Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Glucosamine or collagen?

     I’ve had a number of clients complain of knee pain. So this morning I spent some time researching a couple of supplements that I take for joint pain so I could make some recommendations.

    I’m not going to hold any punches back on this first recommendation. My first recommendation is to lose body fat and reach an ideal body composition for your height and build. Every extra pound of fat you have on your body increases the impact on your joints. You lose fat at the table not in the gym. Your diet is going to be the most important factor in reaching your ideal body composition.

    I’ve mentioned glucosamine in the classes many times as a supplement to use for joint pain. But I’d first like to cover a supplement that I haven’t mentioned that is probably more effective and beneficial than glucosamine. It seems collagen has had better results in clinical trails than glucosamine. I’ve taken collagen off and on over the years and really not paid much attention to it. I was recently given a couple sample of collagen at PaleoFX 2014. I was given samples from Vital Proteins of their collagen peptides. It is 100% South American pastured raised bovine hide collagen peptides. It is promoted as a all natural anti-aging drink powder dietary supplement.

    I don’t have a lot of joint pain so I haven’t really paid much attention to collagen as a joint pain/rebuilding supplement. I’ve taking it for its anti-aging reputation and other benefits. I had heard last year at the Superhuman Live Event that doctors were having great results rebuilding knee joints with injections of collagen in a procedure called Prolotherapy. It sounded interesting but it is costly and finding a doctor that is in this area is impossible. One would have to travel elsewhere to get the treatment.

    Collagen is the main structural protein of the various connective tissues in animals. It is the main component of connective tissue, it is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content.  Gelatin is collagen that has been irreversibly hydrolyzed.   

    Collagen supplies essential proteins that our bodies use to build and repair our bones, joint surfaces, skin, teeth, eyes, arteries, inter-vertebral disks, and much more. Collagen traditionally made its way into our diets through bone-broths, slow-cooked organ meats, kidney pie, baked beef heart, whole crustaceans, and whole fish soups and stews. But now, few people prepare foods with this source of meats. Collagen contains specific amino acids – Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Arginine.

    Collagen is unique and it has a couple of studies that have shown it to be effective in relieving pain and rebuilding joints. This 24 week study from 2008, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885, 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. This study from 2000, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11071580, showed that collagen hydrolysate is of interest as a therapeutic agent of potential utility in the treatment of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Its high level of safety makes it attractive as an agent for long-term use in these chronic disorders. This is a good article that sums up the trials:


     You can find collagen at Walmart, Walgreens, and just about everywhere supplements are sold. The product that was used in some of this trials was Biocell Collagen. I don’t know if it is really better or not. That will be for you to decide. But I think it would be best to supplement with collagen ahead of glucosamine. Collagen has trials that say it works. Glucosamine the trials are still up in the air.

    Glucosamine sulfate is a naturally occurring chemical found in the human body. It is in the fluid that is around joints. Glucosamine sulfate is commonly used for arthritis. Scientists have studied it extensively for this use. It is most often used for a type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. This is the most common type of arthritis. There are different forms of glucosamine including glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride, and N-acetyl-glucosamine. These different chemicals have some similarities; however, they may not have the same effects when taken as a dietary supplement. Most of the scientific research done on glucosamine has been done on glucosamine sulfate.

     I currently have been taking glucosamine hydrochloride because my wife is allergic to sulfate. After looking at the studies and putting this article together I have decided that I’m going to switch to glucosamine sulfate. Just remember that if you are sensitive to sulfides or sulfates you might have to use glucosamine sulfate or N-acetyl-glucosamine. Also if you are allergic to shellfish you will need to use a different form of glucosamine because glucosamine sulfate is made out of shellfish. The sad part about that is that some researchers think that it might be the sulfate that is actually the beneficial ingredient.

    Here is the links to a couple of the big studies on glucosamine.


     Some of the latest research has shown exercise to be more effective in knee health than glucosamine.


   So my choice for now is to maintain an ideal body composition, supplement with collagen, and exercise. I’m going to switch to glucosamine sulfate and see if anything changes. If not I might drop glucosamine altogether. I don’t eat bone broth,organ meats, whole crustaceans, and whole fish soups often so I think collagen will be a good idea for me to supplement with to prevent cartilage loss.

    That will end this blog post but I think I will follow it up soon with an article on cartilage repair. There are some new findings and treatments in cartilage repair.