Collagen is a structural protein. It’s the most common protein in the body, accounting for 30% of total protein. It gives structure to cartilage tissue, tendons, connective tissue, and bones. There are several types of the protein. Type II can be found almost exclusively in cartilage tissue. Consequently, it is often included in supplements or topical creams recommended for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Daily doses of 10g of are often prescribed to help repair small-scale damage to articular cartilage. This assists in suppressing inflammation and consequently decreases the associated pain. For some patients, this can be enough to reduce their dependence on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers).
Collagen Hydrolyzate and its Role in Articular Cartilage
Collagen hydrolyzate is a protein formed by enzymatic hydrolysis. This gives the articular cartilage stability and tensile strength. Studies at the University of Kiel in Germany have shown that it is easily absorbed in the intestine. It is later deposited in articular cartilage.
Osteoarthritis Pain Reduction
Currently, all pain relief medications can have serious side effects with long term use. Since patients with advanced osteoarthritis suffer severe pain, supplements containing this protein may be beneficial. Some research has found a positive correlation between increased collagen hydrolyzate and osteoarthritis pain relief.
In 2009, Benito-Ruiz and colleagues published a randomized study of the effect of this protein on the development of pain in people with osteoarthritis1. A total of 250 patients participated in the study. For a period of six months, 10g was administered daily. In the evaluation, patients reported less pain in the affected joints. The study also showed that it is safe and well tolerated by the body, with no adverse side effects.
More Research is Required
A review article published in 2012 analyzed previous research on the tissue 2. The researchers investigated its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving mobility in arthritic joints.
A total of 8 separate studies were reviewed. Researchers found that the influence was mild. It only slightly improved pain symptoms and joint mobility wasn’t enhanced. When the supplement was taken over longer time periods, some patients complained of mild gastrointestinal problems. Van Vijven and colleagues conclude from their comparisons that collagen hydrolyzate is not recommended as a general supplement for osteoarthritis patients.
Despite the findings of Van Vijven and colleagues, collagen hydrolyzate may still offer some relief. Recently, in vitro studies have shown that the way in which collagen hydrolyzate is prepared has a significant influence on articular cartilage. Schadow and colleagues found that the biomedical properties of collagen hydrolyzate can have a positive or negative effect on cartilage3. These findings may explain the disparities between the results of different studies. More research is necessary to fully understand the relationship between collagen hydrolyzate and cartilage.
- Benito-Ruiz et al. 2009. A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolyzate, for Improving joint comfort. Int J Food Sci Nutr 60 (Suppl 2), 99-113 ↩
- Van Vijven et al., 2012. Symptomatic treatment with chondroprotective and collagen derivatives for osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 20 (8), 809-821 ↩
- Schadow, S et al. 2013. Collagen of Human Osteoarthritic Articular Cartilage as Modulated by Bovine Collagen Hydrolysates. PloS One. 8(1). ↩