The Benefits Of Collagen For Bone And Joint Health
Dear Dr. Hasz,
Cold weather often makes bones and joints hurt, and some people talk about collagen supplements as an option. What is the connection between collagen levels and bone and joint pain? –J
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and an essential building block for skin, bones, cartilage, tendons and organs. It repairs damage and holds most of your tissues together. A slowdown in the body’s production of collagen leads to weaker bones, wrinkled skin – all the common symptoms of aging. It’s hard to overstate its importance.
There are several different types of collagen in the body, but the most important are types I, II, and III. Types I and III are vital to bone health, while II is the main one found in cartilage.
About 60% of the material in bone is mineral, especially phosphate and calcium. The rest is a matrix of water and proteins that hold all the mineral content together. Collagen makes up most of the protein in that matrix, so collagen deficiency leads to conditions like osteogenesis imperfecta, where the cell matrix weakens and the bones become fragile.
Since collagen forms most of the matrix of bone cells, it is also key to healing fractures. When a bone breaks and is set in position, the body starts making new bone cells to connect the broken parts together. Producing collagen faster leads to shorter healing times. A 2007 study in Germany found that by using growth hormone to stimulate collagen production, they could significantly reduce the healing times of closed tibial fractures.
Collagen is why your bones can resist pressure and also heal when they have broken.
In the joints, type II collagen is an essential building block for the extracellular matrix that gives cartilage its resilience. As researchers at the University of California, Riverside, explain, “[n]atural, healthy cartilage matrix is mainly composed of collagen type II which provides tensile support for the tissue.” Notice that whether in bones and in cartilage, collagen does basically the same job: forming an elastic matrix to support and bind other material.
And just like with bones, collagen deficiency has serious consequences for the joints. The best-known is probably osteoarthritis, in which the cartilage degrades until the joint can’t function at all. A study by Dutch researchers on the causes of it argues that
Swelling of cartilage, one of the earliest signs of damage, is proportional to the amount of collagen damage. This strongly suggests that damage to the collagen network is an early event in cartilage degeneration.
Can supplements help?
There is evidence, like this 2016 study, that collagen supplements can reduce joint pain and swelling if used as directed over several months. The key is in how the supplement delivers collagen to the body. Whole collagen fibrils are mostly too large to pass through the intestinal barrier into the blood stream, where it is available to the rest of the body. To maximize the bioavailability of collagen, it has to be hydrolized first, which breaks the fibrils into smaller pieces called peptides. Hydrolized collagen, or collagen peptides, are small enough to get into the blood stream.
I recommend the supplements from Prisma Natural, partly because their peptides have a lower molecular weight than other brands (5000 Da). Prisma Natural also includes important additives like organic silicon for bones and joints, and the necessary Vitamin C to boost collagen production. Lastly, I appreciate how easy it is simply to mix a powder into a fluid and drink it. You have to take a collagen supplement consistently in order to see results, so making it easy to take is an advantage.