Controversy Is Glucosamine Safe in Diabetes

In 1999 a letter to the journal Lancet raised questions about whether glu-cosamine supplements could increase glucose (blood sugar) levels, cause insulin resistance, and lead to or aggravate diabetes. The questions raised in this letter were widely reported in the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter, the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, and other publications toward the end of that year (the delay resulting from publication schedules). These newsletters warned that glucosamine supplements could lead to or worsen diabetes.

But just as those newsletters were being mailed to subscribers, Lancet published several letters in response to the original one. Unfortunately, it was too late, and the warnings about glucosamine were starting to become a minor urban (i.e., false) legend, to be repeated by health reporters across the country. Follow-up letters to Lancet noted that the original statements were speculative and based only on limited animal research. In contrast, clinical experiences with humans indicated that glucosamine supplements had a tendency to slightly lower blood sugar levels, which would reduce the risk of diabetes. One researcher reported that glucosamine supplements improved wound healing, reduced headaches, and eased inflammatory bowel disease in patients. None of these "side benefits" were reported by the above-named Berkeley and Tufts publications.

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