Collagen For Gut, Joint, And Bone Health.

Collagen is an anti-inflammatory protein that can improve gut, joint, and bone health. It is a great source of dietary glycine, which I’ve written about before, specifically regarding longevity[*], sleep, and muscle mass[*] Collagen contains peptides which have health benefits which may not achieved with supplemental glycine powder. The process of hydrolysis breaks collagen down into small, low molecular weight peptides. Hydrolyzed collagen allows for better absorption and increased use of collagen peptides in the connective tissue and bone. Some studies indicate that specific collagens may be more effective for certain conditions.

Collagen And Gut Inflammation

A recent study looked at the anti-inflammatory effects of gelatin, glycine, and Pro‐Hyp peptide on experimental colitis, inflammation of the colon caused by a chemical Dextran Sulfate Sodium (DSS). Gelatin is simply cooked collagen. Proline-hydroxyproline (Pro-Hyp) is a peptide found in collagen/gelatin and glycine is the most abundant amino acid in collagen/gelatin. The study found that all three substances lowered inflammation in the colon but they had different effects. The anti-inflammatory effects of collagen/gelatin come from glycine and the pro-hyp  peptide.

They exhibited significant activities in the order of gelatin < glycine < Pro‐Hyp. Gelatin prevented the DSS‐induced increase in interleukin‐1β (IL‐1β), interleukin‐6 (IL‐6), and tumor necrosis factor‐α (TNF‐α) in the colon, rather than in peripheral blood. Glycine and Pro‐Hyp attenuated the DSS‐induced rise in colonic IL‐6 and TNF‐α, as well as peripheral IL‐1β, IL‐6, and TNF‐α. Hematologic results show the attenuation of DSS‐induced leukocytosis and lymphocytosis by glycine and Pro‐Hyp, rather than gelatin. These findings suggest that glycine and Pro‐Hyp constitute the material basis for gelatin’s anticolitis efficacy, and they have better anticolitis activities and distinct mechanisms of action when ingested as free compounds than as part of gelatin.”[*]


Pro-Hyp In Collagen

The availability of the pro-hyp peptide is one of the benefits of collagen. A 2005 study investigated the availability of peptides from collagen. Supplemental collagen elevated pro-hyp in the blood shortly after ingestion. The study estimates up to 7% of the collagen by weight may end up as pro-hyp in the bloodstream.

“After the oral ingestion, the peptide form of Hyp significantly increased and reached a maximum level (20−60 nmol/mL of plasma) after 1−2 h and then decreased to half of the maximum level at 4 h after the ingestion. Major constituents of food-derived collagen peptides in human serum and plasma were identified as Pro-Hyp.”[*]

Collagen – Restructuring Joints

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and plays a huge role in critical joint structures like cartilage. In diseases like osteoarthritis, cartilage is one of the most affected tissues. The body has an ability to synthesise collagen and cartilage from free amino acids but collagen/gelatin hydrolysate supplements can speed the process by providing the base materials in a natural way. Mice given radio-labelled gelatin hydrolysate had an increased accumulation of collagen compared to controls.

“As shown in the present study, more than 90% of the administered radioactivity was removed from the gastrointestinal tract within the first 6 h subsequent to oral administration of gelatin hydrolysate…

It is commonly assumed that peptides are hydrolyzed in the gastrointestinal tract prior to absorption, so that free amino acids enter the circulation predominantly (Boullin et al. 1973, Mathews and Laster 1965). In contrast, however, there is considerable evidence that peptides or even macromolecules can also be absorbed intact (Seifert and Sass 1990, Urao et al. 1997, Warshaw et al. 1974)…

With regard to the distribution of radioactivity in the various tissues and organs, our current results demonstrate that almost no differences could be observed after the administration of 14C labeled gelatin hydrolysate and 14C labeled proline, respectively. In cartilage, however, a significantly (P < 0.05) higher degree of radioactivity could be determined for at least 96 h subsequent to administration of labeled gelatin than was the case after the application of 14C labeled proline…

The possible reason for this phenomenon might be due to the fact that, subsequent to intestinal absorption of gelatin hydrolysate, a heterogeneous mixture of peptides and, to some extent, polypeptides enters the circulation, and that these peptides are preferably accumulated in cartilage…

These results suggest that the unique amino acid and peptide profile of gelatin may be responsible for the previous observations of therapeutic efficacy of orally administered gelatin in degenerative conditions of the musculo-skeletal system (Adam 1991, Seeligmuller and Happel 1993).

That study used: “gelatin put through a further enzymatic degradation of this hydrolyzed collagen… a product which is called gelatin hydrolysate, and which contains peptides with a mean MW of 3–6 kD.

Collagen For Osteoarthritis

A number of human and animal studies have been conducted looking into the effect of collagen on subjective and objective markers osteoarthritis. One randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial looked at the effect of hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract on the symptoms of osteoarthritis of the hip or knee joint. This study found that only two grams of this collagen had significant benefits on osteoarthritis. (This study used BioCell Collagen, which also contains chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid. BioCell Collagen BCC also has positive effects against skin aging [*]. So does red light [*].

