Q. I took glucosamine and chondroitin for about seven months. I had gotten little relief for my back pain, but I was willing to continue it to see if eventually it would help.
Around that time I had blood work done for my yearly exam and found that my cholesterol had jumped from under 200 to 239. I had made no changes in lifestyle or diet other than these supplements. Needless to say, I haven’t taken any since.

A. Dozens of readers report a rise in cholesterol associated with taking glucosamine and chondroitin (G&C). In many cases, cholesterol levels go back down after the supplements are discontinued.
The studies that have actually looked at this issue have not found a connection between G&C and cholesterol. On the other hand, studies do not demonstrate any benefits for mild to moderate joint or back pain either. Since these supplements don’t seem very effective for most people, we can’t recommend them.

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  1. Linda G.

    I’m skeptical of these “studies” that suddenly decide something is effective or ineffective. In a few years a new study will come along contradicting the latest one. In the meantime, I intend to keep taking G&C. Several years ago I began getting achy joints along with advancing age. I tried several different G&C supplements, giving each plenty of time to work. None were effective until I hit upon Flexamin. This brand may not be the one for everyone, but it worked great with me – within a few weeks I was pretty much ache-free, and it continues to be effective. My advice? Quit reading studies!

  2. L O

    I took glucosamine/chondroitin for pain in my knees. I had no side effects and after a few weeks I had great results. This was years ago. The knee pain has never returned.

  3. Gilbert D

    I have been using a liquid version of G&C for about two months now. The pain in my knee has been reduced dramatically. I’m not sure what it did to my Cholesterol numbers but I don’t really care. I think the whole “high cholesterol test” was created to sell Lipitor and other drugs.
    My rheumotolgist told me that she once performed test on patients who had died. They knew the cholesterol levels before death of these patients. She examined the veins and arteries; seems SOME people with high cholesterol levels had clear veins and SOME people with clogged veins had low numbers. She wasn’t impressed that the cholesterol testings proved anything except that a prescription could be written. So that’s my opinion, I could be wrong…

  4. GD

    I guess I am an exception. I have been taking glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM for years and it helps my arthritic pain. I tried stopping it once and discovered why I had been taking it. Actually an orthopedic surgeon suggested that I continue taking it. My cholesterol is fine.

  5. Brent B.

    I think you are supposed to take the combination along with MSM for maximum benefit, as far as arthritis goes. Otherwise there are many excellent anti-inflammatory herbs, like turmeric and ginger. There’s a commercially-made combination called Zyflamend which puts some of them together.
    Also, in general there is too much emphasis on cholesterol levels when the real concern should be inflammation. If we simply stop eating inflammatory foods (like white flour, white sugar), this will substantially improve health and reduce pain. According to Tony Pantalleresco (host of “The Remedy” on The Micro Effect network), statins cause brain / muscle damage and reduce CoQ10 levels. So patients should avoid them whenever possible! Thank you for providing this forum and keep sharing the health.

  6. JD

    Some years ago (at least 7 or 8), my knuckles were sore & so swollen I was unable to come even close to making a fist. I started taking glucosamine & chondroitin, and had positive results almost immediately. I’ve continued to take g/c ever since, and ‘tho I have swollen, arthritic looking knuckles, I have never again suffered from pain or swelling. Nor have I suffered from any side effects, including cholesterol levels.

  7. Else H.

    A friend told me to take vitamin B-6… about 400 mg.a day, taking 200 mg in the morning and 200 mg in the evening. After about 3 week I began to notice improvement. It rarely bothers me except in damp weather and then it’s not nearly as bad as it was before and is quite tolerable.

  8. Elaine

    I have taken glucosamine and chondroitin for years and it has helped me. I notice the pain starts in my knees when I stop taking the medication. My cholesterol has been around 240 total but I have a high good and since I am 76 refuse to take medication for it. I firmly believe seniors are way over medicated. Elaine

  9. lucy

    The very same thing happened to me! My cholesterol went up 40 points, and when I stopped taking the G&C it went right down to normal again. I wonder why that study didn’t show that G&C raised cholesterol? Maybe it was a very small study? It would be interesting to be able to read the results of the study and to know who conducted it.

  10. Mikey

    I had read about some other undesirable side-effect of G&C — don’t remember what — and wasn’t seeing any improvement in arthritis symptoms, so just decided to stop G&C. Subsequent blood work shows a marked improvement in cholesterol numbers. I hadn’t realized what was causing it, but I think this article has put 2+2 together.

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