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Side Effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Side Effects of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements are prescribed for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis. However, these chemicals are not devoid of side effects. The current article gives a brief description of the possible side effects and allergies due to these supplements.
Kevin Mathias
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are important structural components of cartilage, a flexible connective tissue present in joints, intervertebral discs, rib cage, ears, and nose. Glucosamine is a type of amino sugar, whereas chondroitin sulfate belongs to the family of glycosaminoglycans. These two carbohydrate moieties are not only responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of cartilage, but also regulate a variety of cellular processes. They are synthesized in the body naturally from glucose. However, with increasing age, the capacity to produce glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate decreases, leading to deterioration of cartilaginous tissues, especially in the knees. The tissue hardens, forming bone spurs which cause immense pain, and limits joint movement.
Since glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are not present directly in any food source, commercially available supplements are the only source. Such supplements have gained widespread use for the treatment of osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis). Studies have shown that they are similar or better than any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. It has been noted that glucosamine supplements have helped persons suffering from osteoarthritis by stimulating cartilage repair, and bringing about increased lubrication in the joints, thereby reducing joint pain.
Side Effects

As per the risk assessment studies, the observed safety levels for the intake of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are 2000 mg/day and 1200 mg/day, respectively. These are the highest levels tested in human clinical trials.
There certain mild side effects have been observed in certain individuals. The most common side effects observed are:
• Headache
• Flatulence
• Abdominal discomfort
• Nausea
• Gastrointestinal pain
• Diarrhea
• Vertigo
• Insomnia
Caution for Diabetics
Patients with diabetes who have been prescribed such supplements are advised to keep a strict check over their insulin and blood sugar levels. Research conducted to evaluate the effect of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate on blood glucose levels has revealed contradictory results. Certain studies render these supplements as safe for diabetics, whereas a few studies have shown diverse metabolic interventions, leading to increased blood glucose levels.
Other Adverse Effects
Isolated cases have been reported where glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplementation led to severe kidney inflammation, liver inflammation, and asthma exacerbation. A few cases have demonstrated adverse interactions of these supplements with anticoagulant medicines and blood-thinning agents like warfarin.
In addition to this, the effects of these chemicals on developing fetus are not yet clearly known. Hence, pregnant women, and those attempting to conceive, as well as breastfeeding mothers are advised against the use of these supplements.

The commercially available supplements are derived from crabs, lobsters and other shellfish, as well as shark cartilage. Hence, atopic individuals and individuals allergic to shellfish may develop hypersensitivity reactions. They may suffer from throat swelling, skin rash, or edema. However, certain contradictory studies state that the level of allergens in these supplements is clinically insignificant, and hence pose no harm to such individuals.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements serve as analgesics for osteoarthritis patients. But, the age at which the need for such supplementation arises is seldom devoid of any other malady. Owing to this, as well as the contradictory results pertaining to certain adverse effects, it is ideal to seek consultation and approval from your doctor.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a registered medical practitioner.