The common joint pain supplement that may improve heart health

The observational study found coronary heart disease and stroke was reduced in people who took the common joint pain supplement glucosamine. Source: Getty

Many people with joint pain and inflammation use glucosamine supplements to ease pain and a new international study shows they may also have positive effects on heart health.

Glucosamine is a sugar produced naturally in the body which helps to develop and maintain cartilage within the joints. Supplement versions aim to increase glucosamine levels and come in pill or liquid forms.

While the effectiveness of glucosamine on joint pain continues to be debated by medical professionals, researchers now believe people who use it regularly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 15 per cent. Researchers analysed data from the UK Biobank study – a large population based study based on half a million British men and women – and found glucosamine use may prevent major cardiovascular events including coronary heart disease and stroke.

The study by researchers from Tulane University analysed 466,039 participants without cardiovascular disease who each completed a questionnaire about supplement use. Researchers then analysed death certificates and hospital records to monitor cardiovascular disease events, cardiovascular disease deaths, coronary heart disease and stroke.

It was found 19.3 per cent of participants used glucosamine at the start of the study and its use was associated not only with a 15 per cent lower risk of total cardiovascular disease events, but up to a 22 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease when compared to patients who didn’t use it.

Researchers also found glucosamine use had stronger effects on current smokers, reducing their risk of coronary heart disease by 37 per cent. Smokers generally have higher levels of inflammation and higher risk of cardiovascular disease than non-smokers In contrast, there was a 12 per cent reduced risk in those who never smoked and 18 per cent in former smokers. The study claimed glucosamine is linked to a reduction in chemicals associated with inflammation.

Read more: Supplements for joint pain: Do they really work?

“Habitual use of glucosamine supplements to relieve osteoarthritis pain might also be related to lower risks of CVD events,” the authors wrote in the study published in the BMJ. “Further clinical trials are warranted to test this hypothesis.”

The study has already drawn debate from health professionals.

Sharing a statement with Scimex, Louisa Lam, Deputy Dean of the School of Nursing and Healthcare Professions at Federation University Australia, acknowledged the controversy surrounding glucosamine and vitamin supplements and questioned its effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular disease

“My view is, the study has a very large sample, with large sample like that, it is easy to find some statistical significance in ‘things’ the researchers want. Huge samples can make the Insignificant…significant,” Lam said. “I would really like to see the association of other supplement to CVD event or death.”

Meanwhile, Peter Cifton, Academic Researcher at University of South Australia, said there is a chance glucosamine could be effective in reducing cardiovascular disease.

“Although it is likely the observation of reduced heart disease risk in glucosamine consumers is due to unmeasured confounders as the glucosamine group was a healthier group (and even exercised more despite the apparent need for glucosamine) and a more affluent group, there is a small amount of evidence that glucosamine may be biologically active,” he said.

He added that glucosamine “may reduce the inflammatory reaction in the arteries”.

It’s always important to talk to a health professional about medication and whether it’s appropriate for individual circumstances.

Read more: How to spot the signs of a female heart attack

Do you use glucosamine supplements? What are your thoughts on this study?

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