Collagen Eases RA Pain
Some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), are auto-immune in nature, meaning that an imbalanced immune system turns on itself. One target of attack is the protein type II collagen (T2C), which is abundant in cartilage. Researchers in several human studies have used 20mcg to 10mcg/day orally-ingested chicken- and bovine-derived T2C to reduce RA's effects on the immune system.
Study results have been inconsistent. In one three-month study of RA patients, researchers added undenatured chicken-derived collagen to orange juice and found moderate effectiveness.1 In a six-month study of 60 RA patients, researchers found only borderline effectiveness.2 Following another larger study, one company that was initially interested in using chicken-derived T2C as a drug abandoned the product because of the clinical study's disappointing results.3 Studies with bovine-derived collagen are even less compelling.3,4,5 However, researchers in a recent study found modest improvement among 55 RA patients taking 0.5mg/day T2C for six months.6
No studies have yet compared chicken- with bovine-derived T2C and any claims to that end are invalid.
With so much interest in the human genome as the building block of life, many scientists overlook the possible benefits of ribonucleic acid (RNA) as a food nutrient. Nucleotides are rich in bovine colostrum, yeast and organ meats. Rapidly dividing cells found in the immune system and intestines may require more nucleotide components during metabolic stress such as infection, trauma or surgery.7
Although many products use RNA, no clinical trials exist in which adults using RNA experienced enhanced immune function or reduced inflammation.
Impact, a product designed to boost the immune system in patients before and after surgery, is a yeast RNA that also contains fish oil-derived omega-3 fatty acids and the amino acid L-arginine. A recent study conducted at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands used Impact on 50 elderly patients who underwent coronary bypass surgery and were at risk for infection. After a minimum of five days taking the supplement, patients experienced improved immune function and decreased levels of a blood marker of inflammation (interleukin-6) following surgery.8
Hormonal Flack From Flax
Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) belongs to a class of phytochemicals called lignans. It is chemically similar to the breast cancer drug tamoxifen and is most abundant in flaxseed.9 When SDG is ingested, it is converted by intestinal microorganisms into "mammalian lignans" Post-menopausal women consuming 5g or 10g ground flaxseed/day for seven weeks showed significant reductions in blood concentrations of the most potent estrogen, estradiol, and its less potent sister, estrone.10
In a more recent study of 116 pre-menopausal women, researchers found that those taking 25g/day ground flax for one year showed no reductions in estradiol (or progesterone) or breast density (increased breast density has been associated with an increased risk for breast cancer). However, it did lengthen the menstrual cycle.11
This same group of researchers found that pre-menopausal women with menstrual cycle-associated breast pain (cyclical mastalgia) experienced a significant reduction in pain after eating 25g/day fresh ground flaxseed in muffins for four months.12
The most promising research on flax lignans revealed that women with breast cancer eating flax muffins showed notable reductions in breast cancer cell-growth potential.13
Anthony Almada, BSc, MSc, is a nutritional and exercise biochemist and has collaborated on more than 50 university-based clinical trials. He is the co-founder of EAS and founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.
1. Trentham DE, et al. Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science 1993;261:1727-30.
2. Cazzola M, et al. Oral type II collagen in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A six-month double-blind placebo-controlled study. Clin Exp Rheumatol 2000;18:571-8.
3. Barnett ML, et al. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with oral type II collagen: results of a multi-center, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum 1998;41:290-7.
4. Sieper J, et al. Oral type II collagen treatment in early rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial. Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:41-51.
5. McKown K, et al. Lack of efficacy of oral bovine type II collagen added to existing therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 1999;42:1204-8.
6. Choy EHS, et al. Control of rheumatoid arthritis by oral tolerance. Arthritis Rheum 2001;44:1993-7.
7. Kulkarni AD, et al. The role of dietary sources of nucleotides in immune function: a review. J Nutr 1994;124:1442S-6S.
8. Tepaske R, et al. Effect of preoperative oral immune-enhancing nutritional supplements on patients at high risk of infection after cardiac surgery: a randomised placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2001;358:696-701.
9. Meagher LP, Beecher GR. Assessment of data on the lignan content of foods. J Food Compos Anal 2000;13:935-47.
10. Hutchins AM, et al. Flaxseed consumption influences endogenous hormone concentrations in post-menopausal women. Nutr Cancer 2001;39:58-65.
11. Goss P, et al. The effects of dietary flaxseed on mammographic density. Presented at the 24th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2001 Dec 10.
12. Goss PE, et al. Effects of dietary flaxseed in women with cyclical mastalgia. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2000 Nov; 64(1):49.
13. Thompson L, et al. Biological effects of dietary flaxseed in patients with breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2000 Nov; 64(1):50.