Glucosamine Hydrochloride vs. Sulfate /Chondroitin

Glucosamine Hydrochloride vs.
Sulfate /Chondroitin

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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NOTE:  This is a statement prepared by a manufacturer of Glucosamine hydrochloride, whose name is withheld to avoid the suggestion that I am recommending a specific brand of product. The intent of this page is informational only.

Glucosamine hydrochloride was chosen instead of glucosamine sulfate for a number of reasons. The hydrochloride form is more concentrated than the sulfate form, and the hydrochloride form contains substantially less sodium per effective dose than the sulfate form. Glucosamine sulfate is stabilized with sodium chloride (table salt) and can contain as much as 30% sodium. This is a consideration for individuals who want to reduce their dietary intake of sodium.

Glucosamine hydrochloride offers the promise of the same efficacy as glucosamine sulfate, since glucosamine is not absorbed intact with its carrier. The body doesn’t care how it gets glucosamine as long as it is bioavailable. Nonetheless, we embarked on clinical research to prove the efficacy of the hydrochloride form.

We first conducted pilot testing, which indicated benefit for those with osteoarthritis. We then went forward with a full-scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention trial with glucosamine hydrochloride, the results, of which, are published in the Journal of Rheumatology listed in the references on the next page. Results showed a strong, beneficial effect for between 60 and 70% of the subjects, compared to their baseline symptoms.


A number of glucosamine products tout the inclusion of chondroitin, a cattle-sourced compound, as a necessary and beneficial addition to glucosamine products. Such contentions are misleading. Tests showing the benefits of chondroitin involved direct injection by syringe to the affected part of the body. In an orally-taken compound, chondroitin doesn’t make sense because it is essentially destroyed during the digestive process. Scientific evidence does not show that a glucosamine-chondroitin combination is any more effective than glucosamine by itself.

Other clinical studies

Dr. Michael T. Murray, a proponent of glucosamine sulfate, has pointed to a clinical study in Canada that involved glucosamine hydrochloride to make claims about the superiority of glucosamine sulfate. A close look at the study shows that, in actual fact, half the subjects were shown to benefit from glucosamine hydrochloride with the placebo response almost as positive.

“Pharmacokinetics of glucosamine in man” (Setnikar, a study referencing the bioavailability of glucosamine, states that after oral administration, glucosamine sulfate is rapidly split into glucosamine and sulfate ions and absorbed. After absorption, the sulfate ions enter the blood stream where a steady level already exists. None of the clinical studies performed with glucosamine sulfate indicate that sulfate contributed to the benefits shown in the study. As a matter of clarification, while this study references glucosamine sulfate, it was actually glucosamine hydrochloride that was radiolabeled and used to prove the bioavailability of glucosamine. We can conclude that since sulfate and hydrochloride are not the key building blocks for the production of joint cartilage, it makes no difference whether glucosamine has a sulfate or hydrochloride carrier, in terms of bioavailability.

In summary, chondroitin has no scientific rationale for an orally-taken glucosamine product. There is no evidence to suggest that glucosamine sulfate offers advantages over glucosamine hydrochloride. There is no need for glucosamine hydrochloride to be stabilized with salt. Hydrochloride offers a more concentrated form of glucosamine. Given these facts, the glucosamine product of choice for consumers should be Glucosamine hydrochloride.


  1. Houpt JB, McMillan R, Paget-Dellio D, Russel A, Gahunia HK
    Effect of treatment of glucosamine hydrochloride in the treatment of pain in osteoarthritic of the knee.
    J Rheumatology 1998; 25 (supplemement 52): 8

  2. Noack W, Fischer M, Forster KK, Rovati LC, Setnikar I.
    Glucosamine sulfate in osteoarthritis of the knee.
    Osteoarthritis Cart 1994; 2:51-9

  3. Muller-Fabbender H, Bach GL, Haase W, Rovati LC, Setnikar I.
    Glucosamine sulfate compared to ibuprofen in osteoarthritis of the knee.
    Osteoarthritis Cart 1994; 2:61-9

  4. Setnikar L, Palumbo R, Canali S, Zanolo G.
    Pharmacokinetics of glucosmine in man.
    Arzneimittelforschung 1993;43:1109-13

  5. Vaz AL.
    Double-blind clinical evaluation of the relative efficacy of ibuprofen and glucosamine sulphate in the management of osteoarthrosis of the knee in out patients.
    Curr Med Res Opin 1982;8:145-9

  6. Drovanti A, Bignamini AA, Rovati AL.
    Therapeutic activity of oral glucosamine sulfate in osteoarthritis: A placebo-controlled, double-blind investigation.
    Clin Ther 1980;3:260-72

  7. Pujalte JM, Llavore EP, Ylescupidez FR.
    Double-blind clinical evaluation of oral glucosamine sulphate in the basic treatment of osteoarthritis.
    Curr Med Res Opin 1980;7:110-14

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