Medical researchers are constantly looking for ways to increase longevity, and a recent study seems to suggest they may have indeed found a way to prolong life. The study showed that glucosamine helps aging mice live longer, but the question is will it do the same for humans?
Glucosamine is a dietary supplement generally used by people who are suffering from arthritis. The supplement works by helping keep cartilage, found in joints, healthy, which is important as people begin to age. During the aging process, levels of natural glucosamine drop and eventually lead to joint deterioration. However, by taking glucosamine supplements, deterioration of the joints can be prevented. In addition, it has been suggested that glucosamine might have numerous other health benefits, such as the ability to slow cancer growth and to reduce nutritive sugars metabolism.
Michael Ristow with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich conducted a study that proved the lifespan of roundworms were significantly shortened if they were given too much nutritive sugar, and that these sugars impaired the roundworms’ ability to metabolize carbohydrates. At that time, further research was conducted on rodents, but the method proved to be ineffective and efforts stalled.
Ristow and other researchers later conducted a study at ETH Zurich as well as four German research facilities, where they gave roundworms glucosamine. The results of the study were promising; roundworms treated with the supplement lived five percent longer than those roundworms that were not treated with the supplement.
Following those results, the researchers studied aging mice to see if they would have similar results. The mice were 100 weeks old, which is equivalent to a human who is 65 years old. In addition to a normal diet, the mice were given glucosamine. The supplement was found to have even better results in mice than in the roundworms, extending the lifespan of mice by 10 percent, which equates to approximately eight years for humans. In addition, the supplement demonstrated the ability to protect against diabetes by improving glucose metabolism.
Further analysis of the results showed that glucosamine helped break down amino acids in both the roundworms and the mice, which Ristow said was important because it mimics the effects of being on a low-carb diet. Ristow went on to suggest that results should prove the same in humans without the need to eat less.
While glucosamine has been proven to help mice live longer, researchers cannot say for sure, just yet, that it will do the same for humans. Ristow is hopeful; he said the “chances are good” and that he “would tend to recommend this supplement.” In fact, following the study, he admits that he has started taking the supplement and says it “may be a valid option” to extending life in humans.
However, before venturing out and buying glucosamine, people should be mindful of the dangers and side effects of taking the supplement. As with any other medication or dietary supplement, there are side effects that must be considered. Side effects to glucosamine include severe allergic reactions in those with an allergy to shellfish, such as shrimp and crabs.
Those suffering from asthma are generally cautioned not to take the supplement because it has shown to worsen symptoms in some asthmatics. In addition, people suffering with heart problems and high blood pressure could see adverse side effects from using glucosamine, such as heart palpitations, abnormal heart rates, and an increase in blood pressure levels. Therefore, everyone should check with his or her healthcare professional prior to taking the supplement.
Researchers have found that glucosamine helps mice live longer, which naturally leads everyone to ponder the question, will it be able to do the same for humans? The human body is quite different from that of roundworms and mice, and further testing on the effects of glucosamine supplementation is needed to conclusively prove positive results in humans. While those considering supplementing with glucosamine should consider these test results carefully prior to rushing out to buy glucosamine, it is nice to think that researchers may have found an answer to increasing longevity in humans.
Opinion By Donna W. Martin