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publishDate

September 6, 2021

author

Lindsay Delk, RDN
Collagen’s Role in Healthy Joints
Author

Fact Checked By Lindsay Delk, RDN
 September 6, 2021

Healthy Joints

Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis) is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world (1).

It is a joint disease that affects 240 million people in the world.

About 18% of women and 10% of men over the age of 60 suffer from symptoms of osteoarthritis.

And because people are living longer, joint problems are increasing.

Osteoarthritis and other joint problems can be painful as the bones rub together and cause swelling.

Joint problems can limit you from living a normal, active life.

So, many people are looking for safe and natural ways to prevent or ease joint problems. Collagen supplements are a safe, natural option to keep your joints healthy.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is described as the glue that holds your body together.

The word collagen actually comes from the Greek word kolla, which means glue (2).

Collagen plays a role in many areas of your body, including your bones, skin, muscles, teeth, and cartilage (3).

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body (⅓ of your body’s protein) (4).

Collagen is the main structural protein of your skin and connective tissues.

Connective tissues include bone, skin, cartilage, and tendons.

Collagen helps these connective tissues withstand stretching.

Low collagen levels can loosen your cartilage and tendons, making your joints more at risk for injury (5).

As you age, you break down collagen faster than you replace it (6).

Starting in your mid-20s, you begin to lose about 1% of your collagen each year.

And you lose up to 30% during the first five years of menopause.

As you get older and lose more collagen, your joints wear down and become more prone to osteoarthritis and injuries.

Types of Collagen

There are at least 16 types of collagen, but most of the collagen in your body consists of types I, II, and III (7).

Type I collagen is usually considered the best type for your skin, while type II collagen is the main part of your cartilage and bones and may be the most helpful for your skeletal system and joints (8, 9).

Type II collagen is the most common type for treating osteoarthritis and other joint pain.

You can get type II collagen from bone broth, chicken cartilage, or a multi-collagen powder supplement.

Type II collagen supplements are usually made from chicken collagen.

The Parts of Your Joints

Joints are made up of cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and synovial fluid. Joints allow your body to move.

  • Cartilage is the tissue that covers the ends of your bones. It provides a cushion between your bones so they can move smoothly against one another.
  • Tendons connect your muscles to your bones.
  • Ligaments connect some of your bones to other bones.
  • Synovial fluid provides lubrication for your joints to move smoothly.

Research on Collagen’s Benefits for Your Joints

  • Pain Relief And Joint Health

Two similar studies were done simultaneously (10).

The first study consisted of athletes with an average age of 24 years old who had sports-related knee pain.

The other study consisted of people with knee or hip pain and an average age of 50 years old.

The participants in both studies were given 5 g of hydrolyzed collagen each day for 12 weeks.

The results of both studies showed that taking a collagen supplement reduced pain and supported joint health in young athletes and middle-aged participants.

  • Pain Relief In Athletes

A study in athletes for 24 weeks showed that taking 10 g of hydrolyzed collagen per day had positive results for joint pain in the athletes (11).

The athletes had less joint pain at rest, when walking, when standing, when carrying objects, and when lifting.

  • Pain Relief And Better Movement

A study in elderly women with knee arthritis showed that taking collagen peptides for six months significantly reduced joint pain and improved physical mobility (12).

  • Healthy Cartilage And Less Inflammation

In a mouse study, researchers found that taking type I collagen daily protected against cartilage loss and reduced inflammation (13).

  • Lower Back Pain Relief

Taking collagen supplements may help ease lower back pain (14).

All parts of the lower back, such as the bones, muscles, and tendons, contain collagen. Not having enough collagen in these parts can cause pain.

  • Pain Relief, More Joint Function, And Higher Quality Of Life

In one study, participants with knee osteoarthritis were given acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) and type II collagen together for three months (15).

These patients had less joint pain, more joint function, and a higher quality of life compared to taking acetaminophen alone.

  • Healthy Cartilage And Pain Relief

One review study confirmed that hydrolyzed collagen has a positive therapeutic effect in osteoarthritis (16).

It may have a protective effect on cartilage and provide pain relief.

Although there is no research about how much hydrolyzed collagen is the right amount, 12 g per day made a significant improvement in the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

  • Pain Relief

In another study, 250 people with knee osteoarthritis were given 10 g of hydrolyzed collagen each day for six months (17).

They had significant improvement in knee-joint pain.

The individuals with the most joint damage and with the least amount of meat protein in their diet had the most benefit.

Choosing a Collagen Supplement

Collagen supplements are made from the collagen of animals and animal products, such as cows, fish, chickens, and eggshell membranes.

Collagen is a long protein chain. Hydrolyzed collagen is already broken down into smaller pieces of proteins.

So, it is more bioavailable and better absorbed by your body. Hydrolyzed collagen, collagen hydrolysate, and collagen peptides are all different names for the same thing.

For a collagen supplement that is easy to take and easy for your body to absorb, look for a hydrolyzed collagen powder that has no flavor or color added.

Then, you can simply dissolve the powder into hot or cold beverages, smoothies, soups, sauces, or any other soft foods.

Collagen supplements can be contaminated with heavy metals, such as mercury and titanium, so make sure you buy your collagen supplement from a reputable source.

Choose a supplement with no artificial sweeteners or additives.

Some people have safety concerns about the traditional drugs used to treat osteoarthritis and other joint pain.

Collagen supplements provide a possible alternative treatment. Collagen is considered very safe, but you should always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.