Collagen Science Update – March 2024 Edition

This edition highlights four recent studies involved in various aspects of collagen research, including skin health, athletic injury prevention, and osteoarthritis. 

The Effect of Oral Supplements Containing Collagen Peptides Rich in X-Hyp or X-Hyp-Gly Compared with Normal Collagen Hydrolysates on Skin Elasticity and Collagen Holes: A Randomised Double-Blind Clinical Study

Preclinical studies have shown the potential benefits of collagen hydrolysate rich in hydroxyproline (Hyp)-containing peptides for skin health. However, limited information is available about their clinical efficacy and consequent impact on human skin elasticity. This study evaluated the effects of oral supplementation with collagen peptides rich in X-Hyp or X-Hyp-glycine (Gly) on skin physiology in a clinical setting. A double-blind, randomized study was performed on 30 participants aged 22 to 30 years with healthy skin. A functional powdered drink containing collagen peptides rich in X-Hyp or X-Hyp-Gly from tilapia (CP product) was provided as intervention while a similar formulation with regular tilapia-derived collagen peptides (lacking significant Hyp enrichment) was used as control daily for 42 days. The level of skin collagen was significantly increased after administration of CP product compared to the control group (P=0.005). Skin elasticity significantly improved in both control and intervention groups, but a greater improvement degree was observed in the CP group. Additionally, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis demonstrated a significantly higher proportion of small peptide oligomers below 500 Da in the CP product compared to the control group (approximately 70% vs. 50%) after digestion. This study provides evidence that collagen peptides enriched with X-Hyp and X-Hyp-Gly demonstrate superior skin-improving properties on collagen synthesis and elastic repair compared to collagen hydrolysates with a higher molecular weight distribution. 

Access to the study: 

Reference: Chen, L., Lv, Y., Xu, F., & Zhong, F. (2023). The effect of oral supplements containing collagen peptides rich in X-Hyp or X-Hyp-Gly compared with normal collagen hydrolysates on skin elasticity and collagen holes: a randomised double-blind clinical study. Food & function, 14(23), 10628–10638.  

Jumping Exercise Combined with Collagen Supplementation Preserves Bone Mineral Density in Elite Cyclists

Non-weight-bearing exercise, such as cycling, has no distinct advantages for bone health. Road-race cycling seems to damage bone tissue as most elite road-race cyclists experience low bone mineral density (BMD). This condition is associated with higher fracture incidence during the active cycling career. This open-label, randomized study evaluated the effect of combined jump training and collagen supplementation on BMD for 18 weeks. Thirty-six elite road-race cyclists aged 18 to 24 years were allocated to either an intervention group (INT) or a non-treatment control group (CON). Participants in the INT group completed an 18-week intervention based on the ingestion of 15 g of hydrolyzed collagen powder mixed with water followed by a 5-minute session of jumping exercise five times per week. The effect of this intervention was evaluated on the BMD of the hip, femoral neck, lumbar spine, and whole body, as well as the trabecular bone score of the lumbar spine, and two serum bone turnover markers – procollagen Type I N pro-peptide and carboxy-terminal cross-linking telopeptide of Type I collagen. It was observed that frequent short sessions of jumping exercise combined with collagen supplementation beneficially affects femoral neck BMD in elite road-race cyclists.

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Reference: Hilkens, L., van Schijndel, N., Weijer, V. C. R., Decroix, L., Bons, J., van Loon, L. J. C., & van Dijk, J. W. (2023). Jumping Exercise Combined With Collagen Supplementation Preserves Bone Mineral Density in Elite Cyclists. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 34(1), 38–47.

Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptides Supplement Promotes a Healthy Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Study

Collagen peptides have shown promising results for enhancing skin moisture, elasticity, and density without significant adverse effects. Low-molecular-weight collagen peptides are abundant in hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline amino acids, which may stimulate human fibroblasts to synthesize extracellular matrix molecules and strengthen skin tissue. This randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study evaluated the clinical efficacy of oral low-molecular-weight collagen peptides supplementation in the prevention of wrinkles and promotion of skin whitening. One-hundred healthy participants (35-60 years old) with dry skin and periorbital wrinkles were randomized to consume the study product containing 2 g of low-molecular-weight collagen peptides or placebo, presented as a sachet of powder and administered with water once a day for 12 weeks. Skin wrinkles, elasticity, hydration, and whitening (melanin and erythema indexes) were measured at baseline and after 4, 8, and 12 weeks. The test group experienced considerably improved skin wrinkling, hydration, elasticity, and whitening parameters at 12 weeks compared to the placebo group. These results show that oral supplementation of low-molecular-weight collagen peptides can be used to improve the physiologic properties of the skin without any significant adverse effects. Additional studies are required to elucidate the therapeutic mechanisms of action of low-molecular-weight collagen peptides in dermatological diseases.

Access to the study: 

Reference: Seong, S. H., Lee, Y. I., Lee, J., Choi, S., Kim, I. A., Suk, J., Jung, I., Baeg, C., Kim, J., Oh, D., & Lee, J. H. (2024). Low-molecular-weight collagen peptides supplement promotes a healthy skin: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 23(2), 554–562.

Comparison of Single and Combined Treatment with Exercise Therapy and Collagen Supplementation on Early Knee Arthritis among Athletes-A Quasi-Randomized Trial 

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a worldwide health issue, affecting over 300 million people with knee OA as one of the most prevalent. Knee OA is increasingly being reported in young and athletic populations and athletic injuries are commonly implicated in the development of early OA changes in the knee, impacting athletic performance. As such, early detection and primary prevention of knee OA are outstanding objectives for the healthcare industry. Currently, the management of knee OA is based on therapeutic interventions to reduce pain, increase strength, and improve knee joint function, using pharmacological treatments and exercise programs. This double-blind, quasi-randomized trial evaluates the effectiveness, superiority, and relative benefits of collagen supplementation, exercise, and exercise together with collagen supplementation on alleviating knee pain, enhancing joint function, and potentially decreasing the progression of knee OA. Fifty-five subjects aged 18 to 52 years were allocated to one of three groups: 1) exercise therapy group (Ex), 2) collagen supplementation (Col), and 3) combined intervention of exercise and collagen supplementation (ColEx). Visual analog scale (VAS), knee muscle strength and knee muscle range of motion (ROM), and knee injury and osteoarthritis outcome score (KOOS) were measured at baseline, and after 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks of intervention. It was observed that VAS improved in all treatment groups, with no difference between groups. The between-group analysis for knee ROM showed a significant difference (p = 0.022) in the Col vs. Ex group at 12 weeks while the knee flexor and extensor strength and the KOOS scores improved considerably in the Ex and the ColEx groups (p < 0.05) at 12 weeks. These results revealed that exercise therapy had significant positive changes. However, exercise combined with collagen supplementation was effective and superior to the other treatments, improving VAS scores, strength, and KOOS scores in subjects with early knee OA. Therefore, collagen appears to accentuate the effects of exercise in developing clinical amelioration to OA.  

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Reference: Thomas, D. T., Prabhakar, A. J., Eapen, C., Patel, V. D., Palaniswamy, V., Dsouza, M. C., R, S., & Kamat, Y. D. (2023). Comparison of Single and Combined Treatment with Exercise Therapy and Collagen Supplementation on Early Knee Arthritis among Athletes-A Quasi-Randomized Trial. International journal of environmental research and public health, 20(23), 7088.

Bottom Line 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and a predominant component of tendons and ligaments. Collagen is involved in the structural, mechanical, organizational, and tissue-building properties of the body. Unfortunately, collagen degrades disproportionally with age. Growing evidence is showing the positive effects of collagen supplementation on skin and orthopedic health, making collagen a beneficial ingredient in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products.