The Effects of Glucosamine on Longevity


Glucosamine-based dietary supplements are popular for the supposed health-promoting and pain-relieving effects on joints, although several long-term clinical studies have debunked this popular opinion down to medical myth, showing that placebo is just as effective as glucosamine supplementation in alleviating joint pain. However, when it comes to preventing and treating osteoarthritis, several studies indicate that glucosamine may be an effective intervention.

Recent research has found a new reason to avoid skipping your glucosamine pills. In a study published in an April 2014 issue of Nature, researchers claimed that D-Glucosamine supplementation increased longevity in worms and aging mice, two animal models commonly used to study human aging, genetics, and disease.

While success in animal testing does not conclusively indicate a 100% success rate in human testing, they lend undeniable legitimacy to the possibility of similar effects in humans due to genetic, anatomical, and physiological similarities.

Glucosamine Effects: the Basics

The study suggests that the glucosamine’s overall effect on longevity mimics that of a low-carbohydrate diet, which has previously been shown to promote metabolic health. Low-carb diets have been shown to promote weight loss and help maintain healthy weight, lower risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure. It’s most significant effect was on improving blood lipid profiles, lowering triglycerides (the primary fat-carrying molecule in the blood) and boosting levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Note: the majority of low-carbohydrate diets were also high in vegetable sources of fat and were compared against low-fat diets, high-carbohydrate & low-fat diets, low-carbohydrate diets rich in animal fats and proteins, or healthy high-carbohydrate diets. For more information, read more about low-carbohydrate diets.

Glucosamine Effects: an Advanced Perspective

What exactly does a low-carbohydrate diet change in our chemistry that gives it its ability to slow aging and extend life?

(1) Glucosamine appears to interfere with glycolysis, the initial step of glucose metabolism. Study authors noted a 43% decrease in the oxidation of glucose (metabolism) after glucosamine administration.

  • Reduced glucose metabolism necessarily leads to lower levels of Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP), the molecule used as an energy source by all human cells.
  • Lower levels of ATP activate the cellular AMPK network, which promotes mitochondrial biogenesis.
  • Increased levels of cellular mitochondria necessarily enhance respiration and ATP (energy production). However, since glucose metabolism was diminished, fatty acid and amino acid (only other sources of energy) metabolism increased, increasing catabolism of both fat and protein.
  • Increased cellular respiration necessarily leads to increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), highly unstable molecules that, when present at optimal levels, exert a protective effect by promoting cellular resistance to stress. This phenomenon is called mitohormesis.

Related: What Are Antioxidants and How Do They Work

(2) In an unrelated mechanism, glucosamine also induced expression of amino-acid transporters, increasing amino acid uptake and catabolism.

(3) Glucosamine has also shown blood glucose-lowering effects, especially after feeding. No effects were seen during fasting states.