Glucosamine promotes longevity by mimicking a low-carb diet

April 8, 2014

The widely used food supplement glucosamine promotes longevity in aging mice by approximately 10 percent due to improved glucose metabolism. Michael Ristow, M.D., a professor at ETH Zurich, and his team find that the compound does so 'by mimicking a low-carb diet in elderly mice reflecting human retirees.'

Glucosamine has been freely available in drugstores for many decades. It is widely used to treat arthritis and to prevent joint degeneration. Moreover, glucosamine is known to delay . In addition, glucosamine reduces metabolism of nutritive sugars, as was already shown some 50 years ago.

In 2007, Michael Ristow showed that too much nutritive sugar shortens the of roundworms, a widely studied model organism in ageing research. Conversely, impairing in these was capable of extending lifespan [reference 1]. Unfortunately, the method used in worms at that time unexpectedly appeared to be ineffective in rodents [reference 2], and hence was not studied further.

Extended lifespan by almost 10%

In the recently published study that was performed at ETH Zurich and four German research institutions, Ristow and his colleagues applied glucosamine to roundworms and found that they live around 5% longer than their untreated counterparts.

Next and most importantly, the researchers fed glucosamine to ageing mice in addition to their normal diet. The mice were 100 weeks of age, reflecting a comparative human age of approximately 65 years. A control group of mice received no glucosamine while otherwise receiving an identical diet. Feeding the supplement to mice extended their lifespan by almost 10%, reflecting around 8 additional years of human lifespan. Moreover, glucosamine improved in elderly mice indicating protection from diabetes, a life-threatening disease most prevalent amongst the elderly.

Mimicking a low-carb diet

Additional analyses revealed that glucosamine feeding promotes the breakdown of amino acids in both worms and mice. Amino acids are key components of proteins, and they become preferentially metabolized in the absence of carbohydrates. As Ristow points out, "this reflects the metabolic state of a low-carb diet due to glucosamine supplementation alone – while these mice ingested the same amount of carbohydrates as their unsupplemented counterparts." This implies that glucosamine would mimic a low-carb diet in humans as well – without the necessity of reducing the uptake of carbohydrates in our daily diet.

Should we now start taking glucosamine supplements? Ristow replies: "This may be considered a valid option, and yes, I have started taking glucosamine myself." However, he points out that "diabetics should perform tight blood glucose control, especially during the first weeks." Interestingly, two recent epidemiological studies on more than 77,000 individuals suggest that intake of glucosamine supplements is associated with reduced mortality in humans [references 3, 4]. "Unlike with our longer living , such an association is no definite proof of the effectiveness of glucosamine in humans", says Ristow. He continues, "But the chances are good, and since unlike with most other potentially lifespan-extending drugs there are no known relevant side effects of glucosamine supplementation, I would tend to recommend this supplement."

Explore further: Glucosamine fails to prevent deterioration of knee cartilage, decrease pain

More information: Sandra Weimer et al.: D-Glucosamine supplementation extends lifespan of nematodes and of ageing mice. Nature Communications, 2014, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4563,

Additional references:

1. Schulz, T.J., et al., Glucose restriction extends Caenorhabditis elegans life span by inducing mitochondrial respiration and increasing oxidative stress. Cell Metab, 2007. 6(4): p. 280-293, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2007.08.011

2. Minor, R.K., et al., Chronic ingestion of 2-deoxy-D-glucose induces cardiac vacuolization and increases mortality in rats. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol, 2010. 243(3): p. 332-9, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.taap.2009.11.025

3. Pocobelli, G., et al., Total mortality risk in relation to use of less-common dietary supplements. Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(6): p. 1791-800, dx.doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.28639

4. Bell, G.A., et al., Use of glucosamine and chondroitin in relation to mortality. Eur J Epidemiol, 2012. 27(8): p. 593-603, dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10654-012-9714-6

Related Stories

Glucosamine fails to prevent deterioration of knee cartilage, decrease pain

March 11, 2014
A short-term study found that oral glucosamine supplementation is not associated with a lessening of knee cartilage deterioration among individuals with chronic knee pain. Findings published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a ...

Glucosamine negatively affects lumbar discs

June 29, 2013
(HealthDay)—Glucosamine supplementation, which is often used for low back pain, has a detrimental effect on lumbar disc matrix homeostasis in an animal model of disc degeneration, according to a study published in the May ...

Glucosamine supplements tied to risk of eye condition

May 23, 2013
(HealthDay)—Glucosamine supplements that millions of Americans take to help treat hip and knee osteoarthritis may have an unexpected side effect: They may increase risk for developing glaucoma, a small new study of older ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals connection between microbiome and autoimmune disorders

October 23, 2017
Many people associate the word "bacteria" with something dirty and disgusting. Dr. Pere Santamaria disagrees. Called the microbiome, the bacteria in our bodies have all kinds of positive effects on our health, Santamaria ...

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Study reveals key molecular link in major cell growth pathway

October 19, 2017
A team of scientists led by Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising molecular link that connects how cells regulate growth with how they sense and make available the nutrients required for growth. Their work, which ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.