Type 2 collagen, often referred to as Type II collagen, is the second most abundant collagen subtype in the body after type 1. Type 2 collagen is not the same as type one collagen, as an alteration in its stereochemistry makes it quite different in its functions.
Whereas all collagen comprises of three peptide chains, their arrangement differs. Type 1 collagen consists of two identical chains twisted into a three-helix strand[i].
In type two all three strands are identical.
Where Is Type 2 Collagen Found?
The distribution of collagen subtypes varies significantly. Type 1 is found heavily in skin, hair, nail, and organ tissue, while type 2 is primarily concentrated around the joints. Hyaline cartilage, otherwise known as articular cartilage, is found around joints only and is critical to your sense of wellbeing.
Functions Of Type 2 Collagen
Even though type 2 collagen may not seem as abundant as type 1, its functions are arguably more important than that of type 1. These include:
Cartilage actually manifests as one of three types depending on the specific location.
For instance, Fibrocartilage, which is the type of cartilage that helps reduce impaction by an average of 30%, is found in joints prone to shocks, such as the knee, hip, and shoulder joints.
Cartilage in these locations is a bit thicker and spongier than the collagen tissue in other joint locations.
Could you possibly imagine the excruciating pain you would be in if movement involved coarse grazing of bone upon bone every time you move? Sadly, this is something people with degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis know too well.
Hyaline, or articular cartilage is found on virtually the end of every bone at the location of a joint, as it is responsible for allowing smooth movement when they glide past each other.
Hyaline cartilage is smooth to allow for low friction movement.
These joints are also buffered by synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and source of nourishment for the cartilage.
Connecting Bone To Bone And Muscle To Bone
Do you know the difference between a tendon and a ligament? These two structures are often confused as the same, but they are quite different.
Tendons connect bone to muscle tissue and allow for neuromuscular stimuli to be fulfilled. Ligaments, on the other hand, connect bone to bone and ensure that co-ordination is maintained through various parts of the musculoskeletal system.
These connective tissue types are NOT predominantly of type 2 collagen, but its presence is nevertheless important to allow for strong yet pliable structures. They do not stretch very far but offer a small degree of buffering such as when jumping or for increasing strength via muscular contraction (concentric motion).
Signs Of Low Levels Of Type 2 Collagen
Often times, you will not realize that your body can benefit from some type 2 collagen administration until certain symptoms become very pronounced. This is because of the nature of cartilage- it is avascular[ii].
Avascular refers to the absence of blood vessels on these structures, which impair its nutrition. As a result, cartilage is regarded as a hardy tissue type. But this does not mean that it lasts forever. The lack of blood vessels coming to cartilage means that it cannot regenerate very fast as nourishment is scarce.
A process known as diffusion still occurs across a concentration gradient (nutrients moving from high concentration to low) but this process is very slow. This also explains why injuries to these locations are very slow to heal and require no exacerbation of the damaged site.
These are common warning signs of low type 2 collagen levels
Joint pain can arise owing to a number of causes, but if you are young and experiencing discomfort, there is a high likelihood that this is owing to degradation of the cartilage surrounding joints.
Wear and tear is the biggest threat to hyaline cartilage[iii]and something that athletes deal with to an alarming extent.
If you are a runner, this is especially true. The combination of mini shocks every time your feet hit the ground and increased frequency of bone gliding past each other lead to the accelerated breakdown of the structural components around joints.
Common pain points include the knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, and elbows- some of the most commonly used joints in sport and physical activity.
Other Musculoskeletal Pain
Maybe you don’t have joint pain, but discomfort at one of the insertion points. For example, “tennis elbow” results when tendons around the outside of the elbow become inflamed from overuse/ overload.
In like manner, the anterior cruciate ligament found in the knee is an extremely common location for injury (better known as an ACL injury in sports), occurring when the knee is bent to a lateral direction or hyperextended.
How To Increase Collagen Type 2 In The Body
The fastest way to increase the stores of Collagen type 2 in the body is via dietary consumption.
Many of the same foods that are rich in type one collagen are also good sources of type 2, such as beef and chicken bone broth.
Just keep in mind that the process of increasing these stores (which may be tested by drawing synovial fluids to analyze) is slow- expect having to wait 12 weeks or more to notice any appreciable change.
What Collagen Type 2 Means For Athletes
The major implication of type 2 collagen in athletes is on performance. Degradation of cartilaginous tissue that is abundant in type 2 collagen will adversely affect performance, or even worse impair it altogether.
Regular intake of collagen-rich foods will help support longevity in your sport discipline, and if you are in a discipline that takes a particular toll on the joints and supporting cast, it is in your best interest to ramp up your consumption.
Where To Buy Type 2 Collagen
Type 2 collagen can be bough as a standalone supplements but it is much more effective when combined with Type I, III, and IV collagen. That's why Brickhouse Nutrition created Radiance. A collagen powerhouse clinically proven to promote active joints and healthy connective tissues to battle against the wear-and-tear of everyday life.
While collagen 1 is much more of an all-rounder that benefits several systems of the body, type 2 collagen can help support pain-free mobility for years to come. Staples such as bone broth are excellent ways to consolidate your collagen supply and provides an insurance policy for your precious gears of progress.
[i] Aaron L. Fidler, Sergei P. Boudko, Antonis Rokas, Billy G. Hudson
Journal of Cell Science 2018 131: jcs203950 doi: 10.1242/jcs.203950 Published 9 April 2018
[iii] Honvo, G., Lengelé, L., Charles, A. et al. Role of Collagen Derivatives in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Repair: A Systematic Scoping Review With Evidence Mapping. Rheumatol Ther 7, 703–740 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40744-020-00240-5