Is Glucosamine and Chondroitin Safe?
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are claimed to provide numerous benefits, but is glucosamine and chondroitin safe? While the product appears to be safe for most people, you may not be able to take it safely if you have asthma, diabetes, prostate cancer, or high blood pressure. Glucosamine and chondroitin could worsen these conditions.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Safety: An Overview
Glucosamine and chondroitin is a dietary supplement often used for arthritis treatment, although it is sometimes used for other purposes as well. It appears to be safe for most people. However, you may not be able to take glucosamine and chondroitin safely if you have:
- Prostate cancer
- A bleeding disorder
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Any allergies, including allergies to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Specific Warnings and Precautions
Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of glucosamine and chondroitin include the following:
- Theoretically, chondroitin might increase the risk of prostate cancer. It is not known if this is a true risk or not. If you have prostate cancer or are at high risk for prostate cancer, check with your healthcare provider before taking chondroitin.
- Theoretically, chondroitin might increase the risk of bleeding, which could be especially dangerous in people who have bleeding disorder or who take "blood thinners" (anticoagulants) or antiplatelet medications. Although human studies have not shown that chondroitin affects blood clotting, it is best to check with your healthcare provider if you have any bleeding problems (or take any medication that increases the risk of bleeding).
- It has been reported that glucosamine and chondroitin may cause asthma attacks in people with asthma. If you have asthma, be sure to use glucosamine and chondroitin cautiously. Make sure to have your asthma medication ready if necessary. If your asthma is particularly severe, it might be best to check with your healthcare provider before taking glucosamine and chondroitin.
- There has been some concern that glucosamine could increase blood sugar (which could be especially problematic for people with diabetes). However, research seems to suggest that this is probably not a problem for most people. It may still be a good idea to monitor your blood sugar more often while starting or stopping glucosamine and chondroitin.
- Animal studies suggested that glucosamine might cause high cholesterol or high blood pressure. However, human studies have not shown similar problems.
- Theoretically, glucosamine might increase blood pressure. Although human studies have not shown that high blood pressure is a glucosamine side effect, it is probably a good idea to check your blood pressure while taking glucosamine and chondroitin, especially if you already have high blood pressure.
- Glucosamine is derived from the shells of lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. It is possible that people with a shellfish allergy might also be allergic to glucosamine, although most people are allergic to the actual shellfish meat (not the shells).
- Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may interact with some medications (see Drug Interactions With Glucosamine and Chondroitin for more information).
- It is not known if glucosamine and chondroitin is safe for pregnant women (see Glucosamine and Pregnancy and Chondroitin and Pregnancy).
- It is not known if glucosamine and chondroitin is safe for breastfeeding women (see Glucosamine and Breastfeeding and Chondroitin and Breastfeeding).
- If you decide to use supplements, what you see on the label may not reflect what is in the bottle. For example, some dietary supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals or prescription drugs, and some have been found to have much more or much less of the featured ingredient than their label states. Therefore, make sure the manufacturer of your glucosamine and chondroitin product is a trusted and reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if a product is USP verified, meaning it meets certain criteria for purity, content, dissolution, and manufacturing. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are most reputable.