ease arthritis pain, woman with knee and joint pain, your knee pain, pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin, increase your cholesterol

What happens if you take something for a presumed benefit only to discover that it has a downside? This happens pretty frequently with pharmaceuticals; everyone is familiar with the idea of side effects. We may be less aware of this problem as it relates to supplements, especially when the reaction is uncommon. Could taking glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis pain increase your cholesterol levels?

Could Glucosamine and Chondroitin Increase Your Cholesterol?

Q. I have been taking glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate for knee joint pain. My cholesterol has always been a little over 200.

Since last summer my cholesterol has jumped to 435. The only thing that has changed is that I take this arthritis supplement daily.

I read on your website that others have had a similar problem. I now have hope in figuring out why I have such dangerous cholesterol levels. Is there up-to-date information?

Update on Glucosamine and Cholesterol:

A. We first heard about this concern over 20 years ago.

A reader reported:

“I have been taking glucosamine for arthritis this past year and it has helped. However, the side effect has been increased cholesterol. My last count was 346, up 100 points from before.”

Since then we have heard from others that their cholesterol rises when taking glucosamine.

Researchers have attempted to study this phenomenon. They have not identified a problem (Eggertsen, Andreasson & Andrén, BMC Pharmacology & Toxicology, Oct. 10, 2012). This randomized controlled trial was quite small, however, with only 34 volunteers. We can only speculate that certain people may be especially sensitive to glucosamine. Relatively small studies might not pick up such individual reactions.

Easing Arthritis Pain:

Since you have found that glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate increase your cholesterol, you might benefit from a different approach to easing joint pain, such as tart cherries, Certo and grape juice or gin-soaked raisins. We offer many such nondrug options in Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. To order a copy of this 104 page book, please send $15.95 (includes shipping and handling) to: Graedon Enterprises, Dept. AFA, PO Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

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  1. Bob

    I had an MRI which showed tricompartmental arthritis in right knee. I’ve been taking glucosamine & condroitin since for 7 years and play squash 3 times a week. I will always take them, 600+400mg 2 tablets a day.

  2. Julie
    Roselle IL

    When I started using glucosamine with MSM and Chondroitin over 20 years ago I became aware it was only effective for a percentage of people and reported to raise cholesterol levels. Since I was one of those lucky people for whom it worked, I decided to do my own mini-research study with the help of my doctor. We did a blood test and I went off the supplement for 3 months. By the end of the 3 months I felt stiffness and less mobility in my joints, particularly in my knees. The follow-up blood test showed that it had no effect on my cholesterol. I returned to using the supplements and at 73 I am active and have only occasional pain in my right knee, usually caused by overestimating what I can do physically.

  3. Margie

    I stopped glucosamine when I found that it can increase eye pressure in glaucoma. My cholesterol on my next check a year later was 150. I always was around 210 before then. Now I wonder if the fortunate drop was due to stopping glucosamine.

  4. Anna B

    I took glucosamine hydrochloride with no improvement. I took it in combination with chondroitin and had no improvement in pain level but did developed generalized itching which left when I eliminated chondroitin. I found glucosamine sulfate alone now and have good results with the RA I contracted in 1967. Thank you for this forum to share.

  5. Cindy B.

    Thanks for the heads-up, PP! I DO take a gluco/chond. supplement, as I’m convinced it helps diminish my knee pain (and, in fact, despite many past knee traumas and a subluxed patella, my knee pain is almost totally gone!). However I also take krill oil, turmeric, hyaluric acid and other supplements which purport to help joint pain also. I’ll have my cholesterol checked ASAP and, if it’s high, I’ll nix the gluco/chond immediately.

  6. Louise
    Houston, TX

    To ease inflammation avoid: soy, sugar, corn, diary products and gluten.
    Eating dried black cherries helps relieve inflammation.

  7. Stephen

    Green-lipped Mussel OIL (not freeze dried flakes) give me even more of the Omega 3 for reduced inflammation and reduced pain without the high increase of cholesterol that I used to get with fish oil. And no heavy metals.

  8. Sandra

    I took glucosamine and chondroitin with success until I found out it elevated my blood pressure. I stick with omega 3s which seem to reduce issues with my joints.

  9. Estela

    I have been taking this supplement glucosamine and chondroitin for many years. I am now 71 and had no issues at all with my cholesterol. This is a great supplement. I will never stop taking it My chiropractor approves of it, and it was highly recommended by my internist.

  10. Theresa

    I took it 20 years ago, and my numbers rose by 100 points. The doctor also told me to try fish oil, as it was new on the horizon for knee issues. I have upgraded to omega 3 fish oil and still no aches or pains. Same creaky knees but (knock on wood) no pain. Too much step aerobics in my youth. Much easier exercising on my knees now.

  11. hopethishelps

    I tried gulcosomaine a few years ago. It made my blood sugars HIGH.
    I have found anything that starts with gluco raises my blood sugar. Also that prescription mouthwash that starts with a P___ has a glu___ ingredient and would raise my blood sugar to the 500’s.

  12. Patti K.

    I have been taking Nature Made Triple Flex for years and my total cholesterol level has always been in the low 200s.

  13. Bunny

    Has anyone had a connection between low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and atrial fibrillation? Either or both can be caused by sleep apnea.

  14. Maria

    I hadn’t heard about this correlation, but many years ago I read something about glucosamine masking diabetes. Has anyone heard or read about this? Diabetes runs in my family, and I’ve known many who take glucosamine and chondroitin.

    • Terry Graedon

      It seems that the glucosamine story is somewhat complicated. In mice, at least, it leads to insulin resistance in mice on a regular diet, but improves insulin response in mice on a high-fat diet. Here’s the link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25516476
      It is hard to figure out how this might translate to humans.

  15. Tony

    In the past, I tried Glucosamine and Chondroitin, and found it never really worked for me. In the past couple years I’ve been taking 2x1000mg of Turmeric per day, and it has helped. Most recently, I started taking 2x500mg/day of celery seed extract. And between the two, my knee is almost as good as new. To my knowledge, both are ‘anti-inflammatory’ agents.

  16. Carolyn

    I too have been taking glucosamine and chondroitin, and I used to be just a little over 200 in total cholesterol. I am now in the high 300’s. Who ever would have thought that glucosamine and chondroitin would do that? To come off of it will be risking pain again.

  17. Meg

    I take glucosamine (not chondroitin) daily usually but if I miss a few days I start with arthritis again. My cholesterol is steady on tablets.

  18. Brenda
    Raleigh, NC

    Do wish you had answered this question. Many of us, as elders, take glucosamine. Also, you usually make us aware of another product that might be better for us.

    Thank you for all the wonderful information you share with us.

    • Shelley

      I thought it was the shellfish used in Glucosamine that raises cholesterol. We switched to vegan shellfish-free glucosamine and have no cholesterol issues.

    • Terry Graedon

      The answer is that some people seem to experience elevations in cholesterol as a reaction to glucosamine. We can’t prove that, though, since the research hasn’t confirmed it. You’ll find several other approaches, such as grape juice and Certo, pineapple or herbs like ginger or boswellia, on the website.

  19. Dagonet

    So your cholesterol level is “high.” You AND your doctor need to respond to your cholesterol RATIO, not your total cholesterol level. If your cholesterol RATIO is high, then you should move to better balance it out, raising the amount of good cholesterol in your blood to change the RATIO. Talk to your dietician or pharmacist about HDLs and LDLs after you do your own research.
    You need to do your own research into this and also get into a doc’s mind, what motivates them, and what can you expect from this?

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