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Can collagen help with osteoporosis?

  • Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease of the bones. It is characterized by weak, brittle bones resulting from low bone density. 

  • Type 1 collagen is the major structural protein in bones and offers the most potential for improving bone health. 

  • Combining regular exercise, with a vitamin D and C rich diet or supplement, and a collagen-rich diet or hydrolyzed collagen peptides supplement can have far-reaching effects on the prevention and management of osteoporosis.


Osteoporosis is a crippling illness that affects a large percentage of the elderly population. It increases the risk of bone fractures and breaks, even during low-impact activities. Consequently, it's essential to maintain bone health if you're at risk of osteoporosis.

The beneficial effects of collagen on skin rejuvenation and delaying the effects of aging are well known. But can collagen help with osteoporosis? If the answer is yes, what's the best collagen type for osteoporosis?


What is osteoporosis?



Bones with and without osteoporosis



Osteoporosis (literally, "porous bone") is a disease of the bones that results from insufficient bone formation, excessive bone loss, or both. Bone is a living tissue constantly remodeling and rejuvenating. Osteoporosis results when new bone formation is inadequate to compensate for bone loss.

Consequently, bones become fragile and break easily in a fall or even with a sneeze or a small bump. Osteoporosis is known as the "silent illness" because its effects on bone density are not immediately apparent. Bone fractures are generally the first indication of osteoporosis.

Looking at healthy bone under a microscope reveals a structure resembling a honeycomb. Compared to normal, healthy bone, the honeycomb structures of those with osteoporosis are porous with substantially greater holes and crevices. Bones affected by osteoporosis have a diminished density or mass and an irregular tissue structure. Bones lose density as we age, making them less robust and more prone to fracture. Natural bone density loss occurs in old age, especially in postmenopausal women.



Osteoporosis concept



Collagen and osteoporosis 


Bone health depends significantly on collagen. Collagen makes up the bulk of our skeletal system and provides the bones with structural integrity. Collagen fibers make up 90-95% of the bone matrix (the tissue responsible for giving bones their tensile strength and flexibility). Our bones' resilience to breakage is due to collagen. Moreover, collagen helps maintain healthy bones by fortifying the connective tissues that surround your joints.

However, as we age, collagen synthesis (the process of mixing amino acids and components to produce new collagen) slows. After we hit our twenties, our collagen production gradually declines by about 1% annually. There is a sharp increase in this rate around age 40, and by the time you reach age 50, you will have lost half of your body's natural ability to produce collagen. 

Environmental pollution, high sugar intake, processed food consumption, smoking and alcohol use all contribute to a faster rate of collagen deterioration. Collagen's importance in maintaining mobility as we age stems from its widespread distribution throughout the body's connective tissues, organs, and bones.


What type of collagen is better for osteoporosis?


Although there are 28 different forms of collagen, Types 1 to 5 comprise most of the body's supply. About 90% of the body's collagen is Type 1, making it the most prevalent type. Type 1 collagen is abundant in the body's connective tissues, including those that make up the eyes, skin, tendons, bones and teeth.

Type 1 collagen is the major structural protein in bones. This means that Type 1 collagen offers the most potential for improving bone health. Meat, bone broth and eggs are the best dietary sources of collagen. However, the collagen we get from food is not absorbed directly into the body as collagen. As a protein, collagen-rich meals are metabolized in the body and converted into various amino acids.

The two most common sources of collagen found in dietary supplements are marine collagen and hydrolyzed collagen peptides. Marine collagen contains Types 1 and 2 collagen. It is obtained by processing fish parts such as bones, skin and scales. Hydrolyzed Marine Collagen is a pure, high-quality marine collagen that contains collagen Types 1 and 2 and is ideal for preserving bone health. It has a bioavailability of 1.5 times that of hydrolyzed collagen peptides and is more absorbable.

Hydrolyzed collagen peptides, extracted from cow bones and hides, contains collagen Types 1 and 3. It is the most functionally similar to the collagen found in human bodies. JOOSH'S Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides comes from grass-fed cows and contains only naturally occurring proteins, no additives. 

