Glyconutrients and Arthritis

Learn About Glyconutrients and Arthritis

Have you heard of ‘glyconutrients’? Do you know what they are and how they may be of help to you in your overall health equation?

In the simplest sense ‘glyconutrients’ are certain types of plant sugars! 

So they’re nutrients comprised of sugar (ie carbohydrate)!

The term ‘glyconutrients’ however is a marketing term. The correct name is‘saccharides’ although you’ll most commonly see this written as‘polysaccharides’ or monosaccharides (depending on the chemical structure of the specific sugar that’s being referred to). In nature 200 types of saccharides have been identified to date.

‘Glyconutrients’ and ‘glyconutrition’ have, in recent times, been gaining more validity as a form of alternative and complementary medicine because studies have shown that they have can have a positive effect on certain areas of our health.

Glyconutrients were originally isolated as a 'new category of nutrient' when researchers were studying the properties of the sugar which gives Aloe Vera it's well known immune system benefits back in the 1970's.

So here’s the low-down on glyconutrients – I’ll keep it short and simple since this page is devoted to glyconutrients and arthritis and not to an in-depth examination of the various forms of saccharides themselves. Use it as a brief starting point to get a basic understanding of glyconutrients and glycoproteins.

Arthritis sufferers I'm sure would much prefer to get straight to the point as to whether glyconutrients may offer any form of effective treatment for their arthritis. My answer to that follows so if you prefer please scan down to the sub-heading 'Glyconutrients and Arthritis'.

Glyconutrients - What’s The Story?

If you visit websites discussing glyco nutrients one of the first sentences you're bound to read is something like this;

"The term "glyconutrients" refers to eight specific sugars (saccharides) which help form important compounds called glycoproteins in your body." 

'These eight are considered essential for normal cellular communication and cell recognition in the human body.'

While technically, this is correct, factually it is incorrect as there are actually ten specific saccharides involved. In 2002, two more monosaccharides were discovered bringing the total to ten, up from the eight which were discovered in 1975. Supplements based on 'glyconutrients' use the original 8 as these predominate in cellular communication.

Saccharides form the core for carbohydrate and protein (glycoproteins and glycopeptides) in the human body.

The key issue to understand is that - glycoproteins (cell surface sugar structures) are essential to the correct recognition and functioning of cells in your body and for the maintenance or recovery of good health. (For those readers who may be particularly interested - glycoproteins are sugar molecules attached to protein molecules.) 

They facilitate (intra and inter) cell to cell communication - so it’s very important to have an adequate and steady supply of them in you so that your cells can optimally communicate (talk) with one another. 

In the simplest sense these glyconutrients (listed below) are used by our cells like letters of an alphabet to create what would be best described as cellular words.

  1. Glucose
  2. Fucose (not to be confused with Fructose)
  3. Mannose (the active component of Aloe Vera)
  4. Galactose
  5. Xylose
  6. N-acetylglucosamine
  7. N-acetylgalactosamine
  8. N-acetylneuraminic acid

For example, when you cut yourself your skin knows how to fill in the gap and seal itself because your cells communicate correctly with one another and your immune system cells are therefore told exactly what they need to do to other cells (such as nourish, repair, destroy, protect, regulate and so on).

If however, sugars are missing from glycoproteins on cells, your immune system cells may not know whether to ignore, attack, nourish with certain nutrients or protect them since their cellular alphabet is unable to function correctly.

But here’s the essential crux of the glyconutrients and good health issue - only 2 of them - glucose (readily available from fruits) and galactose (from diary products) are common in our ‘everyday’ diets so without direct supplementation it's not possible to take them all in (in meaningful amounts). 

The best sources of the essential saccharides are the inner leaf of the Aloe Vera plant, Beta 1,3 Glucan, Tea Polysaccharides, Goji Berries and Seaweed (phytoplankton). So, just imagine how much of these the average person takes in on a regular basis!

In order for you to get glyconutrients which are not supplied through diet, your body must create them by expending energy (ATP) on a series of enzyme and chemical reactions. This is a direct cause of why so many people complain of feeling tired so much of the time as these highly sequenced and complex processes are robbing them of much needed energy.

Can Glyco Nutrients Provide A Natural Form Of Assistance With Health Conditions

Well, first up I'm sure that most supplement users are aware that supplement companies and manufacturers may not make any claims which state or imply that their products "diagnose cure, treat, or prevent disease".

