Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet, Collagen Diet and the recently released Ancient Remedies.
By Dr. Josh Axe
Collagen powder is widely considered to be one of the best joint supplements. How come? Because it plays a major role in forming healthy cartilage and keeping connective tissues including joints, ligaments and tendons strong and healthy. In fact, nearly 100 percent of connective tissues are made from collagen.
Benefits of collagen for joints generally include its ability to support comfort and mobility, as well as supporting healthy energy levels, exercise performance and recovery.
Let’s look closer below at the best type of collagen for joints, plus how to use it and how much to take.
Joint Health As We Age
Collagen is a type of protein that’s a key component of cartilage, joints, ligaments, bone and other tissues that help to give our bodies structure and help them function well.
As a complex protein, it’s made up of chains of amino acids like arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline, which are not always easy to get in high amounts from other protein sources such as meat.
Unfortunately, as we age our bodies naturally begin to produce less collagen, which means our joints may often feel it.
This process can begin as early as in your mid-30s and continues into older age. While aging itself is a big factor in a person’s interest in joint health, so are other lifestyle habits that tend to impact collagen, such as eating a poor diet, too much or too little activity, and high amounts of stress.
Can you support your body’s collagen in your joints? This is where a healthy diet and joint supplements such as collagen protein can come into play.
In addition to eating a nutrient-dense diet that includes enough antioxidants, protein and natural sources of collagen such as bone broth, supplementing can also provide our bodies with the amino acids it needs to support the health of connective tissues and maintain joint comfort and mobility.
Collagen Benefits for Joints
Below is more about some of the main and general benefits of collagen for joints:
1. Promotes Overall Joint Health
Collagen promotes overall joint health by contributing to flexibility, mobility and range of motion. Some collagens have even been shown to support post-exercise recovery and reduce discomfort with noticeable results in as little as 7 days.
If you’re someone who has occasional knee discomfort, there’s reason to believe collagen can help improve knee function after 30 days of use. Additionally it can reduce range-of-motion-associated discomfort and stiffness.
2. Helps to Form Cartilage
Collagen, especially type 2 collagen, helps to give cartilage its strength and elasticity.
Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that functions to cushion the ends of bones and supports gliding movement of joints. It allows our bodies to absorb shock and to bear stress, plus it also helps to form other body parts including the ears, nose, the bronchial tubes and the rib cage.
Collagen makes up about 50 percent of all protein in cartilage and 85–90 percent of collagen of articular cartilage.
The amino acids found in collagen, often referred to as the “building blocks of protein,” are crucial for keeping tissues in tip-top shape. They function to stimulate cells in the joints/cartilage that help with the normal growth and repair process. Collagen supplements can possibly help reduce cartilage degradation and help maintain healthy cartilage and cartilage turnover.
3. Can Help Support Exercise Performance and Recovery
Certain collagens not only support everyday movements and overall functionality, but it can also support exercise performance and recovery. It can help to reduce knee stiffness in as soon as one week of use. It’s also capable of reducing general exercise-induced joint stiffness and discomfort in as little as 5 days.
Within collagen, you’ll also find certain amino acids such as glycine that help form creatine, a substance that can support growth of muscle mass, strength, healthy energy levels, and exercise abilities.
4. Supports Bone Health
In general, collagen can help to support strong bones, which generally contributes to joint stability and mobility by taking some of the stress and pressure off our joints. Bone strength is important for overall health and strength.
Best Collagen Supplements for Joints
Which type of collagen is best for joints? The best collagen for joints is type 2 collagen. Although collagen type 2 is found in lesser amounts in the human body than type 1 collagen, it’s the type of collagen that primarily helps to build connective tissues and cartilage.
Type 2 collagen is abundant in high amounts in chicken cartilage (also called chicken collagen). Chicken cartilage can be synthesized and used in powdered collagen supplements and bone broth supplements. Additionally, it’s inherently found in chicken bone broth, which is made with nutrient-filled animal parts such as bones, ligaments and connective tissues.
