Collagen type II: what is it and how does it work in the body?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body; accounting for approximately 25% of the body’s protein mass. As a major component of connective tissue, it can be found in the skin, muscles and tendons. In the last few years, this protein has gained a lot of attention in the media due to the plethora of scientific studies revealing its ability to support gut integrity, ageing skin, bone mass and joint health.

What is important to realise, however, is that there are many different types of collagen – each with their own biological function.  To date, over 29 different types of collagen have been identified;1 with types I, II and III being the most prevalent within the human body. For this reason, it is important to choose the most appropriate type of collagen depending on needs.

This article will discuss the basics of collagen synthesis, with a focus on collagen type II; the form of collagen which makes up 70-95% of the cartilage in joints.

Skip to Key Takeaways

How does collagen work in the body?

As a type of protein, collagen is made up of amino acids such as glycine, lysine and proline. Specialised cells called fibroblasts play a key role in collagen synthesis. They work by incorporating these amino acids into complex strands in order to create the basic collagen molecule. This basic molecule then undergoes further binding, cross-linking and folding depending on the final type of collagen being produced. It is important to note that vitamin C is an essential co-factor in this process and so low levels of this vitamin can impair collagen production.

As mentioned, 29 types of collagen have been identified to date, with 80-90% of them belonging to types I, II and III.

Type Location
Type I Dermis, tendon, ligaments and bone
Type II Cartilage, vitreous body (in the eye), nucleus pulposus (inner core of vertebral disc)
Type III Skin, vessel wall, reticular fibres of most tissues (lungs, liver, spleen etc.)

Function of collagen type II

Hyaline (or articular) cartilage is a firm, gel-like substance which covers the bones. Its primary function is to provide cushioning and reduce friction between bones as they slide over or against each other. Collagen type II is a major component of the extracellular matrix of this hyaline cartilage and its synthesis and catabolism is regulated by chondrocytes (cells found in cartilage connective tissue).

The hyaline cartilage within the body has a very specific composition, with its predominant matrix elements consisting of:

  • Collagen type II fibres: the main structural component of cartilage, providing structure, firmness and resistance to compression – this accounts for 60% of cartilage.
  • Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs): mainly consist of two building blocks – aggrecan (a large proteoglycan containing chondroitin sulphate) and hyaluronic acid, both essential components for maintaining a cushioned and lubricated joint environment, allowing for easy joint movement – this accounts for approximately 40% of the cartilage.

Sources of collagen

Collagen can be found in animal proteins like eggs, chicken, meat and bone broth; with the body naturally making collagen from certain amino acids and nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C and copper.  The body’s ability to produce collagen naturally declines with age by as much as a 1% reduction annually.2,3 As such, supplementary collagen has been investigated as a possible way to mitigate the effects of this decline.

Collagen supplements: what’s the difference?

There are three key types of collagen available as supplements: gelatin, hydrolysed collagen and undenatured collagen. When collagen is boiled down for a significant amount of time (such as in bone broth), gelatin is produced. When this is further broken down or ‘pre-digested’ into its amino acid peptides, hydrolysed collagen is created. On the other hand, undenatured collagen, often referred to as UC-II is not broken down.

Grade Structure Solubility Absorption & Digestibility Applications
 

Native (undenatured) collagen

 

Large triple helix chains of amino acids

 

Insoluble

 

Low

 

Medical materials, collagen casings, supplements

 

 

Gelatin

 

Partially hydrolysed

 

Soluble in warm liquids

 

Moderate

 

Gelatin desserts, confectionary, functional foods

 

 

Collagen peptides

 

Fully hydrolysed

 

Soluble in warm and cold liquids

 

High

 

Dietary supplements, functional foods

 

 

Much of the research which has been carried out regarding collagen type II has used either undenatured (UC-II) or hydrolysed (Peptan IIm) collagen. However, as these are essentially two different products, they can be difficult to compare:

UC-II

As it is not broken down, this undenatured collagen is insoluble, with low bioavailability within the body. As such, its primary mode of action is based on immune modulation.4,5 It has been shown that UC-II can induce an immune response signalling the activation of collagen production, but does not provide the specific building blocks required for cartilage creation. As only small amounts of this collagen can be absorbed, a low dose between 20-40mg is recommended.

Peptan IIm

A form of hydrolysed collagen type II which has been specifically formulated with joint health in mind. It has been matrixed with chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid, making it identical to the composition of cartilage in humans. As a natural source of collagen, it can stimulate the synthesis of collagen within the body, while also providing the building blocks necessary for joint support. The recommended dose for Peptan IIm is 1-3g/daily.