Third party scientific studies have however PROVEN that certain supplements based on glyconutrients assist in:

  • supporting cellular communication
  • improving cognitive function and psychological well-being
  • improving memory
  • improving concentration
  • supporting immune system health
  • supporting digestive system function and promoting gastrointestinal health
  • improving attentiveness
  • improving mood and decreasing irritability

Dr. John Rollins, former Howard University College of Medicine Professor and examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office calls glyconutrients,:

“One of the most important healthcare discoveries of the 21st Century … I believe that the overall immune-supporting potential of glyconutrients represents the best integrative health strategy that science has to offer.” 

For many years the scientific consensus was that it was not possible to effect your body's production of cell surface sugar structures (glycoproteins) through diet and there has been considerable controversy surrounding this topic. However as mentioned above, clinical trials have now proven that certain supplements containing glyconutrients can do that:

New Research Published in the European Journal of Clinical nutrition (2011) 65, 648–656 reported that:

For the first time, science has shown that the ingestion of a standardized blend of plant polysaccharides can induce significant changes in glycoprotein structures with no adverse effects. 

Glyconutrients And Arthritis

Now we’ve come to the topic that probably attracted most readers to this page – glyconutrients and arthritis.

Ever since the life threatening side effects of arthritis drugs such as Vioxx hit the headlines in 2004/2005, people have been looking for effective natural arthritis treatments – hence the increasing popularity of interest in glyconutrients and their ability to help with arthritis.

Since 1980 some major studies have suggested that the symptoms of osteoarthritis may respond to glyconutrition. 1-2

The most effective professional standard natural arthritis formulas in the market contain chondroitin and glucosamine both of which are glyconutrients.

Glucosamine is required for the synthesis of glycoproteins, glycolipids and glycosaminoglycans. Clinical evidence shows that glucosamine stimulates metabolism of chondrocytes in the articular cartilage and of synovial cells in the synovial tissues. Preliminary research suggests that glucosamine inhibits protein N-Glycosylation and cytokine-stimulated production of mediators of inflammation and cartilage degradation.

Chondroitin sulfate (CS) belongs to a class of very large molecules called glucosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are made up of glucuronic acid and galactosamine. CS is itself a glycoprotein. It is used to treat osteoarthritis because it is found in cartilaginous tissues of most mammals and plays a function in the formation of the joint matrix structure.

Rheumatoid arthritis has proved to be a much more difficult form of arthritis to treat.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) involves glyconutrients in peculiar ways. Certain cells in RA patients secrete abnormal IgG (immunoglobulin) glycoforms (various forms of molecules containing glyconutrients). In particular, IgG glycoforms in RA patients are missing required galactose molecules. The less galactose, the more severe the disease.

The lack of galactose on the IgG molecule exposes N-acetyl glucosamine (a glyconutrient), which is capable of binding to mannose-binding-protein, MBP, circulating in blood plasma, and which subsequently causes a cascade of inflammation reactions.

RA patients have been shown to have low levels of another glyconutrient, 'Fucose'. As with galactose, the less fucose, the more severe the disease.

So does supplementation with glyconutrients help people inflicted with RA?

Studies are suggesting they may help. Studies are demonstrating that glyconutrients suppress arthritic symptoms - hence the current popularity of glyconutrients and arthritis. Several studies have demonstrated that blocking the mannose receptor with extra dietary mannose, or mannose injections, or aloe vera extract prevents arthritic flares in rats.

Recently there are reports of beneficial use of collagen administration in RA patients - collagen is rich in glyconutrients! 

Scientists have also started to take a closer look at well known anti inflammatory herbs whose anti inflammatory properties have been recorded for thousands of years. Analyzes of the constituents of some of these herbs show they contain glyconutrients so this is an area where ongoing research is expected to further confirm the benefits of glyconutrients.

Let’s Sum Up

An examination of glyconutrients shows that saccharides may be an effective natural treatment for many sufferers of osteoarthritis and to a lesser yet positive degree, rheumatoid arthritis. 

In respect of RA more evidence is needed from major controlled studies on humans. In the meantime, the large number of positive anecdotal reports should provide encouragement that such studies will prove very beneficial in the near future.

Other Key Arthritis Nutrients

In addition to chondroitin and glucosamine there are other natural non-sugars that have clinically proven to be effective in the treatment of arthritis.

The most effective natural arthritis treatments must therefore include all the following ‘arthritis nutrients’:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Boswellia Serrata
  • Ginger extract
  • CMO (Cerasomal-cis-9-cetylmyristoleate)
  • SAMe (S-adensylmethionine)
  • Gingko Biloba extract
  • Tocotrienols
  • Green Tea Extract

As you already know the two superstars in this list are chondroitin and glucosamine. However, virtually all arthritis formulas contain glucosamine only in the sulfate form.

When comparing arthritis supplements please be aware that there are different forms of glucosamine. 