The great thing about type 2 collagen for joint health is that it also inherently contains chondroitin and glucosamine, two compounds that help support healthy cartilage.
Type 2 collagen is featured in Ancient Nutrition’s Bone Broth Protein as the primary collagen type. It's also a major ingredient in Multi Collagen Protein, which actually features five types of collagen (1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 that also support the health of your skin, gut, hair, nails and more).
Overall, a highly convenient way to obtain more collagen is from Multi Collagen Protein powder (MCP) or Collagen Peptides. MCP and Collagen Peptides are sourced from four real food sources (a combination of chicken, fish, bovine and egg shell membrane collagens), and since it contains multiple types of collagen, you get an array of body-wide benefits.
In fact, the benefits listed above all exist for the new version of Multi Collagen Protein or Collagen Peptides (both available in pure form along with multiple flavors) that has taken the collagen industry by storm and has the clinical studies to prove it.
The specific joint benefits from Multi Collagen Protein's ingredients include the following:
- In one study, people taking 500 mg of this eggshell membrane daily had a 40% improvement in knee discomfort and a 22% improvement in knee stiffness after just 10 days.
- Reduces joint discomfort rapidly (7 days), continuously (30 days) and persistently (90 days)
- Significantly reduces knee stiffness after 30 days
- Support against exercise-related cartilage breakdown
- Improved flexibility and range of motion
- Provides rapid relief for exercise-induced joint discomfort (day 1) and stiffness (day 5) immediately following exercise
- Reduces the biomarker CTX-II, related to healthy cartilage
- Reduces exercise-induced joint discomfort
- Improves recovery from exercise-induced stiffness in as little as 4 days
- Improves immediate exercise-induced stiffness in as little as 7 days
- Improves recovery from exercise-induced discomfort in as little as 8 days
- Reduces knee stiffness at 7 days
- Reduces knee stiffness, discomfort and improved function at 30 days
- Helps maintain healthy cartilage and cartilage turnover
- Shown to reduce exercise-induced stiffness by 18.5%
- Shown to improve exercise recovery by 56.3%
- Helps joints recover faster from exercise-related joint stiffness
- Helps joints recover faster from exercise-related joint discomfort
- Helps reduce joint cartilage breakdown resulting from normal wear and tear
- Helps to protect joint cartilage from breakdown due to exercise
- Helps reduce joint stiffness and joint discomfort resulting from exercise
- Increases flexibility
- Reduces ROM (range of motion)-associated discomfort
MCP features hydrolyzed collagen, which means the collagen peptides have been partially broken down to help with absorption. Once hydrolyzed, the amino acids in collagen become more bioavailable, which means your body can generally put them to work more easily.
Multi Collagen Protein Joint + Tissue - Vanilla is also available. If you prefer capsules over using collagen powder, try hydrolyzed Multi Collagen Peptides Capsules Joint & Mobility or the standard Multi Collagen Peptides Capsules instead.
How Much Collagen Per Day?
How much collagen do you need per day for supporting your joints? A general recommendation is for most adults to take between 1–3 scoops/servings per day, which equates to about 10 to 30 grams of collagen protein.
However, you should always read label directions for suggested use. Additionally, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to starting any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including dietary supplements.
Collagen protein powders are typically unflavored, but also come in a variety of flavors such as chocolate and vanilla.
In terms of how to use collagen powder, it’s very simple: they can easily be mixed into coffee, juice, shakes/smoothies, oatmeal, soups and even baked goods such as pancakes and muffins. You can blend collagen into liquids and recipes if you’d like, but simply shaking it well also works. It dissolves easily in both hot and cold liquids, giving you loads of options.
In addition to adding joint supplements to your routine, you can also incorporate collagen-rich foods and “collagen-boosters” in your diet to help support healthy connective tissues. These include: bone broth (especially chicken bone broth), foods high in antioxidants and vitamin C like leafy greens and berries, organ meats, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught fish.