Collagen for articular cartilage – bogus, or something to it?

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  • #62955


    I am wondering if anyone in the community has used collagen peptides to help for regenerating articular cartilage, and either had success or at least improve articular cartilage health/reduce pain, in particular in the knee?

    Collagen seems to have become popular, with a spectrum of products that appear to range from marketing gimics to potentially backed by science. My reading of the research is that the results are mixed at best. I found one product (Fortigel) that seems to have good results from a solidly designed clinical trial, but the trial was funded by the company that makes it, so leaves me a little suspicious. Still, I’m sick of knee joint pain, it signficantly hampers my performance and ability to maintain consistency, MRIs make it clear the problem is degenerating cartilage (advanced/aggressive osteoarthritis). I’ve already had 2 surgeries (OATs in my L knee and R knee) that took a long time to come back from, and I’m very hesitant to have surgeries again so soon if there are other options.

    Any thoughts or suggestions on this are welcome.


Posted In: Nutrition

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    hiker on #62958

    Hi alpinejoe,
    I don’t have an answer to your question, but do want to put in a plug for total knee replacement. I had a knee replacement twenty years ago and my knee is still doing wonderfully. Recovery from surgery was not fun, but I am so glad that I did it now, as have no pain in the repaired knee. I hike and backpack.

    dcgm on #63039

    I don’t have an exact answer to your question and I certainly don’t have literature (I’ve seen some of the stuff from Keith Baar’s lab but I think he’s mostly interested in tendons, not cartilage.).

    Having said that, supplementing collagen has worked really well for me, outright eliminating a good deal of joint pain and also seeming to help with sleep quality. I use Great Lakes Gelatin unflavored bovine–the green cans in the supplement aisle of fancy grocery stores, though you get a better price ordering the 8lb bag from the site–variously mixed with coffee (doesn’t really change the flavor), whey protein, or emergen-c. It was not a subtle effect. I noticed pretty significant improvements in pain and sleep after 1-2 days of dosing as recommended, 2 tbsp 2x/day. I wouldn’t tell a guy to throw money at it for months if he didn’t notice anything, but I might suggest going through a single can and seeing what happens, or just eating a big bowl of pho with extra tendon every day for a few weeks if you want to get down like that.

    Jane Mackay on #63040

    Hi Alpine Joe,

    I’m also trying out collagen for an occassionally ‘cranky’ knee, albeit nothing like you’re dealing with. At this point I can’t say one way or the other if it’s having a beneficial effect. I agree the science around this is underwhelming.

    Regarding what Hiker said about his great experience with a total knee replacement, here’s an article by Scott Johnston on his total knee replacement:

    Pete Dickinson MS,PT on #63074

    With the OATs procedure already done, I would imagine the most robust path to more pain free activity would be a total knee replacement. The other procedures are just kicking the can down the road. You have more and better years on the other side of a TKA once severe OA is present.

    alpinejoe on #63286

    Thank you everyone for your responses!

    Hiker, Jane, and Pete, I’m starting to more seriously consider TKA. When I last met my doctor a month ago to try PRP (so far not impressed… and also very expensive) he mentioned there have been advancements in the materials and techniques over the last 5-10 years that make them better and last longer. This gave me hope that it might be a feasible option sooner than I thought.

    There are 2 reasons I’m hesitant though, and would love to hear feedback on if you’ll indulge me!
    – I’m 36 years old, 37 in August, so I wonder if getting a TKA now is a bit young? I’ve heard that you should wait until you are older because you can only have so many TKA’s in a life time, but maybe that’s not true? What are people’s take on the “right age” for TKA these days?
    – I also train and love practicing BJJ, which contorts your knees into all kinds of crazy positions puts a lot of strain on the on them, particularly the ligaments that stabilize them. As I understand it, TKA’s remove the ACL and PCL which are important for knee stability. I worry that I won’t be able to safely train BJJ anymore, and I haven’t found any examples of people successfully training BJJ with TKA. (I confess I haven’t spoken to my doctor in depth about this yet either). Does anyone have insight on knee stability post TKA when the ACL and PCL are removed?

    Thank you again!

    hiker on #63349

    Hi Alpine Joe,

    I am so sorry that you are having knee joint problems at such a young age. I was 51 years old when I had my replacement. My knee feels very stable without ACL or PCL. I did lose some range of movement with my new knee. Don’t know how that would effect your martial arts practice. I do back squats and have not felt any instability in the joint, but I am not able to go down into a deep squat because of the loss of flexibility in that knee. Also, I have been taking Great Lakes collagen in my coffee for several years now. Can’t say that it has helped the arthritis pain in my other 71 year old joints, but, if nothing else, it supplies some extra protein in my diet. I also take it in my coffee, and am unable to taste it.

    All the best to you,


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