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Kneed relief? Try collagen

Glucosamine has gotten the bulk of public attention concerning joint health, and most of the studies, but small amounts of undenatured collagen may be as or more effective for arthritis symptoms.

Study under review: Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebocontrolled study


Arthritis afflicts[1] 46 million Americans, or approximately 21% of the U.S. population. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), which affects[2] nearly 27 million Americans. OA is characterized by a progressive loss of the cartilage in joints, which normally cushions the ends of bones. As the cartilage wears away and bone begins to rub against bone, pain, swelling, and stiffness may develop.

Current recommendations[3] for the treatment and management of OA include a combination of non-pharmacological and pharmacological therapies such as exercise, heat/cold therapy, joint protection, weight loss, physical therapy, supplementation with chondroitin and glucosamine, and medications. The most common medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen. However, concerns over the side effects associated with the use of these drugs has led many toward more natural nutraceuticals to ease their pain and discomfort.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring constituents of cartilage (depicted in Figure 1) that may alleviate pain associated with OA. Both are popular[4] among people suffering from knee OA, with 59% of people who use alternative medicine supplementing glucosamine and 54% supplementing chondroitin.

Figure 1: What is cartilage?

An emerging nutraceutical is undenatured type II collagen (UC-II). Preliminary evidence has suggested[5] that it may perform equally as well if not better than a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin in the context of alleviating symptoms associated with knee OA. However, this study was relatively small, short in duration, and did not have a placebo control group. The current study was designed to overcome these limitations by evaluating the efficacy of undenatured type II collagen in people with knee OA compared to placebo and to a combination therapy of glucosamine plus chondroitin.

Osteoarthritis is managed primarily through lifestyle changes and over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and NSAIDs. However, glucosamine and chondroitin are recommended[3] as natural alternatives for symptom relief. The study under review evaluated a third type of supplement, undenatured type II collagen, for alleviating OA symptoms when compared to placebo as well as to glucosamine plus chondroitin.

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