Collagen is well-known for its effect on improving the skin, hair and nails, but there has been considerable research recently on its role in repairing cartilage, and so helping improve pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis.
Collagen is actually the most common protein in the body. It is in all connective tissues, and is crucial for the stability, strength and elasticity of all the tissues and organs. The body contains at least 28 types of collagen, which are especially needed for cartilage, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, skin, and bones. (Type I collagen helps the body form bones, gives skin its elasticity, and is essential for wound healing.)
Having good levels of collagen in your body is critical for healthy joints, as
Cartilage contains special cells called chondrocytes that produce collagen and other substances needed for healthy joints. Normally, the deterioration of cartilage in a joint is matched by the production of new cartilage by the chondrocytes. However, if the output of the chondrocytes falls, the cartilage will deteriorate and osteoarthritis will develop, causing pain and stiffness in the joint.
If poor cartilage production is combined with mechanical stress in the joint (such as tight or weak muscles around the joint or poor alignment), this causes the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals which further breaks down the joint cartilage.
Typically, osteoarthritis (OA) gets worse over time. Medications for OA are limited to pain-killers and anti-inflammatory drugs, which do not reduce the rate of progression or help with the restoration of the cartilage. Natural sources of collagen (such as eggshell membrane) and nutritional cofactors have been shown to not only reduce joint pain, inflammation and stiffness, but to assist with the regeneration of the joint tissues.
For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants were given a daily dose of an extract of eggshell membrane (Ovomet) or placebo for 30 days. The WOMAC Osteoarthritis Index questionnaire was used to assess their joint pain and dysfunction after 0, 1, 3, 5, 7 and 30 days. Those who were taking the eggshell membrane reported a gradual and significant decrease in pain and dysfunction from day 3 to day 30. After the 30 day period, their pain had already decreased by over 50%, whereas there was no significant difference for the placebo group.
As well as helping replace cartilage on joints, collagen is important for healthy skin, hair and nails. In the skin, collagen makes up about 60–80% of its dry weight, and together with elastin promotes skin flexibility and elasticity. With aging, there is a reduction in the amount of collagen in the skin of about 1% per year after 20 years of age. Skin changes occurring after menopause are more significant, with a loss of about 30% of skin collagen in the first 5 years.
With time, collagen and elastin fibres become sparse and disordered, leading to a reduction of skin thickness and elasticity, causing wrinkles and sagging of the skin. Hyaluronic acid also plays an essential role in maintaining skin structure and hydration. The level of hyaluronic acid similarly decreases with age, resulting in a loss of skin hydration.
Eggshell membrane contains several components, including collagen, hyaluronic acid and glucosamine, which are found in the skin and have proven dermatologic effects. The production of collagen fibres in the skin is considered to play a principal role in physiological changes to the skin as it ages. Several studies have shown the effectiveness of collagen in improving the properties of the skin.
For example, one study found that at day 60, the skin elasticity of participants taking eggshell membrane had increased by 25%, while no significant changes were found in the placebo group. Those over 50 years old were found to have a greater improvement (29.67%) than those under 50 (20.60%). In another study, the skin firmness of those given eggshell membrane improved by a remarkable 66%.
Eggshell membrane as a supplement was also found to have a significant impact on hair quality, including improvement in hair thickness and growth, and reduction in hair breakage. Keratin is present in this membrane, which might account for the hair and nail health benefits for those taking it.
If you suffer from arthritis or want to improve your skin, hair or nail quality, we have a high potency, professional-strength eggshell membrane product we recommend. (The product is vegetarian, and comes in one-a-day capsules.) If you are interested in using it, please book in to see one of our naturopaths who can prescribe it and determine the correct dosage for you.
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