In the ever-present battle to stay healthy as we get older, a common supplement may now hold extra properties to reduce overall mortality. It’s glucosamine, and many people take this supplement for its benefits for joints and mobility. Could it also reduce the overall risk or mortality?
A study conducted by West Virginia University finds that in adults over 40, taking a glucosamine supplement can be as helpful for the body as exercise itself—reducing general mortality by 39%. Glucosamine helps cartilage and bone from degenerating with age and is a helpful tool for managing joint health. It is naturally occurring in the fluid surrounding joints, and as part of the cartilage, it helps cushion the joints. One of the researchers from WVU, Professor King, is an avid cyclist who had a hunch that glucosamine may be doing more than just helping the joints stay mobile as the body ages.
King’s epidemiological study involved 16,686 adults who had completed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999-2010. Overall, the adults surveyed who were over 40 and took glucosamine had a 39% reduction in overall mortality and a 65% reduction in death caused by cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease, stroke, and coronary artery disease). Those figures are very similar to the type of protection and disease-risk reduction that you can find from exercising.
Though it’s not a clinical trial in which all variables are controlled, the correlation between glucosamine supplementation and reduced risk of disease is an area in which we should hope to see more definitive studies. As always, don’t forego the exercise just because of glucosamine; but could incorporating it into your daily routine offer double the protection? It’s a question worth asking your doctor as we build more upon this hypothesis.
King, D. E., MD, & Xiang, J., MS, MA. (n.d.). Glucosamine/Chondroitin and Mortality in a US NHANES Cohort. Original Rsearch, Nov-Dec 2020. doi:https://www.jabfm.org/content/jabfp/33/6/842.full.pdf