Glucosamine Use Correlates with a Sizable Reduction in Mortality, but Not Yet Convincingly

Posted on: December 9, 2020

Glucosamine Use Correlates with a Sizable Reduction in Mortality, but Not Yet Convincingly

Researchers here note a study population in which glucosamine use correlates with a reduction in mortality risk that is of a similar size to that associated with exercise. One always has the suspicion that, even after controlling for such things, the use of less common supplements is just a marker for the small number of people who really care about their health, and who are putting in more effort across the board to maintain themselves. To become convinced that this is not the case, many studies producing similar results would have to exist, with many more participants taking glucosamine.

Consider the level of evidence for exercise to be similarly beneficial: dozens of studies, and hundreds of thousands of participants. Currently there are only a few such studies for glucosamine, and the one here is much less convincing than the other example published earlier this year, in which there were many more participants taking glucoseamine.

If we are to speculate on why glucosamine might have any sizable beneficial effect on health and mortality, then the first mechanism to consider is some form of reduction in the chronic inflammation that accompanies aging. Continual, unresolved inflammation is very disruptive to tissue function, and drives the onset and progression of all of the common age-related conditions. Glucosamine is used in connection with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, but the evidence is very mixed for it to have any meaningful benefit there. This is another reason to be skeptical. If there were a sizable, reliable reduction in inflammation accompanying the supplementation of glucosamine, then it would show up in that data. And it doesn't.

Glucosamine supplements may reduce overall mortality about as well as regular exercise does, according to a new epidemiological study. Researchers assessed data from 16,686 adults who completed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2010. All of the participants were at least 40 years old. Researchers merged this data with 2015 mortality figures. After controlling for various factors - such as participants' age, sex, smoking status and activity level - the researchers found that taking glucosamine/chondroitin every day for a year or longer was associated with a 39 percent reduction in all-cause mortality. It was also linked to a 65 percent reduction in cardiovascular-related deaths. That's a category that includes deaths from stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart disease, the United States' biggest killer.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin and Mortality in a US NHANES Cohort

Limited previous studies in the United Kingdom or a single US state have demonstrated an association between intake of glucosamine/chondroitin and mortality. This study sought to investigate the association between regular consumption of glucosamine/chondroitin and overall and cardiovascular (CVD) mortality in a national sample of US adults. Combined data from 16,686 participants in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999 to 2010, merged with the 2015 Public-use Linked Mortality File. Cox proportional hazards models were conducted for both CVD and all-cause mortality.

In the study sample, there were 658 (3.94%) participants who had been taking glucosamine/chondroitin for a year or longer. During followup (median, 107 months), there were 3366 total deaths (20.17%); 674 (20.02%) were due to CVD. Respondents taking glucosamine/chondroitin were less likely to have CVD mortality (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.51). After controlling for age, use was associated with a 39% reduction in all-cause (HR = 0.61) and 65% reduction (HR = 0.35) in CVD mortality. Multivariable-adjusted HR showed that the association was maintained after adjustment for age, sex, race, education, smoking status, and physical activity (all-cause mortality, HR = 0.73; CVD mortality, HR = 0.42).

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