Collagen is a nutritional supplement made from animal or fish materials. It's rich in amino acids that play an important role in the building of joint cartilage and it may have anti-inflammatory effects. Trials into collagen’s role in treating osteoarthritis give mixed results. Studies into the role of collagen in treating rheumatoid arthritis suggest that it doesn’t have a significant effect in reducing pain and joint inflammation. This hasn’t been consistently reproduced across trials.
What is it?
Family: Nutritional supplement
Scientific name: Collagen hydrolysate
Other names: Hydrolyzed collagen, purified gelatin, HCP, type II collagen
Collagen is made from beef, pork or fish bones and skins after being processed to make it easier to digest. You can buy collagen capsules from pharmacies and health food shops.
How does it work?
Collagen hydrolysate supplements are rich in a number of amino acids (a group of chemical compounds) that play an important role in the creation of collagen. Type II collagen is one of the main proteins in cartilage.
It’s been suggested that taking collagen hydrolysate can improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis by stimulating your body’s production of joint collagen.
Some studies have suggested that autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis may be treated by taking a foreign antigen (a substance that causes your immune system to react to it) by mouth, which could dampen down your immune system’s reaction. This is called ‘oral tolerance’. Taking collagen by mouth may introduce some chemicals that cause joint inflammation into your body and create oral tolerance to these antigens, reducing the effects of inflammatory arthritis.
Is it safe?
Collagen is considered to be well tolerated with no major side-effects. Minor side-effects include:
- a feeling of heaviness in your stomach
- mild diarrhoea
There are no well-known drug interactions and we don’t yet know what the best dose of collagen is. Studies have used daily doses of between 1–10 g collagen hydrolysate and 0.1–10 mg of chicken or bovine type II collagen.
Collagen trials for rheumatoid arthritis
A summary of the scientific evidence on collagen for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Read more
Collagen trials for osteoarthritis
A summary of the scientific evidence on collagen for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Read more
References for the evidence on collagen. Read more