Collagen has a key function in the structure of cartilage. Does taking collagen supplements help to replenish cartilage loss? We ask Dr. Kau Chung Yuan, Orthopedic Surgeon, to tell us more.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Its tough, insoluble, and elastic nature gives it strength and the ability to absorb and withstand stress. A visual way to understand the relationship between cartilage and collagen would be that the former is similar to the car's shock absorbers, and the latter is the jelly-like substance that triggers cartilage to regenerate and grow.
There are two types of collagen.
Type I collagen is crucial for the structure of your skin, hair, and nails. A lack of type I collagen shows in sagging skin, fine lines, brittle nails, and thinning hair.
Type II collagen is found in cartilage and is linked to arthritis.
Dr. Kau explains, "The exact mechanism of how collagen works to repair cartilage is unknown. It is suggested that collagen derivatives or peptides are absorbed by the body and help to stimulate native collagen synthesis and repair within cartilage.
“Small, short-term studies have shown efficacy. However, long-term large randomized control trials are lacking to support usage. We also do not have enough evidence to recommend a dosage or duration for patients to consume collagen supplements.”
He also points out that damaged cartilage does not heal well on its own.
We lose collagen with age in the joints such as the knees and hips. This further worsens when there is excess dietary sugar intake linked to crackers, cookies, cereal, pasta, bread, or baked goods.
"Surgery may be needed instead to fix damaged cartilage. In the early stages, where there are limited small areas of cartilage damage, an option is keyhole surgery to stimulate the damaged surface in the hope that healthy cartilage will regenerate. However if damage is more extensive, joint replacement surgery could be considered," Dr. Kau added.