Glucosamine has many common names, and it can be found in many different products designed to relieve the painful effects of osteoarthritis. It is derived from the exoskeletons of marine animals (crustaceans), or it can be synthesized. Glucosamine is a hydrochloride, or sulfated salt, used to form half of a subunit called keratin sulfate. This keratin sulfate, found in ligaments, synovial fluid, and tendons, is what an osteoarthritis sufferer lacks. While it is still undetermined if there is a causal link between glucosamine and cholesterol, studies have indicated that the concern may be founded.
Lab studies on mice have recorded higher occurrences of LDL levels in mice that also received the compound, indicating a possible connection between glucosamine and cholesterol. Two human studies have produced similar results. The specific results of these studies showed that the way in which it reacts in the body raises the insulin levels of the person due to impaired insulin production. A raised insulin level (hyperinsulinemia) contributes to, and is often associated with, elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Glucosamine has yet to get FDA approval as a treatment for osteoarthritis and must undergo many more studies before conclusive evidence can be shown for the connection between glucosamine and cholesterol levels can be established.
Those at the highest risk for glucosamine affected cholesterol levels are those with hyperlipidemia (abnormally high fat or lipid concentration in blood) or hyoerinsulinemia to begin with. Glucosamine usage has been shown to impair insulin production in otherwise healthy individuals. Diabetics should be aware of the increase in blood glucose levels that can result from the addition of glucosamine supplementation in the diet. For an individual without impaired insulin production, more insulin is produced in the body automatically in order to compensate, while a diabetic would need to compensate with administered hypoglycemic agents, such as insulin, sulfonylureas, or metformin.
While it is still undetermined if there is, in fact, a causal link between glucosamine and cholesterol levels, regular cholesterol screenings are generally recommended for those who use it. An added concern exists that usage may increase blood pressure levels due to the increase in insulin levels. If an increase in cholesterol or blood pressure occurs after a few months of using a glucosamine supplement, a person may be advised by a physician to stop the supplementation, and re-screening may be necessary. Screening should be done once every six months in order to detect any change in cholesterol levels while using the supplement.