Cartilage, derived from shark, bovine (cow), and other animal sources, is a type of connective tissue composed of mucopolysaccharides (including chondroitin sulfate), protein substances, calcium, sulfur, and collagen. Collagen is one of the proteins found in most connective tissues, including cartilage, bone, and skin. Gelatin is a form of collagen commonly used in foods, and preliminary reports suggest that consuming gelatin can improve the structure and health of the hair and nails.1 , 2 , 3 , 4 Collagen hydrolysate is produced by enzymatically breaking down bovine gelatin to smaller protein fragments.
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Taking collagen hydrolysate may help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.
In a double-blind study, collagen hydrolysate was compared with gelatin and egg protein as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the hip and/or knee. When subjects took 10 grams per day either of gelatin or collagen hydrolysate for two months, they reported significantly more pain relief than when they took a similar amount of egg protein.5 More research is needed to confirm the benefits of gelatin or collagen hydrolysate in osteoarthritis.
Bovine cartilage is typically recommended at 3 grams three times per day. Shark cartilage is sometimes taken in much higher amounts (e.g., 60 to 100 grams per day orally or by enema). These amounts are based on animal and anecdotal evidence and their safety and efficacy have not been confirmed by controlled clinical trials. Not only is toxicity information on this amount of shark cartilage lacking, but the amount of calcium in this amount of shark cartilage exceeds the 2 to 2.5 grams per day that is commonly considered to be the upper limit of safe intake. Type II collagen, when used for its effects on the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis, is used in very small amounts, from 0.02 mg to 10 mg per day. Gelatin and collagen hydrolysate is recommended at 7 to 10 grams per day.
Cartilage is derived from either sharks or cows. Collagen is derived from either cows or chickens.
Since they are not essential nutrients, neither cartilage nor collagen are associated with deficiencies.
Reports have suggested that some people should not use a cartilage supplement. This concern is based only on theory, not clinical evidence. This would include those people with cardiovascular disease, women who are planning to be or are pregnant, nursing mothers, anyone having or having had surgery within 30 days, and athletes training intensely. None of these concerns have been proven in clinical trials, however. Because shark cartilage contains calcium, people who ingest large amounts of shark cartilage (60 to 100 grams per day) may be consuming excessive amounts of this mineral. However, no cases of calcium toxicity resulting from the ingestion of shark cartilage have been reported.
While use of gelatin, collagen hydrolysate, or type II collagen has not resulted in any reports of serious side effects, people with known sensitivities to chicken or beef should consult a doctor before using them.
1. Scala J, Hollies N, Sucher KP. Effect of daily gelatin ingestion on human scalp hair. Nutr Rep Int 1976;13:579-92.
2. Morganti P, Randazzo SD. Nutrition and hair. J Appl Cosmetol1984;2:41-9.
3. Tyson TL. The effect of gelatin on fragile finger nails. Invest Dermatol1950;14:323-5.
4. Rosenberg S, Oster KA, Kallos A, Burroughs W. Further studies in the use of gelatin in the treatment of brittle nails. AMA Arch Derm 1957;76:330-5.
5. Adam M. Osteoarthritis therapy with gelatin preparations: Results of a clinical study. Therapiewoche 1991;38:2456-61 [in German].
Last Review: 07-08-2014
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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