There is a need for an effective treatment for the millions of people in the United States with osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease. The demand for treatments, both traditional and non-traditional, will continue to grow as the population ages.
Joint diseases account for the majority of all chronic conditions in people at all ages. Experts predict a dramatic increase in the incidence of joint disease with the increasing numbers of humans in both developed and developing countries. It will also be impacted by the growing rates of obesity.
While there are currently no official recommendations for the quantity of collagen hydrolysate that will benefit health, benefit has been shown by taking 10g of collagen hydrolysate for at least three months.
Dr Steffen Oesser, from the University of Kiel, Germany, provided details of a study showing that collagen hydrolysate can reach and affect the joint tissue. Along with colleagues, he studied the absorption rate and accumulation levels of collagen hydrolysate in subjects by monitoring its uptake in the body. Results indicated that upon rapid intestinal absorption of supplemental collagen hydrolysate, subjects experienced a doubling in the quantity of the nutrient accumulated within their cartilage tissue as compared to the control group.
Next, the Kiel team set out to determine whether the nutrient may positively affect the joint tissue once it has accumulated. This would require either inhibition of the degradation of the supportive joint tissue and/or stimulation of new cartilage cells to compensate for naturally degraded tissues. In a cell culture model, researchers have been able to demonstrate that the presence of collagen hydrolysate in the culture stimulated collagen production. When compared with collagen that is naturally present in the cells, the native collagen did not lead to this stimulatory effect. The supportive joint tissues were also stimulated to reproduce when in the presence of collagen hydrolysate, implying that the compound may be able to reduce degenerative changes in the joint tissue.
Dr Oesser said: "These are significant findings because we are beginning to learn that collagen hydrolysate is not only reaching the targeted joint tissue, but we are able to observe that its presence can also create a positive change in the joint."
Dr Hans-Konrad Selbmann, from the German University in Tuebingen, highlighted two studies within the last decade, which stand out. The first was a study from 1991 by Adam et al which compared four treatments (collagen hydrolysate, gelatine, a gelatine-glycine-calcium-fluid combination and albumin proteins) to reduce the patients' levels of pain and their need for pain medications. The study found that all three of the gelatine treatments were effective and significantly superior to the protein supplementation.
Collagen hydrolysate ingestion stimulates a statistically significant increase in synthesis of extracellular matrix macromolecules by chondrocytes (p < 0.05 compared with untreated controls). These findings suggest mechanisms that might help patients affected by joint disorders such as OA.