Peptan IIm collagen Type II and Joint Health – what does the research say?

Maintaining sufficient levels of collagen is essential for the maintenance of healthy and flexible joints. Studies have shown the following effects of collagen type II consumption on joint health:

  • Improved overall joint health: Peptan treatment resulted in a 32% decrease in joint pain and a 44% improvement in stiffness among women with osteoarthritis (classification: 0-III).6 A statistically significant reduction in the WOMAC score (international standard method for assessing joint health) was also observed
  • Improved knee-joint function: Peptan treatment resulted in a 7% increase in the Lysholm score; a scale linked to improved knee movement in everyday activities.6 In a 24-week clinical trial, improved joint health and a reduced risk of joint deterioration in athletes was observed following supplementation with hydrolysed collagen.7 Furthermore, statistically significant improvements in activity related joint pain versus control were also observed8
  • Chondrocyte (cartilage cell) stimulation: Hydrolysed collagen type II treatment stimulated chondrocyte excretion of type II collagen9
  • Protection from degeneration: In a model for post-traumatic osteoarthritis, Peptan supplementation provided protection to cartilage from degeneration, as well as promotion of lubrication through the stimulation of proteoglycan synthesis in chrondrocytes.10 Similar findings were found in a model for obesity-associated osteoarthritis10
  • Anti-inflammatory effect: Peptan supplementation showed an anti-inflammatory effect in the knee joint10
  • Improved recovery: Following supplementation with hydrolysed type II collagen and glycosaminoglycans, blood markers associated with muscular stress, including creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase and c-reactive protein all showed improvements compared with control11

Key Takeaways

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. As a major component of connective tissue, it can be found in the skin, muscles and tendons etc.
  • To date, over 29 different types of collagen have been identified, with types I, II and III accounting for 80-90% of collagen in the body.
  • Specialised cells called fibroblasts play a key role in collagen synthesis in the body. They work by incorporating amino acids such as proline, lysine and glycine into complex strands in order to create the basic collagen molecule. This basic molecule then undergoes further binding, cross-linking and folding depending on the final type of collagen being produced. Vitamin A, vitamin C and copper are important for collagen production.
  • The body’s ability to synthesise collagen declines with age.
  • Collagen is naturally found in animal proteins such as eggs, chicken, meat and bone broth.
  • Collagen type II is primarily used to support joint health as it makes up 70-95% of the cartilage in joints. It is a major component of the extracellular matrix of hyaline cartilage; a firm, gel-like substance which covers the bones. The primary function of cartilage is to provide cushioning and reduce friction between bones as they slide over or against each other. Collagen accounts for 60% of this, while other matrix elements such as aggrecan (a large proteoglycan containing chondroitin sulphate) and hyaluronic acid are also present.
  • There are three key types of collagen available as supplements: gelatin, hydrolysed collagen and undenatured collagen.
  • Undenatured collagen is not broken down and therefore is insoluble and has poor bioavailability in the body. Its primary mode of action is based on immune modulation.
  • Hydrolysed collagen has been broken down or ‘pre-digested’ into its amino peptides which allow it to be fully soluble and highly bioavailable. A special form of hydrolysed collagen type II called Peptan IIm has been matrixed with chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid, making it identical to the composition of human cartilage.
  • Several studies looking into the effect of Peptan IIm on joints has demonstrated improvements in overall joint health, knee-joint function, stimulation of chrondrocytes (cartilage cells), protection from degeneration, improved recovery and an anti-inflammatory capacity.

Related products

CytoProtect® Joints is formulated using Peptan® IIm powder, a hydrolysed matrix of type II collagen and glycoaminoglycans (chondroitin sulphate and hyaluronic acid).

CoQ10 Multi – comprehensive multivitamin and mineral, additionally containing CoQ10

Vitamin A – vegan-friendly product, containing 5,000IU of retinol palmitate.

Cherry C – 200 mg vitamin C from acerola cherry plus naturally occurring bioflavonoids.


