— by Anne Francis

A new study published in the British Medical Journal reports that glucosamine may be effective in lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study followed almost 500,000 people for around seven years, looking at the numbers for heart attack and stroke among those who took glucosamine sulfate supplements for joint pain relief. Though a 2010 study found glucosamine (sometimes taken with chondroitin) was likely ineffective for joint pain, the new study showed a 15 per cent lower rate of heart attack and stroke among those who took it, and the risk of fatal heart attack or stroke was 22 per cent less.

One reason so many people (including many masters athletes with joint pain) take glucosamine, according to the Berkeley Wellness Letter, is that back 2006, the US government’s Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) with 1,600 participants found that da small subset of 70 participants with moderate to severe arthritis pain reported significant relief on glucosamine and chondroitin in combination. Disregarding the small size of the result as well as the fact that 54 per cent of the placebo group also experienced significant relief, people jumped on glucosamine as a miracle cure for arthritis pain.

Related: How to get rid of knee pain

The new study was conducted with people in the U.K. Biobank database, which was started in 2006 to store large numbers of biological samples for the purpose of medical research.

The reasons for the association between glucosamine use and lower risk of heart attack are not clear, though some speculate the drug’s anti-inflammatory properties may be a factor, and many researchers now believe that chronic inflammation contributes to heart disease.

Related: How nutrition plays a role in your recovery

According to the Podium Runner article, researchers in Japan have found glucosamine may be effective in relieving joint pain and preventing the breakdown of cartilage.

Though more research needs to be done on whether the supplement really is effective for protecting heart health as well as joint health, the upside is that no serious side effects have been found. It appears glucosamine sulfate it can safely be taken at doses of 1,500 mg to 2,000 mg per day (though you may not see results for three months or more).

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