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Collagen Research On Sports Health

Sportsman or women main focus is to enhance physical performance such as endurance or strength.  The major part of muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilages and bones are the connecting tissues and the second biggest mass and organ of our body and are as much important for physical performance as the muscles.  These connective tissues are needed for the main structure of our body, to form tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones and to maintain the muscle structure.  These connective tissues contain mainly very flexible collagen structures that are cross linked to bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles that give extreme stability to these structures.

Strenuous and vigorous exercise can lead to collagen degradation in the body. These continuous degradation usually takes place slowly and Collagen hydrolysate supply amino acids that are needed to build new collagen.

Collagen hydrolysate are high in amino acids such as Glycine and Proline that are needed for the production of new collagen.  The collagen hydrolysate stimulate certain cells (fibroblasts, osteoblasts) to build new collagen.  Supplementation with collagen hydrolysate can protect the degradation of the connecting tissues in athletes and could reduce the exercise induced increase of urinary collagen crosslinks. Supplementation with 30 – 70 grams of collagen hydrolysates per day showed a reduction of risk for injuries on muscle, tendons, and ligaments in athletes. [1]

Bone Strength

Bones are living tissue that requires a wide range of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus for the maintenance of bone health that is crucial for long-term health. While minerals tend to get all of the attention when it comes to bones, lack of collagen is also an important factor in osteoporosis, a disease of progressive bone loss associated with an increased risk of fractures [2].

Collagens are the major structural element in the extracellular matrix of all connective tissues, including bone where they represent about 80% of the total protein [3]. Osteoblasts, bone cells that are responsible for the formation of new bone, create a protein matrix, primarily of collagen, that provides the structural framework upon which mineralization can occur. Thus, the capacity of bone to resist mechanical forces and fractures depends not only on the quantity of bone tissue (mineralization) but also on its quality (organization of the collagen framework) [4, 3]. Bones with sufficient collagen are like steel, strong and elastic. Bones lacking in collagen are like dry, brittle wood, easily broken. Examples are people suffering from knee pain or joint pain caused by osteoarthiritis.

The first clinical investigation of the effects of calcitonin (a drug used to treat disorders of bone metabolism, such as osteoporosis) alone or in combination with a collagen hydrolysate-rich diet on bone metabolism suggested that a daily ingestion of 10g of collagen hydrolysate plus calcitonin twice a week for 24 weeks had a greater effect in inhibiting bone collagen breakdown than calcitonin alone, as characterized by a fall in levels of urinary pyridinoline cross-links [5]. Moreover, oral administration of collagen hydrolysate enhanced and prolonged the effect of calcitonin [5].

Research on the effectiveness of collagen hydrolysate in athletes with activity-related joint pain has also been performed. In a 24-week study conducted in 2008, 147 subjects who compete as part of a varsity team or club sport were recruited and randomly assigned to two groups: one group received a liquid with 10g of collagen hydrolysate, and the other received a placebo. Six parameters showed statistically siginficant changes with the dietary supplement collagen hydrolysate as compared with the placebo. The results of this study have implications for the use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration in a high-risk group. Despite the study’s size and limitations, the results suggest that athletes consuming collagen hydrolysate can reduce parameters that have a negative impact on athletic performance[6].

  1. Wienecke, Elmar. Performance Explosion in Sports: An Anti-doping Concept: Revolutionary New Findings in the Area of Micronutrient Therapy: Training Continuity, Training Optimization, Injury Prevention Through Personalized Micronutrients. Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2011. ISBN 978-3-89899-652-5;
  2. Viguet-Carrin, S., Garnero, P., & Delmas, P. D. (2006). The role of collagen in bone strength. Osteoporosis International, 17(3), 319-336.
  3. Tzaphilidou, M. (2005). The role of collagen in bone structure: an image processing approach. Micron, 36(7), 593-601.
  4. Currey, J. D. (2003). Role of collagen and other organics in the mechanical properties of bone. Osteoporosis International, 14 Suppl 5, S29-36. doi: 10.1007/s00198-003-1470-8.
  5. Adam, M. et al. (1996). [Postmenopausal osteoporosis. Treatment with calcitonin and a diet rich in collagen proteins]. Journal of Czech Physicians, 135(3), 74-78.
  6. Clark, K.L., Sebastianelli, W., Flechsenhar, K.R., Aukermann, D.F., Meza, F., Millard, R.L., Deitch, J.R., Sherbondy, P.S. and Albert, A.. 2008. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain.Current medical research and opinion, 24 (5): 1485-1496.