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When we think of joint pain, we often assume glucosamine to be the star. But not everyone gets better on that. Some people can’t tolerate it because it is usually fish-derived. Natural collagen is available today, and it’s finely ground up in particle sizes that are small enough to get absorbed by your system, and incorporated well. It’s not new, there’s a lot of solid research.

Undenatured Type II Collagen, sometimes seen as UC-II or UCII is a natural source of collagen that comes from chicken sternal cartilage. That’s the cartilage attached to the breast bone where we get “white meat” in chicken. Once purified and encapsulated, you can buy it as a supplement.

Several studies point to its benefit for joint health. In a human clinical trial, researchers compared UCII to a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin. After 90 days, the UCII (collagen) treated group had significantly better outcomes than the group taking the chondroitin/glucosamine combo. Pain diminished among both groups. The collagen treated group had a 40 percent pain reduction compared to a 15 percent reduction in the other group. So both groups felt better, but the collagen group fared dramatically better.

In a more recent study in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers wanted to see how UCII collagen would work in a preventative manner if you exercised, too. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy individuals also proved the merits of collagen. The scientists chose 55 adults who had no arthritis at rest, but experienced joint discomfort with exercise or physical activity. Only half of the participants received the collagen, the other group served as the placebo.

The doctors measured knee movements and pain scores after a “stepmill" test, which is like walking endless flight of stairs.  After 120 days, they found that the collagen-treated group showed significant improvement in knee range of motion and/or extension of their knee. In addition, the collagen treated group could walk that “endless flight of stairs” longer than they could originally. The placebo group did not enjoy these types of improvement.

By the end of the research, about twenty percent of the collagen treated participants reported zero pain (yes ZERO), during or after the stepmill testing. There were no adverse effects reported. Think about that the next time you pop a drug that is known to harm your heart or stomach.

Natural UCII can be taken with, or instead of other joint health supplements. Side effects are not common, and in fact, one nice side effect is how it affects your skin. It’s usually easier on the tummy compared to chondroitin and glucosamine. It’s sold at health food stores and online, but I’d still ask your doctor if he/she minds you taking it. One more thing, the unique molecular characteristics of UCII help prevent your immune system from attacking proteins that wind up in your cartilage and joint tissue. Simply put, this means it could help reduce an autoimmune reaction that would otherwise lead to more pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Suzy Cohen can be reached at


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