What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine: An overview

Glucosamine is one of the most widely used complementary medicines in the Western world, with over one-fifth of Australians over the age of 45 taking it regularly. It is a naturally occurring substance required for the production of a number of structural compounds. These compounds are best known for their role in joint tissues such as cartilage, but are also critical for heart valves and blood vessels. Glucosamine is well known for its excellent safety profile, with side effects shown to be minimal.

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring amino monosaccharide. For commercial use, it is commonly derived from shellfish such as shrimp, crab, lobster and oysters. The sourcing of glucosamine has limited the number of people who can take this supplement; excluding a wide range of people - from those with allergies to those with specific beliefs and spiritual practices.

Beyond this, shellfish represent an important environmental resource that needs to be carefully managed. They play a critical role in maintaining the health of waterways, and have a central role in nutrient recycling. Overfishing of certain areas has contributed to loss of ecosystem balance and the declining health of waterways. When sourced from shellfish, only 1 tonne of glucosamine is obtained from 30 tonnes of fresh shell.

Glucosamine manufacturing itself can be a source of pollution. Waste water from the extraction of glucosamine from shells requires 300 metric tonnes of water. Waste water produced is highly contaminated and it cannot be effectively or easily treated. Approximately 60 to 70% of small suppliers in the majority world are believed to release this contaminated liquid directly into waterways.

When producing glucosamine from citric acid waste products, 1 metric tonne of glucosamine results in 30 metric tonnes of biomass that cannot be treated. This waste is then buried. In addition, the production process uses such corrosive processes that the pipes and reactors need to be completely replaced every two to three years.

Given these issues, it was important to find a glucosamine that was not only friendly to the environment, but also to those with reasons to avoid shellfish sourced products.

While some products have sought to overcome these issues, there have been other challenges. Some glucosamine products use genetically modified organisms in the extraction process. Glucosalive™ is the only product that does not use genetically modified bacteria in its bacterial fermentation process. Other products use industrial by-products and waste as starting material, such as citric acid production waste. Some of these products show contamination with the starting material. Glucosalive™ uses a plant based starting material.


Reference list available on request.