A new study says that chicken type II collagen (CCII), a protein extracted from the cartilage of chicken breast, is a safe and effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
According to a randomised, controlled trial, published in BioMed Central's open access journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, chicken collagen can help provide relief from aching joints.
Wei Wei, from Anhui Medical University, China, worked with a team of researchers to test the novel treatment by comparing it to the established antirheumatic drug methotrextate, in 503 RA patients.
Patients who received a 12-week course of CCII capsules showed significantly improved joint function, with fewer and milder adverse effects than those taking methotrexate.
According to Wei, "We've shown that CCII is a promising alternative therapeutic strategy that may be used as a nutritional supplement against rheumatoid arthritis".
RA is an autoimmune disease caused by the body mounting a response against its own cartilage - the rubbery tissue, composed mainly of collagen, which cushions and lubricates joints.
By dosing patients with collagen in the form of CCII capsules, the researchers believe that 'oral tolerance' can be developed.
Wei said, "Oral tolerance is a reduction in autoimmune activity caused by repeated dietary exposure to the offending substance.
Treatment of autoimmune diseases by induction of oral tolerance is attractive because of the few side effects and easy clinical implementation of this approach. Indeed, our work confirms that treatment with oral CCII leads to improvement in arthritis with no significant side effects".