Glucosamine is an amino sugar naturally found in the human body. It is important for the production of certain proteins, lipids (fatty molecules), and other substances. Most researchers think that glucosamine works for arthritis in several ways, such as:
- Decreasing inflammation
- Stimulating chondrocytes, the cells that make and maintain cartilage
- Decreasing the production of certain compounds that degrade cartilage.
Glucosamine usually comes in one of three forms -- glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, or N-acetyl glucosamine. Interestingly, some researchers believe that it is actually the sulfate portion of the compound (in glucosamine sulfate) that is responsible for the anti-arthritis properties. This might help explain the mixed results seen in clinical studies of glucosamine for arthritis, since the other, non-sulfate forms might not work at all. However, it is not yet clear if there are any true differences between the various types.
It is not known if glucosamine supplementation is safe for children. As with many medications or supplements, children may be more sensitive to the effects and toxicities of glucosamine. If you are interested in giving your child glucosamine, be sure to discuss the risks and benefits with your child's healthcare provider.