Everything Your Need to Know About How Collagen Can Support Joint Health
Collagen makes headlines for its skin-saving benefits. But it's also an essential nutrient for joint health—especially if you sit at a desk all day.
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Spending long hours at a computer in any setting is stressful on the joints, but working from home can be especially challenging because it eliminates many reasons to get up and move around. According to the Endocrine Society, walking over to a coworker’s desk, going out for lunch, or walking down the hall to a meeting may seem like minor activities, but without these, many people can become immobilized at a computer for hours.
When working from home, it’s a good idea to take walk-about or exercise breaks. And collagen can provide extra nutritional support to keep your joints in good shape, with a bonus of healthier skin.
Top Reasons to Take Collagen
Collagen—the most abundant protein in the body—provides structure to skin, joints, and other tissues. Although our bodies make it from amino acids, today’s diets typically don’t provide enough (See: “Food Sources,” below).
On product labels, you may see terms such as “peptides,” “hydrolysate,” or “hydrolyzed,” which all mean that the collagen has been broken down into a form that can easily be assimilated by the human body. Some benefits:
- Joint Pain Relief—At Tufts University in Boston, researchers tested the quality of cartilage that enables joints to stay flexible. In a group of 30 people with mild osteoarthritis, they found that taking collagen powder for 24 weeks increased the density and health of cartilage, improving joint function. Another study tested 10 grams daily of collagen among people aged 40 or older who suffered from knee osteoarthritis. After 90 days of supplementation, nearly 81 percent rated their improvement as good or ideal.
- Skin Health—A review of studies following a total of 805 people found that taking between 2.5 and 10 grams of powdered collagen daily for 8–24 weeks enhanced skin health. Benefits included improved elasticity, reduced wrinkles, and faster wound healing.
Collagen in Pill Form
In pill form, UC-II and BioCell are two proprietary ingredients that have shown specific benefits. Both are available in supplements, either as individual ingredients or in formulas designed for joint or skin health.
- UC-II—Short for “undenatured type II” collagen, UC-II is a major component of the cartilage that cushions joints and helps to keep them flexible, and UC-II supplements reduce the inflammation that damages joints and causes pain. Studies covering more than 600 people found that 40 mg of UC-II daily significantly relieved joint pain without adverse effects.
- BioCell—A patented extract derived from chickens, BioCell contains a naturally occurring combination of hydrolyzed collagen, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid. Studies found that 1,000 mg daily, taken for 12 weeks, improved circulation in skin and reduced dryness, redness, crow’s feet, and wrinkles. Other research shows that 2 grams of BioCell daily can reduce joint pain from osteoarthritis. In young, healthy people, 3 grams of BioCell taken daily for several weeks before an athletic event helped improve recovery.
Collagen occurs only in animal tissues (including fish), but vegan supplements can help enhance collagen production. Biotin, silica, vitamin C, and amino acids such as proline, hydroxyproline, and lysine are especially helpful.
Powder vs. Pills
Powders can be used just like any other type of protein supplement. Collagen is tasteless and can dissolve in any type of liquid—such as coffee, plant milk, smoothies, and soups—or it can be mixed into moist foods, such as oatmeal. Research suggests that 2.5–15 grams daily is a beneficial amount, but collagen could potentially provide up to one-third of the protein in a healthy diet.
Note that while collagen powders are great sources of protein, pills are not. Pills contain much smaller quantities of collagen formulated to produce specific health effects. They are not a significant source of dietary protein.
Collagen is most concentrated in the bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin of animals and fish—parts that most people don’t typically eat. Bone broth, made the traditional way, is a good food source of collagen.
Vitamin C boosts our internal collagen production. Foods that are rich in vitamin C include sweet peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.