Gelatin is an unusual substance, one often derived from animal materials: the skin, bones, and connective tissues of fish, pigs, chicken, and cows. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Yet it’s something we eat all the time, in flan, Jell-O, panna cotta, soups, and many other foods. According to a new study, gelatin may be just what you need for healthier joints.
A team of researchers at Keith Baar’s Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences paired up with scientists from the Australian Institute of Sport to research the effects of gelatin on the human body. They found eight healthy young men to participate in a study that examined what happened when they took a vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplement before performing high-impact exercise.
After the exercise, the participants were tested for certain amino acids that indicate the body is using the collagen in gelatin to build tendons, bones, ligaments, and other connective tissues. The researchers discovered that the gelatin supplement increased these amino acids and other markers, indicating that the body was indeed using the gelatin to produce the collagen needed to strengthen connective tissue.
To see the gelatin supplements in action, the researchers tested it on lab-grown ligaments. The bioengineered connective tissue also benefited from higher collagen production, thanks to the gelatin supplement.
Gelatin contains the nutrients your body needs to synthesize collagen, the protein that keeps your skin, bones, and connective tissue elastic. The natural production of collagen tends to decrease as we age, so finding ways to increase collagen production (such as via gelatin supplements) is a vital step toward reducing the musculoskeletal effects of aging.
But the addition of vitamin C makes the gelatin even more effective. In addition to amino acids, the body needs vitamin C in order to produce collagen. By adding vitamin C into the gelatin, the researchers increased the effectiveness of the supplement—increasing the amount of collagen produced as a result of the supplementation.
If you’re looking for a new way to improve your joint health, try a vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplement. You can make your own gelatin-based products at home, using flavorless gelatin and adding vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits or tomatoes into the recipes. Make bone broth and other bone-based dishes, which increase the natural production of gelatin from the bone marrow. A bit more gelatin in your life may be the secret to healthier joints and connective tissue.
1. “Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesi“, Gregory Shaw, Ann Lee-Barthel, Megan LR Ross, Bing Wang, and Keith Baar, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi: 10.3945/?ajcn.116.138594, published online 16 November 2016.