Earlier this year a paper from the German institute as well as the University of Freiburg and the University Hospital Freiburg suggested specific collagen peptides taken alongside resistance exercise could increase muscle mass and strength and decrease fat mass and age-related muscle loss in elderly men with sarcopenia.
This followed a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on older women which found hydrolysed collagen protein supplements maintained a nitrogen balance and preserved lean body mass during consumption of a low-protein diet ‘better’ than whey protein.
Yet Dr Steffen Oesser, managing director of the Collagen Research Institute, said in a talk on health ageing chaired by NutraIngredients that it was not about ‘whey bashing’ but looking at the individual merits of each ingredient.
He said it was now planning to look at the two ingredients in combination.
“We were looking at the collagen side of the story but it could very well be that a combination is even more effective. We don’t know yet,” he said at the industry event Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) last week in Paris.
“One of the next steps will definitely be looking at the combination.”
The combination need not stop at whey however.
“In principle each and every ingredient could be combined. When I would design the next clinical study I definitely would go for whey and if you are a little bit more suspicious about animal proteins I would say soya.
“But in principle you can combine with whatever you want and you can be sure this is a brand new outcome because nobody else is looking at this.”
One member of the audience also suggested conjugated linoleic acid, which Dr Oesser agreed could also be an interesting pairing.
How low can we go?
Oesser said another research priority would be: “How low can we go in resistance training?”
He said greater investigation was needed to establish what level of resistance training was needed to see a result when coupled with these nutrients.
“We are far away from knowing where this threshold, this red line is.”
It has been estimated that after the age of 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscles each year while strength declines at a rate of 1.5% per year after 50 and 3% after 60.
Staking a claim
There is no European health claim approved for collagen for any health benefit, with three claim applications rejected for joint health and collagen and collagen hydrolysate.
Despite previous rejection of its claim applications, German-based company Gelita has now filed a 13.5 health claim for its collagen peptide product Fortigel and the "maintenance of normal joint function”.
Meanwhile there are several claims approved for vitamin C and normal collagen formation in different parts of the body such as bones, teeth and cartilage.