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Are Collagen Supplements Helpful for Arthritis?

The global dietary supplements market size is a multibillion-dollar industry and is expected to grow every year. Collagen supplements are top selling products in this market. They are advertised for the benefit of the skin, bones and cartilage. Are they really helpful for arthritis patients?

Let’s find out the scientific evidence available at this time.

In  this article, will discuss about

  1. What is collagen?
  2. What are supplements?
  3. Are collagen supplements good for arthritis?
  4. Can you get collagen from foods?

 What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is found in your bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. Collagen makes our tissues strong and allows us to stretch. As we age, our body will slow the production of collagen. The networks of collagen into our skin changes from a tightly organized network to an unorganized maze. 

What are supplements?

Supplements -are natural and/or synthetic products marketed to supplement your diet for optimal health results. They can include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, enzymes, organ tissues, extracts, or concentrates. You can find supplements presented in the form of tablets, capsules, soft gels, liquids, or powders.  However, because dietary supplements are categorized as “food,” not drugs, they are not required to undergo rigorous testing that prescription drugs/ medication undergo. The dietary supplement manufacturers are responsible to ensure these are safe before they are marketed, but they do not require any approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These manufacturers may not claim to treat, prevent, or cure any specific disease

What are the collagen supplements?

Collagen supplements in arthritis

Collagen supplements became a top selling product. First, they started to be promoted for the benefits of stronger skin and nails. More recently, collagen supplements were advertised for stronger bones and improvement in the cartilage.

Oral collagens are sold as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, which are broken down forms of collagen that are more easily absorbed.

Are collagen supplements helpful for arthritis?

To answer this question, I will present you the current scientific data.

Collagen supplements were studied primarily in people suffer

ing from osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a form of “wear and tear” arthritis that happens primarily in elderly people. It is a form of degenerative arthritis that can affect your hands, hips, knees and spine, and more rarely other joints. Patient with osteoarthritis will have pain and difficulties using their hands or walking, depending on the type of joint that is affected.

A study published in 2006 showed that patients with osteoarthritis that used collagen hydrolysate had improvement in their pain scores and function of their joints (Bello AE at al, 2006).

In   2018, a meta-analysis of nutritional supplements for osteoarthritis of the knee, hand, or hip including 69 studies looked at 20 different supplements. They included in their analysis studies on turmeric, but also collagen supplements.

Interestingly, when they compared to placebo, out of these 20 supplements, only 7 of them including collagen hydroxylate showed to have an impact in the reduction of pain in these patients. The reduction in pain was short term, under 3 months (Liu X et al, 2018).

In 2019, another meta-analysis on collagen supplementation was published. Again, collagen supplementation was shown that might improve OA symptoms. (García-Coronado JM et al, 2019)

 

 

However, most of the studies have a limited number of patients and the quality of the evidence is moderate to very low.

Based on these studies, it is important to note that these supplements did not cause significantly higher side effects when compared to placebo.

Be aware that, Some of these studies are supported by the manufacturer that produces these supplements so there might also be also a conflict of interests.

Can you get collagen from foods?

Foods High Content in Collagen
Foods High Content in Collagen

Yes, collagen is present in many foods. Here are a few foods abundant in collagen

  • pot roast
  • brisket
  • bones and skin of saltwater fish
  • bone broth
  • gelatin

Be aware, that most of the foods containing collagen will be digested by your stomach into amino acids, the building blocks for other proteins, and those will get distributed in the body where is the need for building more proteins.

 

Summary

Collagen supplements might be helpful for patients with arthritis, although the current evidence is still moderate to low.

Before you start any supplement, I do advise you to discuss your clinical situation with a physician that will be able to review your risks and benefits. Supplements can be dangerous in some situations and can influence the way that other medications are absorbed. If you are interested to learn more about supplements and their scientific evidence, follow my blog posts and my YouTube channel. If you are looking for a consultation for arthritis or autoimmune disease, schedule on our website Rheumatologist OnCall.

We are happy to evaluate and treat you with the most comprehensive approach that will integrate the most cutting-edge science with integrative medicine that includes nutrition, supplements, stress management, mindfulness, exercise, and sleep management.

About the author:

Diana Girnita, MD, PhD is an US board certified internal medicine and rheumatology. She completed a PhD in immunology, postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, immunology fellowship at University of Pittsburgh and rheumatology fellowship at University of Cincinnati. She is the founder&CEO of Rheumatologist OnCall, a telemedicine company that serves multiple states in the US. Dr. Girnita is a graduate of the Nutrition Science course from Stanford University. Dr. Girnita was recognized many times with “Top Doctor”  award (2017-2020) and is frequently invited speaker of the US National Arthritis Foundation.

 

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