Peptides from collagen protein are unique in that their specific make-up of 17-19 different amino acids, and high proportion of the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, are essential elements for production of healthy bones, joints and skin.

For product developers targeting the highly desirable “beauty from within” category, collagen peptides have multiple attractive characteristics. They are a clear protein source, easily absorbed and digested and pure at more than 90% protein. With minimal or neutral taste and odor, plus cold-water solubility and heat stability, they can be easily applied to functional foods and beverages, supplements and nutricosmetics/cosmeceuticals.

Three main areas of contributions by collagen peptides are bone health, joint health and skin health. It’s estimated that $3.5 billion is spent on bone/joint claims in U.S. annually. However, with the oldest Boomer population turning 70, and the first of the 80+ million Gen-Xers entering their 50s, this number is expected to double by 2030. Polls already show 44% of consumers are interested in products targeting these health areas.

Collagen peptides stimulate collagen synthesis, provide building blocks for the collagen in joints and prevent cartilage degradation. Multiple studies show supplemental collagen peptides are highly effective at mitigating arthritic joint pain and even reversing the breakdown of joints.

In a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled knee osteoarthritis study, published last May in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers assigned 32 subjects aged 39-65 years 10g/day collagen peptides or a placebo for 13 weeks. Greater than 63% of subjects receiving collagen showed excellent improvement via the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC), a standard questionnaire used to evaluate persons with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, including pain, stiffness, and physical functioning of the joints. Nearly 16% of the remaining subjects showed slight improvement, compared to the placebo group. Other measurement parameters showed similar results, and x-ray evidence revealed significant improvement in soft tissues of the joints.

Today’s middle aged and senior consumers are staying young longer—and want their looks to match their energy levels. The “beauty from within” category of nutritional products is growing rapidly, with $3.7 billion in sales annually. Collagen peptides play a strong role in skin health, forming the basis for the skin latticework and enhancing production of hyaluronic acid (an important component of connective and epithelial tissues). Collagen peptides also improve moisture content and elasticity of skin tissue, and reduce the formation of wrinkles.

One recent small but important study on 13 female subjects aged 35-50 years demonstrated the importance of collagen peptides to skin health. The subjects were given 5g collagen peptides per day for eight weeks. Assessment of spot resulting from UV light damage showed a sharp decrease at both four and eight weeks.

A larger study on skin moisture looked at 50 female subjects, ages 35 to 55, given 5g collagen peptides vs. placebo daily for eight weeks. Moisture in the outermost layer of skin of the treated group showed a five- to six-times increase in hydration compared to placebo, and skin surface analysis showed marked decrease in damage from moisture depletion.

Collagen peptides have demonstrated remarkable synergy when used in conjunction with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid in supporting skin health, and with glucosamine and chondroitin in support of joint health. The combinations enhance the effect more than the individual ingredients themselves.

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