Note that hydrolyzed collagen (or collagen peptides) is collagen that has been chemically processed into smaller molecules so that it can be absorbed more readily by the body.



Older individuals working out to prevent osteoporosis



How does collagen improve bone density? 


Bone tissue consists primarily of collagen. As part of a regimen that also includes modest exercise and a nutritious diet, collagen can significantly enhance bone strength and density. A recent study examined the effects of collagen peptides on postmenopausal women. It showed that bone mass density rose dramatically after 12 months of supplementation. Collagen peptides aided in bone growth and slowed down the pace of bone breakdown.

Collagen provides a framework for bone strength and flexibility and contributes to the bone's overall hardness and strength. Studies have shown that oral collagen hydrolysates can increase bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) and suppress cells that break down bones (osteoclasts). Furthermore, collagen peptides serve as the organic base for new bone collagen. 


Is collagen better than taking calcium? 


It has long been believed that calcium is the most essential nutrient for strong bones. As a result, calcium, vitamin D and, more recently, vitamin K are the leading dietary supplements for people with osteoporosis. However, these methods are simply treating calcium deficiency. Though calcium supports bone density, collagen provides the scaffolding that calcium then strengthens.

Bone health and loss prevention rely on a healthy dose of collagen and calcium. Nevertheless, collagen supplements offer many more advantages to health than calcium alone. Our bones can absorb and utilize calcium better when they have enough collagen. Collagen is superior to calcium because it helps maintain bone health at every level.


Can it be taken with vitamin D? 


You can take collagen and vitamin D together. Bone health relies on calcium, which is best absorbed by the body when vitamin D is present. Moreover, collagen enhances the health benefits of calcium and vitamin D in improving bone density. 

A new study on postmenopausal women with low bone density (osteopenia) found that bone health was better when collagen peptides were taken with calcium and vitamin D.  After 12 months, there were significant increases in bone mineral content and bone mineral density.


How much collagen should you take on a daily basis? 


There isn't a particular dosage of collagen that would work for everyone. The amount you need will vary from person to person. It is based on factors such as age, activity level, food and your purpose for supplementing.

For instance, as previously noted, collagen production in the body naturally begins to decline beyond age 25. In light of this, a person over 50 may need to consume more collagen in food and supplements than someone under 20.

Studies have shown that 2.5 to 15 grams per day of collagen peptides are recommended for skin health. For joint health, studies show that 10 grams per day were sufficient to provide pain relief and support the joint motion. For muscle mass and strength, 15 grams per day is considered sufficient. However, to learn more about recommended serving sizes, please refer to the back of your supplement’s package, which lists the nutrition facts. 


What are the side effects if taken in excess? 


Protein overload is a significant worry among those considering collagen supplements. Remember that collagen is a protein and that the average person needs 46–56 grams daily. It's highly unlikely that you will ingest too much protein with collagen supplements unless you take an abnormally large amount.

Digestive problems such as indigestion, bloating and gas are possible side effects of consuming too much collagen. Therefore, though there are some potential concerns about taking too much collagen, unless you have an allergy to the supplement, you are unlikely to encounter any significant adverse effects.

It's also worth noting that collagen supplements can cause adverse reactions in people allergic to the collagen source (fish, beef etc.). Collagen supplements should be discontinued and medical attention should be sought if they cause irritation, swelling, or breathing difficulties. Collagen supplements should not be taken if you have any pre-existing medical issues, are on medication, pregnant  or breastfeeding without medical advice.



Infographic on the collagen type for osteoporosis




One of collagen’s many essential functions is to support and enhance bone health. Type 1 is the best collagen type for osteoporosis. Collagen peptides help to build muscle mass and strengthen bones and connective tissues. When combined with regular exercise, vitamin C and D, and a diet rich in collagen or hydrolyzed collagen peptide supplements, they can have far-reaching effects on the prevention and management of osteoporosis.


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