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When collagen is digested is it broken up into usable components that the body can use to produce its own collagen?

What evidence is there that supplementing with collagen type I & II etc.. can help connective tissue disorders?

What evidence is there that supplementing with collagen from animal products is not useful?

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I don't see a reason why collagen should be digested differently from other proteins. It is broken down into amino acids. And of course they can be used to synthesise collagen if needed. I can't answer whether dietary supplements have been proven useful/less though. –  Armatus Jun 18 '12 at 15:02
    
Also note that the aminoacids that make up collagen are not special. They can be used by the body to make up any other protein. –  nico Jun 18 '12 at 16:43
    
We may want to put this on skeptics.se Let's see what response come here first. –  bobthejoe Jun 18 '12 at 20:06
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This seems to be an interesting and ambiguous topic.

On one hand, the collagen as any other protein is cleaved into small-sized chunks (oligopeptides) and single aminoacids before absorption. The chunks of proteins which were not completely digested before absorption are broken up further in the body and cannot be selectively used for collagen re-building in the body. Therefore, there should be no difference between the collagen of different types and, basically, no difference between the supplements containing collagen and just a mixture of aminoacids. This also explains the fact why collagen supplement is in most cases taken in the lysate (pre-cleaved) form.

On the other hand, a quick search in PubMed and I found an interesting article on the topic (source), where the authors claim:

At 6 months, the proportion of clinical responders to the treatment, according to VAS scores, was significantly higher in the collagen hydrolysate (CH) group 51.6%, compared to the placebo group 36.5% (p<0.05).

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This study suggests that collagen hydrolysate 1200 mg/day could increase the number of clinical responders (i.e. improvement of at least 20% on the VAS) compared to placebo. More studies are needed to confirm the clinical interest of this food supplement.

So, if the article is not a bogus (I failed to get the full version of it and the journal does not seem to belong to the top journal in the field of medicine), there could be some mechanisms yet to be discovered.

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I guess it may be a result of the fact that CH has a very high % of Gly and Pro, more than what you would normally get from food. Wikipedia lists several studies that have given widely discordant results on the matter of whether it helps with joint diseases. –  nico Jul 1 '12 at 13:15
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