“The treatment group, as compared to placebo, had a significant reduction of VAS pain on day 70 (p < 0.001) and of WOMAC scores on both days 35 (p = 0.017) and 70 (p < 0.001). The BCC group experienced a significant improvement in physical activities compared to the placebo group on days 35 (p = 0.007) and 70 (p < 0.001). BCC was well tolerated and found to be effective in managing OA-associated symptoms over the study period, thereby improving patient’s activities of daily living. BCC can be considered a potential complement to current OA therapies.” OA-Ostroarthritis [*]

Collagen Tripeptides In Chicken Cartilage Collagen

A 2009 study showed that some peptides cross the gut intact and these are likely incorporated into collagen in the body.[*] A peptide of particular interest (pro-hyp-gly) for collagen/bone health identified in the previous study was found to be elevated more by chicken collagen than porcine collagen.[*] The pro-hyp-gly peptides were not found in porcine skin colllagen, they made up only 3% of  chicken feet gelatin. However, these peptides made up 19% of chicken cartilage collagen. Real chicken soup or a chicken cartilage collagen hydrolysate may be useful for osteoarthritis, more useful than. porcine collagen. Beef collagen wasn’t tested for this peptide but for those using Great Lakes it may be worth trying some other collagens if you’re not getting the results you expect. I get good results from Great Lakes but I don’t suffer from arthritis.

Fish Collagen In Osteoarthritis

Though chicken cartilage collagen may have some exclusive effects on collagen mass there are undoubted benefits of other collagens for osteoarthritis. A 2010 study looked at the effect of fish and pig collagens in an animal model of osteoarthritis.

“Oral administration of collagen hydrolysates increased the amount of proteoglycans in the epiphyses. It also reduced the morphological changes associated with osteoarthritic cartilage destruction of the knee joint. The results suggest that collagen hydrolysates have therapeutic potential for treatment of osteoarthritis.”[*]


Both types of collagen showed improvements, though the fish collagen proved far more effective in this study. (Collagen hydrolysates derived from fish scale type 1 collagen and porcine skin type 1 collagen, both sourced from Nitta Gelatin in Japan.) I couldn’t find any Nitta products for sale to consumers, there are a number of type 1 + type 3 marine collagens. Pure Marine Collagen Peptides seems pretty similar to the collagen used in that study. It’s exclusively type 1 fish scale collagen. Many studies on osteoarthritis don’t specify the source of the collagen supplement and plenty of people report beneficial effects from more commonly used porcine or beef collagen. When theses seem to have no effect then trying fish or chicken cartilage collagen might still be worth a shot.

Type 1 Collagen For Bone Density

Collagen has potent effects on bone mineral density, particularly when combined with a little exercise and vitamin C. Type 1 collagen is the most abundant collagen in the body and it makes up long structural fibers critical to bone health. One study used a 5 g serving of isolated type I collagen in postmenopausal women. The 12 month study showed improved bone metabolism with the collagen supplement. The type 1 collagen supplement was referred to as SCP in the study, short for specific collagen peptides. It seem increase bone growth and decrease bone degradation.

“In the SCP group, BMD (bone mineral density) of the spine and of the femoral neck increased significantly compared to the control group …

These data demonstrate that the intake of SCP increased BMD in postmenopausal women with primary, age-related reduction of BMD. In addition, SCP supplementation was associated with a favorable shift in bone markers, indicating increased bone formation and reduced bone degradation.[*]

That study used FORTIBONE®, GELITA AG, a product supplied to a number of supplement companies [*] which repackage it under different names. For example Verisol, which also has some positive results on skin aging [*].


Gelatin For Bone Density

Another study looked at the effect of gelatin, exercise, and vitamin C on collagen synthesis. This study measured levels of PINP – Procollagen type I propeptides are derived from type 1 collagen. These pro peptides are used to assess the effectiveness of osteoporosis therapies – they are a good marker of bone growth. 15g of gelatin with some vitamin C and a few minutes skipping  doubled the level of PINP in the participants. This shows that highly processed Type 1 collagen supplements may not be necessary for most people, though perhaps a higher dose of gelatin or collagen is required to get the same results.

“Supplementation with increasing amounts of gelatin increased circulating glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine, peaking 1 h after the supplement was given …

Subjects who took 15 g gelatin 1 h before exercise showed double the amino-terminal propeptide of collagen I (PINP) in their blood, indicating increased collagen synthesis.

Conclusion: These data suggest that adding gelatin to an intermittent exercise program improves collagen synthesis and could play a beneficial role in injury prevention and tissue repair.[*]

This study used standard beef gelatin from McKenzie’s in Australia. Great Lakes do a popular equivalent that is easier to source in other countries. I find liposomal vitamin C to be less irritating to the digestive system. Quali-C is a scotish company that produces vitamin C with relatively low levels of unwanted contaminants that are surprisingly common in vitamin C supplements. Liposomal Quali-C is repackaged by a number of supplement providers. I’m not really up to speed on what makes a good skipping rope, to be honest! That’s probably enough on collagen/gelatin for this article. As I’ve said in my previous articles on glycine [*][*], I take glycine and great lakes beef collagen daily. I’ve heard good things about fish scale type 1 collagen and might try it out next time I need to pick up some collagen.


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