Science Update

Recent Review Investigates Relationship Between Collagen Supplementation and Musculoskeletal Health

Collagen is the primary structural protein in connective tissue and comprises approximately 25% of mammalian body proteins. It is found primarily in skin, hair, nails, cartilage, muscle, and bone. Changes to collagen metabolism occur from the normal aging process and other environmental and hormonal factors. Supplementation with collagen peptides has been shown to help support skin health and other age-related changes. Recent research indicates that collagen supplementation may also help promote bone integrity and joint health.

In laboratory studies, supplementation with collagen peptides has been shown to help stimulate extracellular matrix molecule production in fibroblasts. Animal studies indicated that oral intake of collagen peptides helped to increase collagen fibrils, density, and fibroblast diameter. Collagen fragments act as a precursor for collagen synthesis in the skin and other connective tissues. Collagen and its fragments have also been shown to induce differentiation of regulatory T cells and M2 macrophages that contribute to increased skin turnover and healthy tissue remodeling

A recently published review by Campos and colleagues investigated the potential relationship between collagen supplementation and musculoskeletal health. Clinical studies have indicated that C-terminus cross-linked telopeptides of type II collagen (CTX-II) levels may be a biomarker for cartilage degradation associated with high-impact activities, strenuous exercise, and certain musculoskeletal pathologies. A controlled clinical study showed that supplementation with collagen helped to improve CTX-II levels and markers related to the inflammatory response, muscle damage, and cellular function.

Supplementation with collagen may also help support certain aspects of musculoskeletal health. A randomized, double-blind clinical trial explored the potential efficacy of supplementation with collagen peptides in postmenopausal women. The treatment group received 5 g of collagen daily for 48 weeks. Study results indicate that certain indices related to bone integrity and formation including terminal pro-peptides of type I pro-collagen phosphatase (P1NP) were improved. Several other clinical studies conducted in both young and elderly adults reported improvements in muscle strength, muscle mass, and proteins related to contractile fibers. 

The cartilage in most joints in the body consists of type II collagen. Collagen supplementation has been shown in some clinical studies to help improve joint stiffness and mobility. It has also been shown to help support joint recovery and stability. In addition, joint-related pain scores have been shown to improve in the presence of collagen supplementation in some clinical studies

While more research is needed, particularly in the clinical setting and with repeatable clinical outcomes, evidence suggests that collagen supplementation may support certain aspects of skin health and musculoskeletal integrity. Collagen peptide supplementation may help support joint function and muscle and bone health.

By Dr. C. Ambrose, ND, MAT