Life Extension Magazine October 2013
Novel Mechanism Protects Against Arthritis
By Steven Rosenbaum
A staggering 53 million Americans suffer from arthritis, making it the leading cause of disability in this country.1-3
A nutritional compound has demonstrated the ability to address one of the root causes of joint pain—reducing pain and improving flexibility—with none of the side effects of typical drug treatments.4-9
Called “un-denatured type II collagen,” or “UC-II®,” this protein compound acts against the autoimmune reactions that can lead to joint pain and degeneration.5,6 UC-II® has been shown effective in previous animal and human studies of arthritis.4,7-9
A groundbreaking new study shows that UC-II® can reduce joint pain and improve joint flexibility even in healthy people who experience painful joints after exercise.4
An Underlying Cause of Osteoarthritis
While the term “arthritis” can be used to describe several different conditions, the two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.10
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to components in joint tissue (mainly collagen) to produce inflammation, pain, and disability. 10
Osteoarthritis was traditionally thought to be the result of wear and tear on the joints.10 Recent discoveries, however, have determined that osteoarthritis is accompanied by the same pro-inflammatory immune factors involved in rheumatoid arthritis.10
In both conditions, an autoimmune response is caused when the body launches an attack against collagen, the substance that makes up the bulk of the cartilage that lines your joints.10,11 Collagen is a protein critical to reducing friction and keeping joints youthful. The problem occurs when microscopic bits of collagen find their way into the bloodstream, at which point immune cells mistakenly identify them as invasive, foreign molecules.11,12
In response to this perceived “threat,” inflammatory cytokines are released that draw in more“killer” T-cells.13 Those cells bombard exposed cartilage with toxic chemicals in order to destroy it, creating oxidative stress and further inflammation in the process.
Over time, these continuous attacks erode and disintegrate the cartilage that lubricates and functions as a shock-absorber in joints.
The resulting pain can become chronic and debilitating, and can include sensations of friction or grinding involved in joint movement. While less acute at rest, this pain is exacerbated by walking, standing, or any form of weight-bearing.9,14 Osteoarthritis sufferers often experience joint stiffness or immobility after periods of inactivity.9
Fortunately, scientists have discovered a substance called un-denatured type II collagen, or UC-II®, that retrains killer T-cells so that they recognize collagen as a harmless substance—preventing the joint damage seen in osteoarthritis. 5,10
Reducing Joint Pain and Swelling
UC-II® was discovered when a team of scientists at the University of Nebraska found that chicken soup prevented the mobilization of immune system cells to sites of inflammation.15 Upon further analysis, they discovered that it was not vegetables, but a component of the chicken broth itself that exerted this anti-inflammatory activity.15
The researchers showed that chicken-derived type II collagen functions to regulate the immune system so that it stops attacking proteins normally found in healthy joint cartilage.10
The results have been remarkable.
In a pilot study of people with severe joint pain, a dose of 10 mg/day of this type II collagen (UC-II®) for 42 days was shown to significantly reduce joint pain and swelling, along with morning stiffness, stiffness following periods of rest, pain that worsens with use of the affected joint, and loss of range of motion and function.10
Follow-up studies show UC-II® reduces joint pain and stiffness that can follow as a result of exercise.4 Even normal exercise puts stress on joints, which causes the release of collagen fragments into the bloodstream.16-19 Since these fragments are partly to blame for post-exercise pain and stiffness,16-19 supplementing with UC-II® can prevent post-exercise pain.
Extensive animal studies have been carried out on the effects of UC-II® in various kinds of arthritis—especially in horses and dogs, two species in which arthritis is common. After 90 days on a 10 mg dose of UC-II®, obese arthritic dogs showed significant decreases in overall pain, in pain during manipulation of a limb, and in lameness after exertion.7
Longer-term studies have shown that after taking UC-II® for 120 days, animals experienced a 62% reduction in overall pain, a 91% reduction in pain caused by limb manipulation, and a 78% reduction in exercise-associated lameness.8 No ill effects or adverse events were seen in any of these studies.
Evaluation of UC-II® in arthritic dogs has been carried out using a high-tech, piezo-electric ground force plate that measures how much weight the animal is putting on each limb and how hard the animal is able to push against the ground as it walks. These studies showed that UC-II ®-supplemented dogs had significant improvements in both measurements, demonstrating a reduction in arthritis-related pain.20
Horses given UC-II® treatments experienced similar benefits. In one study, horses given placebo treatments showed no change in symptoms attributed to arthritis, while the horses given UC-II® treatments experienced an 88% reduction in overall pain and a 78% reduction in pain caused by limb manipulation.21 Again, the treatments were well tolerated and free of side effects.
Relief for Osteoarthritis Pain
Human clinical trials of UC-II® demonstrate similar effectiveness in adults suffering from osteoarthritis.9
In one study, patients with knee osteoarthritis received UC-II® or standard treatment for 90 days.9 The supplemented group experienced a 33% reduction in their osteoarthritis compared to standard therapy recipients. UC-II® reduced the patients’ self-determined pain scale scores by 40%, compared with just 15.4% in those receiving standard care. And UC-II ® improved joint function by 20%, compared with 6% for usual care.
Improving Exercise-Induced Joint Pain
Of course, arthritis is just one of many causes of joint pain, which is why researchers in California recently conducted a study of oral UC-II® in healthy adults who did not have arthritis. These subjects had no knee pain at rest, but reported significant knee pain after exercise.4 The patients underwent a similar exertion test at each of 7 visits over a 120-day period.
Compared to their performance at the beginning of the study, by days 90 and 120, the subjects that had supplemented with 40 mg UC-II® could exercise for significantly longer before experiencing joint pain; no such changes were seen in the placebo group.4 Supplemented subjects recovered from their joint discomfort significantly faster than the placebo recipients at days 60, 90, and 120.
The same new study evaluated joint flexibility and determined that the average knee extension was significantly greater in the UC-II ® group than in the placebo group at day 120.4 Importantly, UC-II® recipients had significant increases in their knee extension compared to their own baseline level, with no such changes seen among placebo recipients.
In this study published in 2013, the researchers concluded that UC-II® was “more effective than placebo in supporting joint comfort, flexibility, and mobility."4
The broad-spectrum safety of UC-II® has been evaluated by a number of toxicological assays.22 It causes no mutations in bacterial genomes, a standard screen for carcinogenicity, and is not associated with oral toxicity.