Glucosamine may be more known as a treatment for easing arthritis but a new study suggests the drug may actually have another use that could have potential implications in extending life span.
In the study "D-Glucosamine supplementation extends life span of nematodes and of ageing mice" published in Nature Communications April 8, researchers experimented with two groups of mice whose age was the equivalent of 65-years old in humans. The mice in the first group were given glucosamine as supplement to their normal diet, while those in the second group did not receive glucosamine.
The researcher found that the mice that received glucosamine lived 10 percent longer than the mice that were not given glucosamine, a stretch in longevity that translates to eight years in humans. The researchers also observed mice that received the glucosamine supplement did not also just lived longer, they also had improved glucose metabolism which could mean protection from diabetes, a chronic disease that commonly affects obese individuals and the elderly.
The researchers have likewise studied the effects of glucosamine on a nematode's mitochondria, the parts of the cell responsible for energy conversion. They observed that glucosamine can boost the breakdown of amino acids and fatty acids, which is similar to the effects of consuming low-carbohydrate diet. Low-carbohydrate diets are known to reduce blood pressure and harmful blood fats.
The researchers noted that the effects of glucosamine on mice and worm does not provide evidence that the drug could extend human life but study researcher author Michael Ristow from the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in Switzerland said that unlike other drugs that could potentially extend life-span, glucosamine supplement has been in use for many decades and is not associated with relevant side effects besides occasional allergic reactions. He said that he has started to take glucosamine himself.
Tim Spector, from the Kings College in London, however, said that further studies are still needed to support the idea of glucosamine extending human life.
"Glucosamine is an interesting molecule that could affect us subtly in many ways," Spector said. "If an even modest effect on aging were proven it would be a major advance. However, humans are not the same as worms or rodents, and studies will need careful replication before we get over-excited."