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Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Increase Your Cholesterol?

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements taken to alleviate joint pain may increase your cholesterol. What else can you use for pain relief?
Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Increase Your Cholesterol?
Arthritis, osteoarthritis, chondroitin, glucosamine

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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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