Increased blood cholesterol level, or cholesterol count, is a risk factor in the development of heart disease. A study in the August 2009 issue of "BfR Opinion" looks at the effect of glucosamine on cholesterol levels in response to concerns that this product could adversely affect your cholesterol count. Glucosamine is a supplement used by some people to treat osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine and the Body
Glucosamine -- formed in the body by combining glucose with the amino acid glutamine -- is used in the production of compounds found in mucous membranes, tendons, cartilage, synovial fluid, ligaments, heart valves, blood vessels and other body systems, according to Vitamin and Herb University, a website with information about dietary supplements. As a supplement, glucosamine is most often used by those afflicted with osteoarthritis; either on its own or in conjunction with another compound, chondroitin sulfate.
Osteoarthritis, also known as osteoarthrosis, is a degenerative condition caused by the gradual wearing down of your joint cartilages over time. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis, and no cure is available for this condition, which worsens over time. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of osteoarthritis include stiffness, tenderness or pain in the joints, loss of flexibility, bone spurs or grating sensation in the joints. Many treatments are available to manage the discomfort from this disease, and glucosamine supplements are one of the alternative remedies considered by people.
Glucosamine and Cholesterol
The Danish Medicines Agency, as noted in the "BfR Opinion" study, reported increased cholesterol levels in six patients taking glucosamine in 2004. Another report from the same agency in 2005 indicated that a study of 212 patients taking 1.5 grams of glucosamine per day had no changes in cholesterol level. This report negates a causal effect between glucosamine usage and increased cholesterol levels, but the agency recommends checking your blood cholesterol before beginning glucosamine treatment, and monitoring if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Blood Cholesterol Levels
Those at risk of cardiovascular disease include diabetics, smokers, high blood pressure patients, men age 45 and older, and those with a family history of heart disease. If you fall into the high risk category, then monitoring your cholesterol level is important. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can result in the formation of plaque deposits on the walls of your arteries, leading to heart disease. Blood cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL, or milligrams per deciliter, is recommended, according to the Lab Tests Online website.
While the Danish study showed that glucosamine does not affect the blood cholesterol of most people, you cannot discount the small percentage that does seem to develop high cholesterol while undergoing glucosamine treatment. Follow the advice of the study group, and have your blood cholesterol level checked before and after you begin treatment. If you decide to make glucosamine part of your treatment, do so under the direction of a medical professional.
- American Heart Association: Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol
- Vitamin and Herb University: Glucosamine
- Federal Institute for Risk Management: Food Supplements That Contain Glucosamine
- National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus: Osteoarthritis Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
- Labtest Online: Cholesterol
- BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology: No Changes of Cholesterol Levels With a Commercially Available Glucosamine Product in Patients Treated With Lipid Lowering Drugs: A Controlled, Randomised, Open Cross-Over Trial