(E.G. Glucosamine sulfate, D- Glucosamine HCL which is more than double the price of Glucosamine sulfate and Poly-N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine which is once again more than double the cost of D-Glucosamine HCL).

Each form plays a role in addressing the cause of arthritis and joint pain. They all need one another to do their job properly in order to cover the widest possible spectrum of arthritis/joint conditions. 

Keep in mind - most arthritis formulas contain only glucosamine sulfate!

A further important consideration for choosing a supplement is to examine the potencies of the ingredients – these vary considerably from brand to brand. Most supplements are formulated to a price so the manufacturer can’t afford to include very high potencies. Chondroitin is an expensive ingredient so beware of cheaper supplements – they’ll contain weak potency chondroitin and not enough of it.

Look for glucosamine and chondroitin with potencies close to 100%.

The nutrients in this list require cofactors to help absorption and allow them to perform their duties in your body. It takes the experience of a highly qualified bio-scientist to know all the correct cofactors and in the correct forms and amounts. 

Cofactors must include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and important essential fatty acids. On top of this your arthritis supplement should contain trace elements, herbal extracts and other specialty substances. 

To create the absolutely most effective arthritis formula possible your supplement needs even more complementary ingredients - especially those with anti-inflammatory properties.

It should include the following:

  • MSM (Methylsulfonyl methane)
  • Enzymes (Bromelain, Lysozyme, Papain and Protease)
  • New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels
  • Celery Seed Extract
  • Turmeric Root Extract
  • Ipriflavone (7-IPF)
  • CMO (Cerasomal-cis-9-cetylmyristoleate)
  • Phellodendron Amurense Extract
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
  • Boswellia Serrata Extract

Enteric Coating

Some of the more expensive ingredients above are susceptible to destruction by stomach acid (e.g. SAMe and enzymes). In fact SAMe is instantly destroyed if it comes in contact with stomach acid. 

Therefore they must be protected during their journey through the stomach by an enteric coating on the tablet. 

Tablets missing all these expensive ingredients don’t require enteric coating!

 The Arthritis Supplement That Wins My Vote!

There is a highly sophisticated arthritis supplement which I'd like to recommend to you that meets every criteria mentioned and contains every ingredient above (and more). It contains all 3 forms of glucosamine.

It’s called 'NOT JUST JOINTS' from the New Zealand based 'Xtend-Life' company.

Not Just Joints has a tremendous 33 ingredients!

Here’s a small extract from a description of this supplement by the chairman of Xtend-Life (used with permission):

"...That's the simple bit and although glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin works for some people it is not effective for many others. There are a whole host of other substances that are needed and they have to be linked together in the correct proportions and their interaction examined at molecular level. This is what our R & D people have done.

Specialized Ingredients... 

We have linked Cetyl Myristoleate into Celery Extract and Phellodendron Bark Extract and so on. We have combined these and much more, with some very specialized enzymes and co-factors that are crucial in reducing pain and maximizing the efficacy of other active ingredients. In fact, we have used 33 active ingredients and co-factors in such a way that they all enhance each other..."

'Not Just Joints' contains an Amazing 6 Standardized Herbal Extracts! 

These influence various immune functions, such as curtailing inflammatory responses, improving cellular functions (e.g. decrease production of IL-1, TNF, IL-6 and reducing T and B cell functions) and curtailing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Xtend-Life are so confident that they have produced the most effective natural arthritis treatment possible - they offer a 100% money back guarantee. Details are on their site.

If you would like to learn more about Not Just Joints please use this link. It will take you to the Not Just Joints product page on the xtend-life website. There's plenty of additional information there that you may like to look at.

My Final Word on Glyconutrients And Arthritis

This is an alternative medicine topic that I believe will continue to substantially increase in popularity as science continues to unravel further health benefits of saccharides – there are still unidentified sugars out there!

As you’ve just read above glyconutrition doesn’t work equally for everyone so if you intend using glyconutrients for your arthritis, they should be complemented with the addition of as many as possible of the other proven ‘anti-arthritis nutrients’. That's why Xtend-Life's Not Just Joints is so appealing as it is based on the broadest spectrum arthritis support formula available. 


  1. G. Crolle and E. D'Este. "Glucosamine sulphate for the management of arthrosis: a controlled clinical investigation " Cur Med Res Opin 1980 7(2)104-109.

  2. J.M. Pujalte, E.P. Llavore and F.R. Ylescupidez. "Double-blind clnical evaluation of oral glucosamine sulphate in the basic treatment of osteoarthrosis." Cur Med Res Opin 1980 7(2)110-114.

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