The benefits of collagen peptides in promoting joint health have been widely reported by many clinical research studies. By boosting overall joint health, long term collagen supplementation is believed to be an effective option to help protect joint health and aid recovery from joint pain and inflammation. In this article we explain the what, how and why of using collagen for joints and their health.
What is collagen?
It is the fundamental structural protein that forms connective tissue, and is a vital component of the joints, bones, muscles, tendons and skin. Essential to the formation of connective tissue, it is the highest source of protein found in the body. Collagen contains specific vital amino acids including arginine, proline, glycine and hydroxproline.
The human anatomy contains and utilises over 20 variants of collagen amino acids, however there are three main types that comprise 80-90% of the body.
The Different Types of Collagen Explained
Three different types of collagen - I, II, and III - are found most abundantly in the human body, of which type II is the most significant form for joint health. Out of the three, it is believed to be most specifically effective in targeting and enhancing joint cell health.
- Collagen Type I - Found most abundantly in the body, type I is found in skin, artery walls, bones, tendons and scar tissue.
- Collagen Type II - Found in the cartilage and respiratory tubes.
- Collagen Type III - Found predominantly in the blood vessels.
How Does Collagen Benefit the Joints?
Optimum joint mobility is the result of supple, healthy joint tissue and joint elasticity. Collagen is a vital component of tissue, bones and cartilage required for healthy joints. Research widely suggests that boosting collagen intake can contribute to joint health by boosting cellular repair and even stimulate the growth of new joint cartilage tissue.
Sufficient collagen availability is essential for the body to create and renew protein cells. It is a crucial element of connective tissue and cartilage both of which are crucial to joint health and mobility.
In an athletic context, athletes are more commonly at risk for knee and joint injuries due to the sustained impact and over-use of the joints in strenuous physical activity. A 2008 study found that the use of type-II collagen supplementation over the course of 24 weeks resulted in a marked improvement on symptoms such as pain, inflammation and impaired mobility in athletes with activity-related joint pain.
Collagen decreases as part of the ageing process, which contributes largely to why the risk of poor joint health and chronic conditions such as arthritis rises with age. Collagen degeneration with age is most clearly pronounced and visible in the skin: wrinkles and sagging are the outward visual markers degeneration. Under the surface, other non-visible forms of collagen loss include the weakening of the bones, muscles, joints and connective tissue.
Clinical studies on the correlation between collagen supplementation and chronic joint disorders such as arthritis yielded similar results to those studying athletes. In 2006 a study utilising hydrolysed type-II collagen supplements and a placebo product, concluded that ingestion of the supplement was effectively processed by the body, effectively manifesting itself in cartilage. As such the findings indicated an improvement in patients effected by chronic joint disorders such as osteoarthritis.
There is strong clinical evidence that collagen benefits joint health, as well as providing symptomatic relief and aiding recovery. Athletes in particular may consider collagen supplementation as a protective measure, or to potentially reduce recovery time from ongoing joint discomfort or sports injury.
Nutritional Sources of Collagen
Gelatine is the most abundant source of collagen in the diet, as it is formed via hydrolysis of animal connective tissue, skin and bones. Chicken or mammal bone broth, for example, is an excellent way to incrementally boost collagen intake in the daily diet, and is particularly good for general mobility ailments and arthritis due to its high content of vital bone-supporting minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sulphur, phosphorus and silicon.
However for optimum results, a high strength collagen supplement is advisable. Supplements are available in tablet and powered form, with a minimum intake of 6,000mg daily in order to yield results. Those with an intolerance to swallowing multiple pills may prefer to choose a high quality soluble power to mix with cold beverages.
Currently supplements created from the following collagen sources are most widely available to consumers:
- Mammal - Collagen peptides derived from pigs and cattle comprise many cheaper supplement options available.
- Piscine - Collagen supplements derived from fish are believed to be the most effective source of supplementation. As a result, products from this source tend to be slightly more expensive.
In terms of effectively targeting and benefitting joint health with collagen supplementation, it is highly advised to seek a high quality Type II hydrolysed fish collagen source. Clinical research, such as the examples discussed previously, have shown measurable positive results and benefits of taking this form of supplement. Collagen provides a wealth of health benefits boosting cellular renewal. Those with existing joint conditions and those seeking to protect the health of their joints should certainly consider the outstanding benefits of type-II collagen supplementation.