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Glucosamine supplements could benefit the heart

Glucosamine supplements are used by hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide to relieve the joint pain caused due to osteoarthritis. There are controversies about its actual benefits in the joint. Now a large study with data from the UK Biobank reveals that regular use of glucosamine supplements could reduce the risk of getting cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cardiovascular events. The study appeared this week in the latest issue of The BMJ and was titled, “Association of habitual glucosamine use with risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective study in UK Biobank”. The researchers from Tulane University, Harvard University, and Harbin Medical University in China noted that habitual or regular use of these supplements could prevent CVD events such as coronary heart disease and stroke. Professor Lu Qi at Tulane University in New Orleans and his team gathered data from the UK Biobank that includes data from over half a million British population. For this study they analyzed 466,039 participants without CVD. These participants were provided with a questionnaire that they completed and in it they mentioned their use of Glucosamine supplements. Over time the patients were followed up and hospital records and death certificate information revealed the numbers of CVD events or deaths that took place among these participants. An average seven years of tracking was done where CVD events such as events due to coronary heart disease and stroke were recorded. Results revealed that 19.3 percent of the participants were using glucosamine supplements since the start of the study. On analysis they noted that use of these supplements reduced the risk of all CVD events by 15 percent and lowered the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and deaths due to CVD by 9 to 22 percent when compared with those who did not use these supplements. During the follow up there were 10 204 CVD events, 3060 deaths due to CVD, 5745 coronary heart disease events and 3263 strokes. “I am a bit surprised but not very much, because previous studies from humans or animals have shown that glucosamine may have protective effects on inflammation, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease [CVD],” Qi said.
Before making conclusive statements the team meticulously also took into consideration other risk factors such as age, gender, weight, body mass index (BMI), lifestyle choices, diet, ethnicity, other medication and supplement use etc. these were all adjusted for before the benefits of glucosamine were ascertained. For example they found that glucosamine reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 37 percent among smokers, by 18 percent among former smokers and by 12 percent among those who had never smoked. Authors explain that glucosamine use reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is normally associated with inflammation and is raised among those with various conditions including CVD. It is also raised among smokers. Glucosamine use reduces the CRP and thus its benefit is reduction of CVD events among smokers is more pronounced. Glucosamine use also mimics a low carbohydrate diet and thus may benefit in prevention of heart disease. Low carbohydrate diet has been associated with less risk of development of CVD. Senior author, Lu Qi, in a statement said, “This is good news for people who take these supplements.” He warned however, “we really need additional data from population studies and further, more solid data from clinical trials.” The authors of the study agree that they did not have clear information regarding the dose of the glucosamine supplements taken and they also did not have data on the side effects of such use. They however conclude, “…habitual use of glucosamine supplements to relieve osteoarthritis pain might also be related to lower risks of CVD events. Further clinical trials are warranted to test this hypothesis.”