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expert reaction to glucosamine supplements and risk of cvd

Reactions to a report published in BMJ which claims that regular use of glucosamine supplements to relieve osteoarthritis pain might also be related to lower risks of CVD events.

 

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director, British Heart Foundation said:

“In this large study of nearly half a million people in the UK, researchers found that people who were taking glucosamine supplements were less likely to develop heart and circulatory diseases. This observational study tells us about associations rather than cause and effect. We don’t know whether people who took glucosamine were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease because of the glucosamine itself, or if other factors were at play.  For example, people who take glucosamine might be more likely to look after their health in general. Ultimately, controlled clinical trials will be needed to uncover whether glucosamine is beneficial in preventing heart and circulatory diseases.”

“One in four people in the UK still die from heart and circulatory disease, and around 7.4 million people live with the daily burden of these devastating conditions. We urgently need to fund research that could result in improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment. If a well known and widely available supplement like glucosamine could help prevent heart and circulatory diseases, including heart attack and stroke, it is an avenue of research worth exploring.

“Meanwhile, an important way to reduce your risk is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and when relevant take medications as recommended to you by your doctor.”

 

Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said:

“Whilst the authors have done a careful job of analysing the link between glucosamine intake and cardiovascular outcomes in a big dataset, only a trial can determine whether there is any truth to the lower observed risk.  Observational studies can only ever generate new ideas to test.  They cannot prove a causal link since some biases are impossible to overcome and it may well be those who take glucosamine regularly have healthy lifestyles in ways that are not fully captured by measured data.  Many other supplements have not proven benefits in trials even when observational data suggested there may be health benefits.  Some supplements have even been shown to cause harm in trials.   So, for now, I would not rush to buy glucosamine to lessen my heart risks when there are many other cost-effective proven ways to do so.”

 

‘Association of habitual glucosamine use with risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective study in UK Biobank’ by Hao Ma et al. was published in The BMJ at 23:30 UK time on Tuesday 14th May.

 

Declared interests

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan: No conflicts of interest.

Prof Naveed Sattar: No conflicts of interest.

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