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From Glucosamine to GlucosaGreen

Instead of using shellfish to make its glucosamine, Healthspan's glucosamine supplier TSI uses a high-tech corn-based process that is far less wasteful and more environmentally friendly than traditional glucosamine manufacturing.

Glucosamine is a well-known ingredient found in many food supplements. It is a glycosaminoglycan: a building block of cartilage, which can be found in ligaments, tendons and the lubricating synovial fluid in the joints. The glucosamine used in supplements is usually derived from shellfish exoskeletons (prawn, crayfish and lobster), in a very intrusive production process.

However, Healthspan's long-term working relationship with glucosamine supplier TSI means it has access to the unique GlucosaGreen material, which is produced in an environmentally friendly process using purely plant-based materials, making it 100% free from shellfish and related allergens.

What makes this kind of glucosamine different?

According to TSI's CEO Joe Zhou, "GlucosaGreen is the world's first commercially available glucosamine produced by a revolutionary direct fermentation process technology. It's a disruptive technology that effectively addresses and offers efficient solutions to all the challenges inherent in a shellfish-derived chitin production process."

Instead of using shellfish as the raw material, GlucosaGreen's starting material is glucose, derived from an easily available vegetable source: non-GMO corn. It's safe for vegans and anyone with an allergy to shellfish who hasn't previously been able to take glucosamine.

Why did TSI choose to use corn instead of shellfish for GlucosaGreen?

Diagram showing materials needed to produce one tonne of glucosamine HCl

Creating glucosamine from corn uses far less water, chemicals and raw materials than the shellfish method.

Diagram showing waste from producing one tonne of glucosamine HCl

GlucosaGreen also produces a fraction of the waste products of shellfish-based glucosamine.

"The key advantage of GlucosaGreen is that by utilising this innovative technology, we're able to produce the same high-quality glucosamine as shellfish glucosamine without damaging the environment," says Zhou.

"Shellfish-based glucosamine requires a huge amount of chemicals and uses a lot of clean drinking water in the process, thereby generating vast amounts of wastewater. GlucosaGreen produces only around 2% of the waste of a shellfish-based process," he says.

"To produce one metric tonne of glucosamine HCl, shellfish-based creates 455 metric tonnes of wastewater and GlucosaGreen creates only 2 metric tonnes."

To put that into perspective, to create one pack of Healthspan Optiflex Glucosamine 1,325mg with shellfish would produce 72 litres of wastewater – equating to 1 bathtub. With GlucosaGreen, it only generates 318 millilitres, which would fit in a Coke can. Therefore, the required wastewater processing is a lot easier to accomplish.

Healthspan's glucosamine range

Why was it important for TSI to develop a new glucosamine process?

"China produces 90% of the world's glucosamine, and as it costs so much to treat such a vast amount of waste, it has historically been dumped in the environment for over 20 years.

You can see the damage, too. In the areas surrounding shellfish glucosamine manufacturers, you can find polluted water, acid fog and corrosion of neighbouring buildings."

Since 2016, the Chinese government has been enforcing stricter environmental protection policies; these policies have been felt across many industries, with some factories having to close because they don't have proper treatment facilities. However, this new focus on the environment is a positive step towards a more sustainable global future.

Mr. Zhou concludes, "With GlucosaGreen being derived from a readily available vegetable source, and manufactured through environmentally-friendly methods, we feel comfortable knowing that our consumers and brand partners are getting a high-quality product without negatively impacting our planet."