References

  1. Saxena T et al (2014) ‘Proteins and Poly(Amino Acids)’ Nat Synth Biomed Polym, pp. 43-65.
  2. Varani J et al (2006) ‘Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin : Roles of Age-Dependent Alteration in Fibroblast Function and Defective Mechanical Stimulation’ Am J Pathol, 168(6), pp. 1861.
  3. Nyman JS et al (2006) ‘Age-related effect on the concentration of collagen crosslinks in human osteonal and interstitial bone tissue.’ Bone, 39(6), pp. 1210-1217.
  4. Barnett ML et al (1998) ‘Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with oral type II collagen: Results of a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.’ Arthritis Rheum, 41(2), pp. 290-297.
  5. Min S-Y et al (2004) ‘Induction of IL-10-producing CD4+CD25+ T cells in animal model of collagen-induced arthritis by oral administration of type II collagen.’ Arthritis Res Ther, 6(3), pp. 213-9.
  6. Jiang I-X et al (2014) ‘Collagen Peptides Improve Knee Osteoarthritis in Elderly Women A 6-Month Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study’ Agro Food Industry High Tech, 25 (2), pp. 19-23.
  7. Clark KL et al (2008) ’24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain.’ Curr Med Res Opin, 24(5), pp. 1485-1496.
  8. Zdzieblik D et al (2017) ‘Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides.’ Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 42(6), pp. 588-595.
  9. Oesser S and Seifert J (2003) ‘Stimulation of type II collagen biosynthesis and secretion in bovine chondrocytes cultured with degraded collagen.’ Cell Tissue Res, 311(3), pp. 393-399.
  10. Rousselot (2011) Rousselot Unpublished Data, retrieved from: https://www.peptan.com/about-peptan/downloads/peptan-joint-health-in-vitro-study-whitepaper/.
  11. Lopez HL et al (2014) ‘Effects of BioCell Collagen® on connective tissue protection and functional recovery from exercise in healthy adults: a pilot study.’ J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 11, pp. 48.

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10 thoughts on “Collagen type II: what is it and how does it work in the body?

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your email.
      There is some research on type I collagen and bone density, for example in this study they looked at effects on bone density in post-menopausal women: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29337906
      And found that supplementing with type I collagen significantly increased bone density. It is type I collagen that is predominantly found in bone rather than the type II in our new product. We will have another collagen product with types I and III collagen available later this year.
      Best wishes, Clare

        1. Hi Clare,

          The length of time that you need to take Type II collagen very much varies with the individual and the severity of symptoms. Some people who are otherwise healthy with minimal damage may only need to take for a couple of months. However some people who have compromised health and significant damage to cartilage will need to take for a more significant amount of time. It is a protein and is safe to take over a long period of time. It is important to monitor improvement/deterioration over time.

          If you need any further help you can take our free health questionnaire, available here.

          Thanks,
          Helen.

    1. Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for your question on our blog.
      Firstly to mention, you may be interested in our free health questionnaire – if you complete and return a health questionnaire we will send you some written diet and supplement recommendations.
      In the meantime, for Ehlers Danlos syndrome affecting the joints, my initial suggestions would be:
      – An all round multivitamin and mineral. The specific product would be dependent on age e.g. post-menopause CoQ10 Multi – 2 per day (start 1 per day for 7 days then increase). Or pre-menopause Foundation Formula 1 (2 per day). Take with food.
      CytoProtect Joints – 1 level teaspoon per day. Best taken on an empty stomach.
      MSM – 2 per day
      Wholefood Cherry C – 1 per day
      Krill Oil – 2 per day
      In terms of diet, an anti-inflammatory diet based on a wide variety of vegetables, moderate fruit (especially berries and apples), nuts/seeds, olive oil, avocado, oily fish, meat, eggs and starchy vegetables in particular. Reduce sugary foods, refined vegetable oils and processed foods as much as possible.
      I hope this helps.
      Best wishes, Clare

    1. Hi Susan,
      We have posted a reply to Debbie Dingle’s comment, so please take a look at this for our advice and recommendations.
      Best wishes, Kate

  1. On EDS specifically with impact on skin and increase in stretch marks rather than joint problems are you still recommending Cyproprotect Joints. Also I have read sorry not to be able to quote study that MSM 500mg twice a day is very useful for EDS.

    1. Hi Fiona,

      Thank you for your comment. For Ehler Danlos Syndrome where effects are primarily skin rather than joint-related then Types I and III collagen would be more appropriate (CytoProtect Joints is Type II). MSM provides an organic form of sulphur for collagen synthesis. Also vitamin C is important for collagen synthesis. You might be interested in our product Hair, Skin and Nails – this has some MSM along with other micronutrients and phytonutrients. You could take one per day and one MSM (500 mg). I would also recommend an all-round multivitamin and mineral that includes good levels of vitamin C. We do offer a free health questionnaire service that may be of interest – if you complete and return a health questionnaire (available here) we will send you some written diet and supplement recommendations. I hope this is helpful.

      Thanks,
      Clare.

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