Glucosamine may help lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.

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Researchers think glucosamine may help lower inflammation and help reduce risk of heart disease. Getty Images

A popular and widely used dietary supplement for joint pain could also be beneficial for your heart.

According to new research published in The BMJ, habitual use of the supplement glucosamine was found to be associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its more severe consequences like stroke.

However, researchers point out that despite this association, their work doesn’t establish a causal link between glucosamine and better CVD outcomes.

“Our study suggests a potential new beneficial effect of glucosamine on cardiovascular health. The practical implication would be upon further evidence from future studies, such as clinical trials, that verify such effects as causal,” said Dr. Lu Qi, a professor in the department of epidemiology at Tulane University and one of the study’s authors.

Nonetheless, the data from the study is robust.

Using national health resources in the United Kingdom, Qi and his colleagues looked at results of nearly a half-million people. Individuals reported supplement use and were followed, in some cases, up to 10 years. During that time any events related to CVD were recorded.

None of the study participants had CVD at the start of the study.

During the follow-up time, those who reported using glucosamine had a 15 percent lower overall risk of CVD events. It was further associated with a 9 to 22 percent lower risk of CVD death, coronary heart disease, and stroke, compared to nonusers.

Other experts say that the results look promising, but more work needs to be done to establish a mechanism for glucosamine’s potential benefits for heart health.

“The event reduction effects attributed to glucosamine will need to be proven in a randomized control study looking at a specific dose, specific formulation, and regimen,” said Dr. Guy L. Mintz, director of cardiovascular health and lipidology at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, New York. “I think this is a promising first step in looking for another tool to reduce cardiovascular events.”

Mintz wasn’t affiliated with the study.

This isn’t the first study to take note of glucosamine’s beneficial relationship with CVD.

Its results are in line with an Australian study from 2012 of 266,848 adults 45 years and older. Researchers found a negative association between taking glucosamine, heart disease, and other cardiovascular conditions.

The authors of that study noted that this “revealing” finding warranted further investigation.

Still, there remains a large unknown: If glucosamine is in fact protective for the heart (and that’s still a big if), how does it work?

The answer just isn’t clear.

“The data on mechanisms are limited. Currently we know little about how glucosamine may affect cardiovascular health,” said Qi.

But, as Qi points out in the study, there are some theories.

Inflammation is common among heart disease and stroke patients, and it’s believed to play a role in cardiovascular disease. Glucosamine appears to have anti-inflammatory properties, which could therefore be preventive.

“The mechanism of this benefit is unknown, but certainly the anti-inflammatory effects of glucosamine could be important and account for these thought-provoking findings,” said Mintz.

Another theory is that glucosamine supplementation may mimic certain biological effects of a low-carbohydrate diet that help lower risk of CVD.

Qi and his colleagues point out a 2014 animal study that found glucosamine extended the life span of aging mice as possible evidence of this.

Clinical trials would be a necessary next step to better understand whether glucosamine really benefits heart health.

Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance found within the body that’s recognized for its role in maintaining the cartilage between joints.

It’s generally safe for most people at a dosage of 1,500 milligrams per day. However, it can cause some adverse reactions, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Individuals with shellfish allergies and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t take glucosamine.

Despite its popularity for the treatment of osteoarthritis, glucosamine remains somewhat controversial, as evidence of its effectiveness is mixed.

Glucosamine, a popular dietary supplement for arthritis and joint pain, could also be beneficial for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

New research that included nearly a half-million participants found that habitually taking glucosamine was associated with 15 percent lower overall risk of CVD events, compared to nonusers.

It was further associated with a 9 to 22 percent lower risk of CVD death, coronary heart disease, and stroke, compared to nonusers.

Researchers say there’s not enough evidence to support a causal link between glucosamine supplementation and lower CVD risk.

Glucosamine is widely available in the United States. Its effectiveness in treating arthritis and joint pain remains unclear, despite its popularity.