SUP­PLE­MENTS Un­der­stand­ing glu­cosamine

EQUUS - - Consultant­s -

Q:In “Ex­er­cise and Arthri­tis” (Con­sul­tants, EQUUS 464) a let­ter from a reader solicited ad­vice for man­ag­ing her arthritic horse; the let­ter writer stated that the horse in ques­tion was also prone to lamini­tis. The horse was al­ready re­ceiv­ing an MSM/glu­cosamine sup­ple­ment, and Roland Thaler, VMD, the con­sult­ing vet­eri­nar­ian who an­swered the ques­tion, also ref­er­enced glu­cosamine-con­tain­ing sup­ple­ments, among oth­ers, to help horses with arthri­tis.

Be­cause this reader’s ques­tion

per­tained to an older, lamini­tis-prone horse, it’s likely that he could be in­sulin re­sis­tant. I was un­der the im­pres­sion that sup­ple­men­ta­tion with glu­cosamine should be avoided since it could ex­ac­er­bate the lamini­tis. Glu­cosamine is a su­gar and has been used in lab­o­ra­tory set­tings and an­i­mal stud­ies to in­duce in­sulin re­sis­tance to study the con­di­tion. It is my un­der­stand­ing that don­keys should not be sup­ple­mented with glu­cosamine un­der any cir­cum­stance.

As we all know, a lamini­tis flare-up can be ca­reer-end­ing, life-al­ter­ing or worse. I wouldn’t know my­self if I hadn’t lived it. L. Diane Stowe Heath, Mas­sachusetts

A:Let me sin­cerely com­mend you for your con­cern about the wel­fare of horses. Pre­vent­ing lamini­tis is a de­sire we all share. But I would like to ad­dress sev­eral points.

First, glu­cosamine is not a pure su­gar, like glu­cose, fruc­tose and oth­ers. It is an amino su­gar, which is a su­gar com­bined with a ni­tro­gen com­pound called an amine, and it is man­u­fac­tured in all of our bod­ies to sus­tain the pro­cesses of life. While the meta­bolic path­ways of glu­cose and glu­cosamine are some­what closely re­lated, they are dis­tinct.

Most stud­ies have shown that glu­cosamine sup­ple­ments do not af­fect glu­cose me­tab­o­lism at the sus­tained daily dosages typ­i­cally used by peo­ple. So, in gen­eral terms, glu­cosamine is deemed safe for hu­man sup­ple­men­ta­tion, even for peo­ple with di­a­betes. Ad­di­tional stud­ies on the ef­fects of glu­cosamine on the me­tab­o­lism in other mam­mal species have yielded the same con­clu-

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