A number of health websites have reported on the recent article in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, which studied chicken collagen as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
Overall, among those who responded, in both the methotrexate group and the chicken collagen group there was less pain, less morning stiffness, less tender and swollen joints. There were fewer adverse events in those patients treated with collagen; and they were also less severe in the collagen-treated patients.
The Chinese investigators involved in this study gave the participants oral dosages of type II collagen that had been obtained from chickens. They found that the collagen appeared to be about as effective as lower dosages of methotrexate in reducing pain and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
The dosage of methotrexate used by the group that was not given the chicken collagen in this study was only 10 mg weekly. Despite the low dosage, the group taking methotrexate appeared to be a little better off compared to the patients on chicken collagen. In fact, at the end of this 6-month study, 41% of patients treated with collagen and 58% of those treated with methotrexate showed significant signs of improvement. However, only the methotrexate group experienced reductions in the sedimentation rate (a measure of inflammation).
So, do we all start chewing on chicken cartilage? Well, it's hard to say. More studies may need to be done, comparing the chicken collagen treatment to more potent drugs at full dosage (remember that the new study I just discussed used low-dose methotrexate). This study does, however, bring back memories: I remember when a study was published in Science in 1993, examining the effect of oral type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis; this collagen also was derived from chickens. This study found a decrease in the number of swollen and tender joints in those patients given the chicken collagen as compared to the placebo group; four patients experienced remission of their rheumatoid arthritis, and there were no side effects noted.
The collagen angle remains an interesting one, as rheumatoid arthritis involves inflammation of the lining of the joints as a result, perhaps, of the body reacting to itself -- in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, attacking the lining of the individual's own joints. Because type II collagen is a major protein in joint cartilage, it could be a "target" for a person's own immune system to mistakenly attack.
If we could "vaccinate" a rheumatoid arthritis patient, allowing the patient to become tolerant of the targeted type II collagen, then perhaps the disease process could be halted.
It just might take time to find the right amount of collagen that will achieve this.