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Glucosamine Sulfate and Omega-3

Ask the Nutritionist

Q: I have prostate cancer. I understand that I should avoid omega 3 (salmon, flax, etc.). Does glucosamine sulfate have omega-3 in it? Does it come in vegetarian?

JRB, Holyoke, MA, November 2014 

A: While certain studies have found a link between omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer, overall research on this topic is evolving and inconclusive. Please review Dana Farber’s position on prostate cancer and omega-3 intake.

Glucosamine sulfate is a chemical located around the joints in the human body. However, for use as a dietary supplement, glucosamine sulfate is often harvested from the shells of shellfish or is produced in a laboratory. Glucosamine sulfate supplementation is typically used for treatment of osteoarthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that our body does not make them and they must be consumed in the diet. One of the best sources of omega-3s is fish, including wild salmon. It is therefore possible that glucosamine sulfate supplements contain small quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarian versions of glucosamine sulfate are less likely to contain omega-3s. However, it is important to keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements such as glucosamine sulfate. It is therefore possible that a supplement contains ingredients that are not listed on the label. Always read the label carefully before purchasing a supplement.

Please speak with your doctor if you are considering supplementation, as glucosamine sulfate can have serious adverse effects when taken in conjunction with certain medications or in the presence of certain health conditions. This is especially pertinent to patients undergoing chemotherapy, as some scientists believe that glucosamine sulfate interfere with the effectiveness of certain chemotherapeutic agents. Patients on the blood-thinning agent Warfarin (Coumadin) should not take glucosamine sulfate.

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