Collagen hydrolysate is a substance created from collagen extracted from the bones and skin of cows, fish and pigs. It is better known as gelatin. As a food additive, collagen hydrolysate is used as a thickening agent in sweets, salads and other foods requiring thickening agents. It is also being investigated as a possible pain reliever for people with osteoarthritis, a common joint disease.
Collagen hydrolysate has been used as a food source for thousands of years—there is even evidence the pharaohs in Egypt used it. The earliest recorded commercial use of it did not occur until the mid 1650s, when it was produced commercially in Holland, England, and eventually France and the United States. Today, its use as a food has spread worldwide, and it currently is used in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia.
The collagen in this substance contains fibrous protein, an essential protein needed to maintain the structure of connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones and membranes inside the human body. Some health experts claim it can stop or reverse sagging skin and wrinkles or fine lines, but clinical evidence has yet to support these claims.
It may help reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis, however. According to several clinical studies, ingesting more than 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate per day helped reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, and it was also shown to stop collagen breakdown. The breakdown of collagen has been cited as a cause for many types of arthritis because it helps cushion the joints, preventing the joints from rubbing against each other.
Many of the participants in the study complained of adverse effects, though the effects were not severe in nature. The most common side effects reported were gastrointestinal upset and fullness. Some people also complained the taste was unpleasant.
Hydrolyzed collagen is commonly available as a hard, tasteless, brittle sheet that can appear yellow to honey in color. Commercially, it is ground into a granular powder, so it can be stored and used later. Like some food additives, this substance does not have an expiration date.
Up to 2 cups (about 0.4 liters) of solid gelatin can be made from just 1 tablespoon (about 0.5 ounces) of collagen hydrolysate. Placing the powder in a bowl of hot water can help it dissolve and solidify. Boiling it can prevent it from thickening, so letting it sit in hot water is preferred. To soften its sheet form, it should be submerged into warm water and left to soak for about five minutes.