Dietary Interventions for Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis

Osteoporosis (OP) and osteoarthritis (OA) are increasingly prevalent conditions that can lead to significant healthcare costs and disability. Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide, while osteoarthritis affects over 32.5 million U.S. adults, with symptomatic knee OA occurring in 10% men and 13% in women aged 60 years or older.(1,2) 

The increase in the aging population and chronic disease rates serve as a precursor to loss of bone and joint degradation, increasing the risk of frailty. This loss of tissue integrity is not relegated to the elderly, as the preceding bone loss witnesses in osteopenia can begin to appear in the late ’40s and early ’50s, and the wear-and-tear of OA also occurring in middle age.  

Osteoporosis is characterized by loss of bone mineral density (BMD) and deterioration of bone microarchitecture. This progressive deterioration increases susceptibility to fractures, with the most common occurring in the hip, wrist, or spine. Smoking, alcohol use, poor nutrition, hormones, and a sedentary lifestyle may all contribute to the development of OP. 

Critical compounds that constitute bone and connective tissue decrease as disease progression occurs. Calcium, phosphorus, collagenous, and non-collagenous proteins (NCPs) in the extracellular matrix all play a pivotal role in bone integrity. Their loss through pathophysiological processes, as well as suboptimal nutritional intake, may exacerbate dysfunction in joints and bones.

Osteoarthritis initiates from mechanical stress on the joints that can cause progressive deterioration of cartilaginous structures. Ligaments and tendons can become inflamed while articular cartilage can break down, causing more irritation around joints. The catabolic processes that ensue can lead to pain and loss of mobility. Aging, overuse, and obesity are all factors that increase the potential for OA development.


Dietary Interventions

Joints and bones require an array of nutrients for healthy function. These foundational dietary components appear to provide benefits in the context of joint and bone disease as well. Dietary-derived sources of protein, collagen peptides, calcium, vitamin D, and anti-inflammatory compounds (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids) have shown promise as interventions in the context of OA and OP. Of these, collagen peptides are of interest to explore as consumer demand has increased in recent years, and clinical research demonstrates the efficacy of collagen in both OA and OP. 

For example, a systematic review covering 20 years of literature investigated the therapeutic potential of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint pathologies. In the studies examined, hydrolyzed collagen had a positive therapeutic effect on osteoporosis and osteoarthritis displaying a potential increase in bone mineral density, a protective effect on articular cartilage, and especially in the symptomatic relief of pain. (3)

In another randomized, placebo-controlled double-blinded investigation, researchers studied the role of specific collagen peptides (SCP) in postmenopausal women with a primary, age-related reduction of BMD. Supplementation with specific collagen peptides increased BMD in the cohort, and was associated with a favorable shift in bone markers, indicating increased bone formation and reduced bone degradation. (4)

Collagen peptides also show promise and clinical utility in OA. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted at Penn State University showed statistically significant changes with the dietary supplement collagen hydrolysate (CH) compared with placebo in joint pain, mobility, and inflammation. (5)

Collagen peptides are not only a building block of connective tissues but possess anabolic signaling properties, essential for remediation of joint and bone loss. Examples such as Whole Body Collagen from Designs for Health, which offers three collagen peptides with specific molecular weights including one of the forms from the above mentioned Penn State study (as well as constituents studied at Harvard and Tufts), are viable solutions for practitioners seeking evidence-supported collagen. 

In light of the prevalence of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis in the population, there’s an increasing need and value in reliable joint and bone-related dietary interventions. Research points to collagen as a viable, cost-effective option that boasts benefits in addressing underlying mechanisms in both conditions, resulting in a viable candidate in patient plans.


Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine.


  1. Facts and Statistics. (2020). Retrieved March 9, 2020, from
  2. Zhang, Y., & Jordan, J. M. (2010). Epidemiology of osteoarthritis. Clinics in geriatric medicine, 26(3), 355–369.
  3. Porfírio, Elisângela, & Fanaro, Gustavo Bernardes. (2016). Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia, 19(1), 153-164.
  4. König, D., Oesser, S., Scharla, S., Zdzieblik, D., & Gollhofer, A. (2018). Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients10(1), 97.
  5. Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96. doi: 10.1185/030079908×291967.