You may or may not have heard of glucosamine and chondroitin but your body naturally produces both of these compounds. Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural compounds found in healthy cartilage, which is the connective tissue that cushions the joints of the body. Both these compounds are also available in the form of dietary supplements that are usually sold together in a single supplement tablet; these are lab-synthesized versions of the compound made from the cartilage of other animals.
These supplements are usually recommended for older adults with joint health problems and bone diseases. But studies confirming their benefits are scarce and often controversial, which is why you may not find every general physician or nutritionist recommending them. And yet, emerging evidence suggests that glucosamine-chondroitin supplements may have a role to play not just in bone health but also in all-cause mortality.
Glucosamine use and mortality risks
A few studies on either or both of these compounds establish a link between regular use and mortality. A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in 2012 found that the use of glucosamine (with or without chondroitin) was associated with a huge reduction in the risk of death from respiratory diseases. The study also suggested that taking glucosamine supplements could also reduce the risks of several broad causes of death. Another study published in The BMJ in 2019 found that regular use of glucosamine supplements lowered the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), coronary heart disease, stroke, and CVD-related death among the participants.
Based on such encouraging findings, a team of epidemiologists from the University of West Virginia set out to evaluate if the daily use of glucosamine-chondroitin combination supplements has any effect on cardiovascular and overall mortality in a large population study while taking demographic and disease variables into account. Their findings have now been published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
Glucosamine-chondroitin against mortality risk factors
The researchers gathered data from 16,686 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999 to 2010) and the 2015 Public-Use Linked Mortality File. They created Coz proportional hazard models to evaluate CVD and all-cause mortality risks in this cohort. Among all the participants, only 658 (3.94 percent) had been taking glucosamine-chondroitin supplements for a year or longer. The researchers conducted a follow-up for eight to nine years on all participants, including the ones using glucosamine and chondroitin.
They found that during the follow-up period, 3,366 participants died and 674 of them died due to CVDs. They also found that the group that consumed glucosamine-chondroitin were much less likely to have CVD-related mortality. In fact, their mortality risk due to CVDs was reduced by 65 percent, while their all-cause mortality risks were reduced by 39 percent. These risk evaluations were done after adjusting for variations in age, sex, race, education, smoking status and physical activity levels, making them all the more significant.
The researchers, therefore, concluded that the regular intake of glucosamine-chondroitin is linked with a significantly lower risk of both all-cause mortality and CVD mortality. While more studies need to be conducted, especially ones in clinically controlled environments, these findings are indeed encouraging.
For more information, read our article on Heart disease.
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