A new study from Keith Baar's Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences and the Australian Institute of Sport suggests that consuming a gelatin supplement, plus a burst of intensive exercise, can help build ligaments, tendons and bones.
The study is published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Connective tissue and bone injuries are common in both athletes and the elderly, and interfere with peoples' ability (and enthusiasm) for exercise, whether they are an elite athlete or just trying to lose weight and maintain fitness and flexibility. Steps that can prevent injury and enhance recovery are therefore of great interest.
Obviously, it's difficult to assess the direct effect of a supplement on tissues without opening up someone's knee. But Baar's laboratory has been developing techniques to grow artificial ligaments in the laboratory. They used their lab-dish ligaments as a stand-in for the real thing.
Gelatin, Vitamin C and Exercise
Baar, Greg Shaw at the Australian Institute of Sport, and colleagues enrolled eight health young men in a trial of a gelatin supplement enhanced with vitamin C. The volunteers drank the supplement and had blood taken, and after one hour performed a short (five minute) bout of high-impact exercise (skipping).
The researchers tested the blood for amino acids that could build up the collagen protein that composes tendons, ligaments, and bones. They also tested blood samples for their effect on Baar's lab-grown ligaments at UC Davis.
The gelatin supplement increased blood levels of amino acids and markers linked to collagen synthesis, and improved the mechanics of the engineered lab-grown ligaments, they found.
"These data suggest that adding gelatin and vitamin C to an intermittent exercise program could play a beneficial role in injury prevention and tissue repair," the researchers wrote.
A abstract of the article is published below.
Materials provided by University of California - Davis. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
University of California - Davis. "Gelatin supplements: Good for your joints?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161220140904.htm>
- © 2016 American Society for Nutrition
- Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis
Background: Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common complaint in active populations. More than 50% of all injuries in sports can be classified as sprains, strains, ruptures, or breaks of musculoskeletal tissues. Nutritional and/or exercise interventions that increase collagen synthesis and strengthen these tissues could have an important effect on injury rates.
Objective: This study was designed to determine whether gelatin supplementation could increase collagen synthesis.
Design: Eight healthy male subjects completed a randomized, double-blinded, crossover-design study in which they consumed either 5 or 15 g of vitamin C–enriched gelatin or a placebo control. After the initial drink, blood was taken every 30 min to determine amino acid content in the blood. A larger blood sample was taken before and 1 h after consumption of gelatin for treatment of engineered ligaments. One hour after the initial supplement, the subjects completed 6 min of rope-skipping to stimulate collagen synthesis. This pattern of supplementation was repeated 3 times/d with ≥6 h between exercise bouts for 3 d. Blood was drawn before and 4, 24, 48, and 72 h after the first exercise bout for determination of amino-terminal propeptide of collagen I content.
Results: Supplementation with increasing amounts of gelatin increased circulating glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine, peaking 1 h after the supplement was given. Engineered ligaments treated for 6 d with serum from samples collected before or 1 h after subjects consumed a placebo or 5 or 15 g gelatin showed increased collagen content and improved mechanics. Subjects who took 15 g gelatin 1 h before exercise showed double the amino-terminal propeptide of collagen I in their blood, indicating increased collagen synthesis.
Conclusion: These data suggest that adding gelatin to an intermittent exercise program improves collagen synthesis and could play a beneficial role in injury prevention and tissue repair. This trial was registered at the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry as ACTRN12616001092482.
- 3Sport Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia;
- 4Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Centre for Exercise and Nutrition, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia;
- 5Departments of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and
- 6Physiology and Membrane Biology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA;
- 7Centre of Cardiovascular Research and Education in Therapeutics, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; and
- 8VA Northern California Health Care System, Mather, CA+Author Notes
- ↵1 Supported by National Institute on Aging project grant (R01AG045375 to KB); University of California, Davis College of Biological Sciences to KB; and an Australian Institute of Sport sport nutrition research grant to GS.
- ↵2 None of the funders had a role in the design, implementation, analysis, or interpretation of the data.
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