Gelatin in concentrated amounts may have a positive effect on joint pain and stiffness in athletes, according to a study conducted at Ball State University by Dr. David Pearson, coordinator of the university’s Human Performance Laboratory.
“There has been some use of gelatin combined with vitamin C and calcium in Europe for osteoarthritis patients,” explains Pearson. “Based on that research, we determined to find out if athletes who have chronic knee pain that is unrelated to arthritis would benefit from gelatin supplementation.”
The experiment involved 20 athletes, men and women in several sports, all of whom reported knee pain. They were divided into two groups, one of which was given concentrated gelatin (NutraJoint) in orange juice and the other a placebo that looked, smelled and tasted the same. Ball State researchers pre-measured and packaged the substances for both groups to ensure compliance. Both groups were given three separate tests for pain before the study. Then they took the supplements for eight weeks and were tested again.
“We found an overwhelming difference in the amount of force the gelatin group was able to exert on the bad knee, and we also found that they reported a significant decrease in knee pain,” says Pearson. “But we were not looking for a cure, a healing mechanism or a cause-effect relationship. The study simply revealed that those who took the gelatin showed improvement in the amount of pain they experienced and in the amount of force they could withstand without pain.”
Pearson adds that gelatin contains high amounts of proline and glycine, two amino acids that are used for forming cartilage. He speculates that concentrated amounts of gelatin may help enhance the formation of building blocks for joint health. He also thinks that the results may be encouraging to older adults suffering from joint pain.
Pearson cautions that eating gelatin alone is of little benefit, and that the concentration of gelatin used in the study was greater than that found in common desserts. It should be noted that the Ball State study involved a small number of subjects, is not yet published in a scientific journal, and remains to be replicated by other researchers.
Pearson concludes, “Athletes are constantly pounding their knees, and they are sidelined because of joint health more than anything else. Gelatin is just a food. It’s not more drug therapy, and there are zero side effects. It’s worth the time and the science to investigate it further.” Pearson and his associates are conducting a similar study to investigate gelatin’s effect on shoulder pain.