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 accommodating for arthritis patients?
Let’s find out the scientific evidence available at this time.
This article will discuss
- What is collagen?
- What are supplements?
- Are collagen supplements good for arthritis?
- 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 bodies will slow the production of collagen—the collagen networks in our skin change from a tightly organized network to an unorganized maze.
What are supplements?
Supplements -are natural and 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 in tablets, capsules, soft gels, liquids, or powders. However, because dietary supplements are categorized as “food,” not drugs, they are not required to undergo the rigorous testing that prescription drugs/ medication undergo. The dietary supplement manufacturers are responsible for ensuring 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 collagen supplements?
Collagen supplements became a top-selling product. First, they started to be promoted for the benefits of firmer skin and nails. More recently, collagen supplements were advertised for stronger bones and improvement in cartilage.
Oral collagens are sold as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, broken-down forms of collagen that are more easily absorbed.
Are collagen supplements helpful for arthritis?
I will present you with the current scientific data to answer this question.
Collagen supplements were studied primarily in people suffer
ing from osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a form of “wear and tear” arthritis, primarily in elderly people. It is a form of degenerative arthritis that can affect your hands, hips, knees, spine, and, more rarely, other joints. Depending on the affected joint type, patients with osteoarthritis will have difficulty using their hands or walking.
A study published in 2006 showed that patients with osteoarthritis that used collagen hydrolysate improved their pain scores and the function of their joints (Bello AE et al, 2006).
In 2018, a meta-analysis of nutritional supplements for knee, hand, or hip osteoarthritis, including 69 studies, looked at 20 different supplements. They included in their analysis studies on turmeric, but also collagen supplements.
Interestingly, compared to a placebo, out of these 20 supplements, only 7, including collagen hydroxylated, showed an impact in the reduction of pain in these patients. The decrease in pain was short-term, under three 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 studies have a limited number of patients, and the evidence quality is moderate to very low.
Based on these studies, it is essential to note that these supplements did not cause significantly higher side effects compared to placebo.
Be aware that, Some of these studies are supported by the manufacturer that produces these supplements, so there might also be a conflict of interest.
Can you get collagen from foods?
Yes, collagen is present in many foods. Here are a few foods abundant in collagen
- pot roast
- bones and skin of saltwater fish
- bone broth
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. Collagen supplements might be helpful for patients with arthritis, although the current evidence is still moderate to low.
Supplements can be dangerous in some situations and can influence how other medications are absorbed. Before you start any supplement, I advise you to discuss your clinical situation with a physician who will review your risks and benefits. If you want to learn more about supplements and their scientific evidence, follow my blog posts and 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 integrates the most cutting-edge science with integrative medicine, including nutrition, supplements, stress management, mindfulness, exercise, and sleep management.