Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that the majority of us will develop to one degree or another as we get into our senior years – and often sooner with an athletic injury. Besides pain, arthritis can cause a loss of physical function and lead to reduced muscle mass and strength. When physical activity is limited because of arthritis, conditions like diabetes and heart disease are much more likely to develop. Currently, there is no medical treatment than can slow down, much less reverse, the joint damage from arthritis. The standard of care focuses primarily on alleviating symptoms but medications prescribed for arthritis often have unwanted side effects.
According to a recent review published in the journal International Orthopaedics, researchers have demonstrated that collagen protein supplementation can improve osteoarthritis symptoms.
The review consisted of 5 separate randomized controlled trials published from 2009 to 2016, with a total of 519 patients. Treatment periods ranged from 10 weeks to 48 weeks. Treatment with collagen supplementation demonstrated a significant reduction of the total WOMAC index, a clinical tool used to assess the degree of arthritis (1) , and a significant reduction in stiffness and VAS score (a clinical “scoring” tool used to assess degree of pain) .
The beneficial effects of collagen for the treatment and prevention of arthritis are not recognized by the conventional medical community. As described in my book, “The Collagen Diet,” collagen peptides that are broken into small fragments are the specific type of collagen that has demonstrated efficacy for a variety of degenerative conditions, including osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
When we ingest collagen peptides, they are further broken down into single amino acids and peptides consisting of 2-3 amino acids. These then enter the bloodstream and accumulate in joint cartilage (along with the skin, bones and other collagen-rich tissues.) In joints, the peptides stimulate the biosynthesis of cartilage by increasing type II collagen and proteoglycans that play an important role in the lubrication of cartilage. Hydrolyzed collagen peptides, rich in proline and hydroxyproline, can also promote an increased synthesis of hyaluronic acid from synovial cells.
Decreases in both the WOMAC index and VAS score shown in this “meta-analysis” (2) demonstrate that collagen is effective for improving OA symptoms. Other potential benefits of collagen supplementation include improving skin elasticity and tone, sustaining muscle mass, supporting bone health, and blood pressure, and diabetes support.
(1) The WOMAC consists of 24 items divided into 3 subscales:
- Stiffness (2 items): after first waking and later in the day
- Pain (5 items): during walking, using stairs, in bed, sitting or lying, and standing
- Physical Function (17 items): stair use, rising from sitting, standing, bending, walking, getting in / out of a car, shopping, putting on / taking off socks, rising from bed, lying in bed, getting in / out of bath, sitting, getting on / off toilet, heavy household duties, light household duties
(2) A meta-analysis is a statistical technique used to calculate a (weighted) average of the combined studies.
Cited study: Garcia-Coronado JM, Martinez-Olivera L, et al. Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Int Orthop. 2018 Oct 27. doi: 10.1007/s00264-018-4211-5.