Pain killers or anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce symptoms, but their impact on arthritis is limited (2).
Dietary supplements containing collagen may also be effective. Recently, scientists examined the effects of undenatured type II collagen on symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Type II collagen is found in articular cartilage, which helps the joints move smoothly and prevents the bones from rubbing together when you move.
However, the collagen in supplements is sometimes processed by heating. This type of collagen is referred to as denatured collagen, which may be less beneficial than undenatured collagen (5).
Undenaturated type II collagen (UC-II) is a patented dietary supplement produced from chicken cartilage.
Several previous studies have found that UC-II may significantly relieve symptoms in people with arthritis. Below is an overview of their findings from over the years:
- 2002: Taking 10 grams of UC-II for 42 days significantly reduced pain and morning joint stiffness (6).
- 2009: Supplementing with 40 grams of UC-II for 90 days improved symptoms of osteoarthritis by 33% — significantly more than glucosamine plus chondroitin (7).
- 2013: Supplementing with 40 grams of UC-II for 120 days improved knee joint mobility. However, joint pain did not decrease (8).
Scientists from Interhealth Nutraceuticals and the University of California examined the effects of UC-II supplements on knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
The purpose of this double-blind, randomized, controlled trial was to examine the effects of undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) on symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
The study, which lasted for 180 days, was conducted at 13 research centers in southern India. The 191 participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
- UC-II: Participants took two capsules, containing 40 mg of a UC-II supplement, every day. This dose provided 1.2 mg of bioactive UC-II.
- GC: This group took capsules containing a mixture of glucosamine hydrochloride (1500 mg) and chondroitin sulfate (1200 mg) each day.
- Placebo: Participants in this group took a placebo, which had no effects on osteoarthritis.
At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers assessed the symptoms of osteoarthritis using the Western Ontario McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC).
Other measurements included knee mobility, joint function, subjective ratings of pain and circulating levels of inflammatory markers.
164 arthritic men and women completed the study, or 86% of those who started.
Bottom Line: This was a randomized, controlled trial examining the effects of undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) on osteoarthritis symptoms.
Finding 1: UC-II Improved Symptoms
Osteoarthritis symptoms were calculated from the results of the WOMAC questionnaire, which contains three subscales: pain, stiffness and knee function.
The score ranged from 0–2400, from no symptoms to severe pain and dysfunction.
Supplementing with UC-II improved the overall WOMAC score by 39%, significantly more than the placebo or GC. These results can be seen in the chart below.
When the subscales of the WOMAC were examined separately, UC-II significantly improved symptoms in all of them.
Conversely, participants in the GC group experienced no statistically significant improvements.
Bottom Line: Supplementing with UC-II, 40 mg/day for 180 days, significantly improved subjective ratings of knee osteoarthritis symptoms.
Finding 2: UC-II Improved Knee Joint Function
Knee joint function was estimated using the Lequesne Functional Index (LFI), which is a 10-question survey assessing pain, walking distance and activities of daily living.
The LFI score ranged from 0–24, from no symptoms to a severe condition.
For the participants who supplemented with UC-II, the LFI score improved by 37%, compared to the start of the study.
This improvement was significantly greater than in the GC group or the placebo group, which can be seen in the chart below.
These results were consistent with the results of the WOMAC questionnaire, which showed that supplementing with UC-II improved knee joint function by 39% and stiffness by 41%.
Bottom Line: Supplementing with UC-II significantly improved knee joint function and stiffness.
Finding 3: UV-II Reduced Knee Pain
Knee pain was assessed using a visual analog scale (VAS) questionnaire, which included 7 pain-related questions.
Supplementing with UC-II improved ratings on the VAS scale by 39%. This was greater than both the GC group or the placebo, as shown in the chart below.
These results were supported by the pain subscale of the WOMAC questionnaire, showing a 41% reduction in knee pain.
However, despite improvements in pain, inflammatory markers did not decrease significantly.
Bottom Line: Supplementing with UC-II significantly improved knee joint pain, compared to the GC or placebo supplements.
The study had a few potential limitations. First, the results were based on subjective ratings of symptoms, which are prone to bias.
Second, the study was solely funded by InterHealth Nutraceuticals, the company that owns the patent for UC-II.
Additionally, all study materials were supplied by Interhealth Nutraceuticals, and two of the paper’s authors were employees of the company.
However, the study was independently conducted by an Indian company, Laila Pharmaceuticals. Also, an independent statistician performed all analyses and calculations.
Although there is no specific reason to doubt the findings, the results should be confirmed by an independent research group.
Bottom Line: The study’s main limitation was a potential conflict of interest. However, apart from funding the study and writing the paper, independent partners conducted the study itself.
Summary and Real-Life Application
In short, this study showed that supplementing with 40 mg (two capsules) of undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) improved symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Specifically, UC-II improved knee function and reduced pain and stiffness.
Simply put, if you have osteoarthritis, taking UC-II could make a difference.