Athletes who experience joint pain when standing, walking or lifting weights can ease the pain by taking collagen hydrolysate. But they need to take a heavy dose, and do that for at least six months, according to sports scientists at Pennsylvania State University.
About half a dozen small studies were published in German journals in the seventies and eighties which showed that collagen helped joints to recover faster. An overview of everything known about collagen supplementation and joints can be found in the report Collagen Hydrolysate and its Relationship to Joint Health. [gelita-health-initiative.de] The report was commissioned by Gelita, a gelatine multinational.
The idea behind collagen supplementation is that collagen hydrolysate – like gelatine – is a good source of the amino acids glycine and proline. These are crucial for the production of connective tissue, and therefore also for cartilage.
To be clear from the start though: Gelita also financed the 2008 study that was published in Current Medical Research and Opinion. The researchers make no secret about the preparation they tested: CH-Alpha, a German product. [ch-alpha.de]
The researchers gave their test subjects a CH-Alpha drink ampule every day for 24 weeks. The ampule contained 10 g collagen hydrolysate, 8.9 g protein and 60 mg vitamin C. The subjects in the control group were given a placebo containing no active ingredients.
The 97 subjects all did sports and had painful joints. The athletes were asked to rate their level of pain on a scale from 0 to 10 before the supplementation started. At the end of the 24 weeks the pain had decreased in both the control and the collagen group, but the decrease was greater in the collagen group than in the control group. The figures below show the effect on pain while walking and standing. The athletes in the experimental group also experienced more improvement when carrying and lifting than the athletes in the control group.
The researchers also re-examined separately the 63 athletes that had pain in their knees, which resulted in the figures above. They show the doctors' assessment of pain in the knees, and the athletes’ own scores on pain in their knees while walking.
"Collagen hydrolysate as a nutritional supplement may be administered to athletes to reduce the symptoms of joint pain associated with athletic activity", the researchers conclude. "Taken together with preclinical studies which suggest that oral collagen hydrolysate reaches joints and stimulates joint tissues, athletes consuming collagen hydrolysate can potentially improve their joint health and reduce pain symptoms associated with strenuous athletic activity."
Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96.