supplements due to a possible effect on blood sugar levels. Those allergic to shellfish should not use glucosamine supplements.