Glucosamine and chondroitin may decrease one’s overall mortality risk as much as regular exercise.
Glucosamine supplements may reduce overall mortality about as well as regular exercise does, according to a new epidemiological study from West Virginia University published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Glucosamine is a natural sugar that exists in the fluid around the joints, as well as in animal bones, bone marrow, shellfish, and fungi.
“Does this mean that if you get off work at five o’clock one day, you should just skip the gym, take a glucosamine pill and go home instead?” asked Dana King, lead author, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine. “That’s not what we suggest. Keep exercising, but the thought that taking a pill would also be beneficial is intriguing.”
He and his research partner, Jun Xiang, a WVU health data analyst, took a look at data from 16,686 adults, ages 40 and above, who completed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2010. They then combined this data with 2015 death rates and found that taking glucosamine/chondroitin daily for a year or more led to a 39 percent decrease in death probability, as well as 65 percent reduction in cardiovascular-related deaths.
“Once we took everything into account, the impact was pretty significant,” King said. He explains that because this is “an epidemiological study – rather than a clinical trial – it doesn’t offer definitive proof that glucosamine/chondroitin makes death less likely,” but he calls the results “encouraging.”
The authors add, however, “Could the association observed between glucosamine/chondroitin intake and mortality be due to another factor? Yes, but this is made less likely by the consistent direction of the findings in diverse population settings in the United States and the United Kingdom. In all studies, the relationship was controlled for factors that might account for the relationship, including demographic and lifestyle factors such as exercise. Other possibilities include that otherwise-healthy people take supplements, and therefore live longer. Controlling for age, race, sex, education, and exercise can partially but perhaps not completely take the ‘healthy people’ factor into account.”
The study concludes, the research shows there is “a strong association between regular intake of glucosamine/chondroitin and subsequent overall and cardiovascular mortality that was maintained after adjustment for factors likely to confound the association. These results are consistent with two recent large epidemiologic studies in the state of Washington and in the United Kingdom and point to the need for long-term prospective studies.” Furthermore, Regular consumption of glucosamine/chondroitin seems to be significantly associated with lower overall and cardiovascular mortality.”
The combination of the two supplements has also been used to treat pain related to osteoarthritis, although studies regarding the effectiveness of this treatment have produced mixed results. Nevertheless, the latest data proves this option may lead to other health benefits.
King added, “In my view, it’s important that people know about this, so they can discuss the findings with their doctor and make an informed choice. Glucosamine is over the counter, so it is readily available.”