Glucosamine represents an alternative therapy for arthritis, a disease that affects over 52 million Americans -- 23 percent of adults in America -- according to a 2009 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Glucosamine helps your body maintain healthy cartilage, and might therefore help treat or prevent the cartilage loss that occurs in osteoarthritis. Taking glucosamine with other supplements, such as fish oil, might prove beneficial, but as of December 2011, there is no evidence to suggest that fish oil improves glucosamine absorption.
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What Is Glucosamine?
Glucosamine is a type of simple sugar with a chemical structure similar to glucose, the sugar your cells use as fuel. Your body adds glycosamine to proteins, and the presence or absence of glycosamine helps determine the protein's activity and function in your cells. It is available in several forms as dietary supplements -- as part of crude extracts, such as cartilage extracts, or in a purified form, such as glucosamine sulfate. Some glucosamine supplements might combine the sugar with other joint-healthy nutrients, such as fish oil -- a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Effect of Fish Oil
As of December 2011, there is no evidence suggesting that fish oil aids in the absorption of glucosamine. Taken on its own, glucosamine is already effectively absorbed by your digestive tract -- a study published in "Drug Research" in 2001 indicates that almost 90 percent of the supplement is absorbed -- only around 10 percent is excreted from your body, unabsorbed. Though there are no studies directly testing the effect of fish oil on glucosamine absorption, these data indicate that you do not need to take fish oil to properly absorb your glucosamine supplement.
Glucosamine and Fish Oil
Though it might not prove important for glucosamine absorption, fish oil's effect on your body might complement the benefits of glucosamine. Like glucosamine, fish oil might benefit the health of your joints, preventing some types of arthritis. Taking fish oil might reduce joint stiffness and pain that can occur as a result of arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For this reason, you might benefit from taking fish oil in combination with glucosamine.
You can help maximize your digestive tract's absorption of glucosamine by selecting purified glucosamine, such as glucosamine sulfate, since other forms of glucosamine -- including cartilage extracts and condroitin sulfate -- prove less easily absorbed by your body, according to the International Center for Nutritional Research.
If you're considering taking glucosamine and fish oil supplements, you must first consult your doctor. Both supplements have potential side effects -- fish oil might prove dangerous to individuals taking blood thinners, while glucosamine might negatively affect your ability to regulate blood sugar. Your doctor can review your medical history to determine whether these supplements will be safe for you, and recommend safe and effective dosages of both fish oil and glucosamine.