The Collagen Cure for Joint Health

Collagen usually makes headlines for its skin-saving benefits. But did you know that 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 the reasons we have in an office setting 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, having ill effect on joint health.

When working from home, it’s a good idea to take walk-about or exercise breaks. And supplementing with collagen can provide extra nutritional support to keep your joints in good shape (with the added bonus of healthier skin.)

Top Reasons to Take Collagen

Collagen—the most abundant protein in the body—provides structure to skin, joints, ligaments 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.” All of these terms mean that the collagen has been broken down into a form that can easily be assimilated by the human body. Some benefits include:

  • 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. 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.

Vegan Sources

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.

Food Sources

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.

At birth, our bodies’ production of collagen is the highest it will ever be. As we age, our collagen production slows down. This change can be largely attributed for the degeneration of joint health and the decrease in skin elasticity. To optimize your body’s production of collagen as much as possible over your adult years, check out the following reads for even more insights on this critical structural protein:


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