The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Glucosamine and Chondroitin Send Cholesterol Levels Sky High?

Q. I am 60 years old and have never had a problem with cholesterol in my life and no sign of it in my family either.  All of a sudden a couple of weeks ago when I had my annual physical they called and told me that my cholesterol was very high and the doctor wanted me to go on to simvastatin immediately.  I told them I did not wish to do this but I would cease taking the glucosamine and chondroitin and wait to see what happens.

I have a month before I need to be tested again.  Obviously I am also trying to stick to a healthy diet and exercise as well. Do you think the glucosamine and chondroitin could have contributed to my sudden cholesterol problem?

A. We have never been able to document a clear connection between the dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin and elevated cholesterol levels. That said, we have heard form a substantial number of readers that their cholesterol levels have indeed climbed after starting on glucosamine. When they stopped the supplement, their cholesterol levels dropped. That is not science, but it does suggest that some people seem susceptible to this effect. Others report no problems. Here is a sampling of reports from readers:

“I have been taking Glucosamine Sulfate combined with MSM for two years and a few months ago started taking Chondroitin as well.

“When I had my cholesterol checked recently (first time in two years), it had gone up from 189 to 229. Nothing else in my life has really changed. I exercise tons and eat very low fat.” Eric

“I have been taking glucosamine/chondroitin for six months, unaware of its effect on cholesterol levels.  My cholesterol jumped more than 50 points.” Bonnie

“I’m dieting and exercising (more now than ever) and have dropped my cholesterol from 265 to 221 in 9 months. Now, after starting glucosamine & chondroitin, my cholesterol level jumped to 244! I think there is a connection.

“Help, I don’t want to go on statins.” B.A.

“For a year I’ve been taking glucosamine sulfate for arthritis and feel it has helped. However, my cholesterol count has gone up 100 points to 346. I know someone else who had a similar reaction and would be interested to know if it is common.”

“My cholesterol has risen from 186 to 242 since I have been on the glucosamine/chondroitin. My knees feel fine but I am concerned about the abrupt rise in my cholesterol number.

“My cardiologist wants me to start taking medicine to lower my cholesterol but I am in a quandary as to what to do. In my gut I feel that the G/C pills are the cause of the cholesterol number to go sky high but I am not sure if that reading is true.

“Maybe the G/C pills mess up the cholesterol test in some way so that a false reading is posted. At this point I don’t know and will continue to research the matter letting you know anything I might find out.” Jeff

We understand what a quandary this issue is for many. Although research has not demonstrated great benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin against arthritis, many people report that this combination eases their inflammation and pain. When they stop taking it, their arthritis symptoms get worse.

On the other hand, some people are convinced that their cholesterol levels do go up while taking glucosamine. Some people have gone so far as to go on and off glucosamine periodically while keeping careful track of their cholesterol numbers. They insist that their cholesterol goes up on the supplement and comes down when they give it up.

Lacking definitive data we remain agnostic on this question and leave it up to each person to determine whether the supplement is the source of the problem. We would certainly hate to see lots of people prescribed statins to counteract a cholesterol-raising effect of glucosamine.

Anyone who would like some other natural approaches to pain and inflammation may find that our Guide to Alternative Treatments for Arthritis of value. In it we discuss lots of options that are not likely to raise cholesterol including Certo and grape juice, turmeric, ginger and tart cherries.

Rate this article
3.6- 14 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Alternatives for Arthritis

This eGuide describes nondrug alternatives for arthritis with the latest scientific studies to document anti-inflammatory activity. This comprehensive online guide (too long to print) adds the science behind ancient healing traditions.

Alternatives for Arthritis
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 19 comments
Add your comment

I have been taking glucosamine hydrochloride for 15 years but have never had a cholesterol test however I do take a desert spoon of lecithin twice a day as it is supposed to help take cholesterol out of the blood. I am 70 and my blood pressure is ok, and am active so here’s hoping

Never put this together before, but now this is making sense. About 15 years ago I was seeing my doc about excruciating knee pain. He suggested I try glucosamine. At the time, my total cholesterol was a bit high–around 200.
So, I began taking glucosamine and soon started feeling much better and could walk easily without too much discomfort and have been doing fine ever since. But I also only take about one pill a day instead of the two or three that is recommended.
Well a few years ago, the doc told me my cholesterol was getting high and if it didn’t come down soon, he wanted to start me on a statin. When it didn’t come down, I started the statin. It remained pretty high even while on the statin. Eventually I decided I didn’t like the side effects of the statin, so I quit it and my cholesterol went up to 320. I still refused to take the statin. Doc not happy with me.
Last check I had not been taking my glucosamine with as much regularity and cholesterol had dropped to 283. Now, after reading that others have been seeing a cause and effect with glucosamine and high cholesterol levels, I have no doubt that is what has caused my numbers to go crazy. Will stop the glucosamine immediately and see what happens at next check. I cringe at the thought of my knee pain returning.
My wife also commented on the fact that glucosamine contains shellfish and that could be the culprit.

Since taking glucosamine my cholesterol did rise. I suppose it stands to reason when it’s made from shellfish which are high in cholesterol.

Glucosamine has increased my cholesterol for sure. I have a very healthy diet and hour daily walk. Cholesterol was 160, LDL was 80, glucose was 70. I have been taking glucosamine for 6 months they all went up. 160 is 210, 80 is 130, 70 is 90. I stopped glucosamine all came down to same normal range.

