Have you seen a television commercial claiming a supplement “works with your immune system” as an over the counter arthritis treatment? Remembering this brand has been marketed to RA patients, I wondered whether the “improved” product would increase or decrease immune activity. So I looked for research on the ingredient “UCII” (undenatured collagen type II).
UCII as a treatment for immune disease
Back in 2009, we heard a lot about type II “chicken collagen” as a possible substance to be used in future Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment. One study in China had examined 500 RA patients. They matched up their chicken collagen product (CCII) against 10 mg of methotrexate for a period of 24 weeks.
They found improvements that “…were statistically significant. In the MTX group, ESR and CRP decreased. RF did not change in either group. At 24 weeks, 41.55% of patients in the CCII group and 57.86% in the MTX group met the American College of Rheumatology 20% improvement criteria (ACR 20) and 16.89% and 30.82%, respectively, met the ACR 50% improvement criteria (ACR 50).”
Could undenatured chicken collagen supplements replace medical treatment for RA?
Study authors believe the collagen from the sternum of chickens had an effect of immune suppression by reducing T-cell activity. (Working against your immune system might have been more accurate for the commercial, but might not sell as well). For many people T-cell activity does mediate immune disease activity – that’s why they respond well to TNF inhibitors like Enbrel or Remicade or to Orencia, which modulates T-cell activation.
As we run out to buy a collagen supplement, let’s remember…
1) For a treatment to be as effective as in the study, the patients and the product should be similar to the study. Do you fit the criteria of those in the study? Is it the same dose? Is the compound you can buy the same as that used in the study? For example, cartilage in the study was carefully refined with a particular method, not heating it past a certain point.
2) Before you add any treatment, no matter where you buy it, research drug interactions and talk with your doctor and pharmacist. This can be critical for either safety or effectiveness reasons.
3) Every treatment whether measured, refined, and tested to the FDA’s satisfaction or not, can have desirable and undesirable effects (side effects). Risks and balances must be weighed.
4) Even with clinical studies, it is difficult to be certain whether a treatment works on RA due to the natural irregular flaring pattern of many patients and heterogeneity of symptoms. Looking at the graph comparing 10 mg of methotrexate to the CCII, we might wonder how many patients would feel better on day 168 without any treatment at all.
- Using CRP in Criteria for Rheumatoid Arthritis Clinical Trials
- Do Arthritis Treatments Like Synflex Work?
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet, Part 2: Ten Easy Tips
- Consumer Reports’ Dangerous Supplements List