Type II collagen can be found in almost all cartilage tissue, which is why it is often included in supplements or topical creams for the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). Although some clinical research has shown a pain relieving effect, the science overall is not clear whether collagen is a reliable OA treatment option. More research is therefore needed.
How collagen can help treat osteoarthritis
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 collagen. Type II collagen can be found almost exclusively in cartilage tissue. Consequently, collagen is often included in supplements or topical creams recommended for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Daily doses of 10g of collagen hydrolyzate 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 use of collagen hydrolyzate 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 of collagen. This gives the articular cartilage stability and tensile strength.
Studies at the University of Kiel in Germany have shown that collagen hydrolyzate is easily absorbed in the intestine. It is later deposited in articular cartilage.
Collagen hydrolyzate reduces pain in osteoarthritis
Currently, all pain relief medications can have serious side effects with long term use. Since patients with advanced osteoarthritis suffer severe pain, supplements containing collagen 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 collagen hydrolyzate 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 of collagen hydrolyzate was administered daily.
In the evaluation, patients reported less pain in the affected joints. The study also showed that collagen hydrolyzate 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 into collagen hydrolyzate2. The researchers investigated the current knowledge of collagen hydrolyzate and its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving mobility in arthritic joints.
A total of 8 separate studies were reviewed. Researchers found that the influence of collagen hydrolyzate was mild. Collagen hydrolyzate 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.
Purchasing collagen products
- 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)