Earlier I reported that discontinuing glucosamine-chondroitin for 3 months lowered my LDL by 30 points. Questioning whether it was causing a false-positive by just being in my bloodstream, I stopped taking it 2 weeks before my blood test. The LDL once again has the 30 extra points so the glucosamine is likely to be increasing my LDL. I blame the glucosamine and not condroitin because I switched to glucosamine-hydrochloride when someone said the sulfur in the condroitin might be the problem.

Do not know how I messed these eye opening comments. I take glucosamine hcl 1500, with msm 1500, but not on a regular basis any longer. Do not like taking much of anything if can be avoided—plus expensive. However when there is a severe episode–I go back to it as well as many of the other suggestions here. As well as popping one once in awhile for insurance.
Is doing this a total waste of effort? Also–read sometime ago that taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin together is not a good idea as one invalidates the other. Wondering if this is true? It is why I switched.
Have extremely high cholesterol that dropped dramatically taking red yeast rice years ago. Then Doc told me to stop due to blood tests. However, I was walking around with undiagnosed HYPER thyroidism for at least 5 years, and am convinced that was why test came back the way it did. [BTW- I went to the local hospital ‘fair’ and got my own blood tests—none ever ordered by the doc—but I knew something was way off.] Doc kept telling me he could not find anything–but even tho over 50 years, he had never ordered a thyroid test? The reading was off the chart.
It is truly tiresome to always be on the proactive train!
Once the hyperthroidism gone [thanks to Ayurvedic herbs—-last resort-rescuing me from advised surgery], so years later I tried the red yeast rice once more. Leg pain severe, began falling.
Then brother sent me PP ‘red yeast rice, not so nice’– Do not understand why it worked so well before, then bit me terribly when trying again? Body chemistry changing every 7 years maybe? Or what?
I have really high LDL [and dropping HDL?] —and am really in a quandary as to what to do now. After reading some of Pharmageddon, it appears statins are worthless? Even unhealthy and damaging?
What ever can the alternatives be then?
Thank you so very much

Besides the glucosamine, I sprinkle a tablespoon of tumeric on my daily lunch salad, put a spoonful of yellow raisins soaked in gin in my morning oatmeal, and drink white grape juice with pectin each evening. Don’t need a crystal ball to see there is knee-replacement surgery in my future.

I have also experienced an uptick in cholesterol using glucosamine. I switched to a topical on sore joints–it works very well for me. It’s from Nature’s Plus.

just another slant on glucosamine/chondrotin-the (well qualified orthopedic surgeon) who did 2 successful hip replacements on my husband-had this to say about glucosamine chondritin-(his comment was save your money don’t waste it on glucosamine). This is a surgeon who operates on knees and hips and has been in his field of expertise for over 30 yrs.

try switching to turmeric (I take the capsule powder than the capsule oil —it’s cheaper) start off with 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening for a month seemed to work for me.

Glucosoamine raises my blood sugars.

I have takes glucosamine since years for arthritis and recently I got some symptoms compatible with high sugar levels, then I tested and was 164 after 4 hours I eat. I eat very very little sweets, little alcohol and in general I get a healthy diet. I reseached online and found this article:
Glucosamine may affect insulin resistance and/or blood sugar levels.
Hope is reversible

I have taken Glucosamine and Chondroitin for years and my cholesterol has always been right around 200 (I have a high HDL number for some reason) +> no problem taking Glucosamine.

This is very interesting. I started taking Osteo-Biflex in 1987 when my right thumb locked and was painful. It took the symptoms away and I’ve taken it ever since. If I stop taking it or take another brand the pain in the thumb comes back.
A couple of years ago my doctor decided my cholesterol is too high and put me on Lovastatin which made my knees so painful I could barely walk. I stopped the statin and my knees are pain free but my cholesterol is 250.
I, too, wonder if the glucosamine/chondroitin is causing false readings as I eat a low fat diet and get plenty of exercise.
Please keep checking out this issue. I think a lot of people are being given statins who don’t really need them.

Does this happen on just Glucosamine by itself, or Glucosamine with Sulfate? Everyone seems to be talking about Chondroitin or MSM.

I am 81 and for the first time in my long life I have been put on Lipitor. Not happy about it. I didn’t feel there was that much difference in my cholesterol. I’ve also been taking glucosamine/chondroitin (OTC) for several years.
Never knew if it was helping my joint pains or not. Going to stop taking it and see what happens. At my age I’m allowed to have a few pains. I told my Primary Care Doctor and my Pulmonary Doctor I can’t get a pilots license if I’m taking Lipitor.
All they could say was “Too bad”. No sense of humor. =(

I found a study that revealed 10-12% of people taking glucosamine have a significant rise in LDL reading. Four years ago, I found it made a difference of almost 30 mg/dL in my LDL so I quit taking it.
Pain in my knees has put me back on glucosamine. I plan to stop taking it for a week before my annual physical in January. I hope it may just be causing a “false positive” on the test as it certainly is helping my knees. I will update this post at that time.

I was very glad to read these testimonials about Glucosamine, MSM which I have been taking for awhile.
My cholesterol was always fine until I started taking this supplement–10 years ago. It was borderline high and my HDL has always been high. But I suffered an occlusion in my eye and they are now insisting I take a statin.
I’ve been avoiding it for quite awhile and am not happy about this drug. After taking it for a little over 6 weeks I had a cholesterol check and it was down 30 points, but I don’t feel good. I’m discouraged.

It would seem to me that the sulfates in Glucosamine Sulfate could be a problem. I’ve never understood why salt would be added to a product to relieve joint problems (which often include fluid buildup). I use a product that uses Glucosamine Hydrochloride. Hydrochloride is naturally occurring in the stomach and breaks down naturally. I have never seen a report of increased cholesterol (or blood pressure) with this combination.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^