Background: There is a need for an effective treatment for the millions of people in the United States with osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease. The demand for treatments, both traditional and non-traditional, will continue to grow as the population ages.
Scope: This article reviews the medical literature on the preclinical and clinical research on a unique compound, collagen hydrolysate. Articles were obtained through searches of the PubMed database (www.pubmed.gov) through May 2006 using several pairs of key words (collagen hydrolysate and osteoarthritis; collagen hydrolysate and cartilage; collagen hydrolysate and chondrocytes; collagen hydrolysate and clinical trial) without date limits. In addition, other sources of information, such as abstracts presented at scientific congresses and articles in the German medical literature not available on PubMed, were reviewed and included based on the authors' judgment of their relevance to the topic of the review.
Findings: According to published research, orally administered collagen hydrolysate has been shown to be absorbed intestinally and to accumulate in cartilage. Collagen hydrolysate ingestion stimulates a statistically significant increase in synthesis of extracellular matrix macromolecules by chondrocytes (p < 0.05 compared with untreated controls). These findings suggest mechanisms that might help patients affected by joint disorders such as OA. Four open-label and three double-blind studies were identified and reviewed; although many of these studies did not provide key information--such as the statistical significance of the findings--they showed collagen hydrolysate to be safe and to provide improvement in some measures of pain and function in some men and women with OA or other arthritic conditions.
Conclusion: A growing body of evidence provides a rationale for the use of collagen hydrolysate for patients with OA. It is hoped that ongoing and future research will clarify how collagen hydrolysate provides its clinical effects and determine which populations are most appropriate for treatment with this supplement.