Glucosamine is a molecule found in the human body that is classified as an amino monosaccharide. Glucosamine is a precursor to all amino sugars in the body, and it is a component of glycoproteins, glycosaminoglycans, and proteoglycans. Glucosamine is best known for its support of joint health. However, it may also play other roles in the human body, including the support of skin health and the body’s response to oxidative stress and inflammation. In addition, glucosamine may also support healthy aging.
Inflammation may be a factor in the aging process in certain cases; some evidence suggests that high levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers in elderly individuals may be associated with the risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and age-related disorders. The body’s response to inflammation may be influenced by glucosamine. Studies suggest that glucosamine can directly bind to transglutaminase 2, which causes a cease in the polymerization of certain activators of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB). In turn, this may prevent activation of NF-κB. Glucosamine may also impair NF-kB signaling pathways through the repression of the nuclear translation of p50 and p65. Glucosamine has also been shown to modulate interleukin-1 beta activation and certain pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma.
Oxidative stress has been linked to the aging process. Glucosamine has been shown to support the body’s response to oxidative stress. Glucosamine has also been shown to possess free radical scavenging abilities for hydroxyl and superoxide radicals, and it has a chelating effect on ferrous ions. In laboratory studies, glucosamine was shown to modulate glutathione levels and protect proteins from oxidation in oxidatively stressed human chondrocytes.
Glucosamine may influence other factors related to healthy aging. Studies indicate that glucosamine may support neurological health through its mediation of certain inflammatory pathways. It also may support cardiovascular health. Animal studies related to atherosclerosis indicate that glucosamine may influence cholesterol levels in aortic tissue. Glucosamine has also been shown to influence low-density lipoprotein-binding affinity and to reduce inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein, although more clinical studies are needed.
Research studies involving animal models have explored the effects of supplementation with glucosamine on lifespan and healthy aging. One animal study involving both aging murine and nematode populations reported extended lifespan in the presence of glucosamine supplementation. One proposed mechanism of action is linked to the activation of SKN-1/NRF-2 transcription. Another study involving nematode populations proposed the role of glucosamine in modulating autophagy, which is a cellular process linked to aging.
The research on glucosamine and the support of its use on human health is still emerging. In addition to the role that glucosamine plays in support of joint health, it may also support the body’s response to oxidative stress, inflammation, and neurological and cardiovascular health. Glucosamine may also support healthy aging processes.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT