Promoting Joint Health With Coconut's Collagen Support

  • Jasmine Abdy Bachelor of Science - BSc, Medical Microbiology with a Year in Industry, University of Bristol

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Introduction

Definition of joint health

In simple words, a joint is a connection between two bones; these connections are covered by a specialized connective tissue, called Cartilage tissue, which is characterised to be soft, elastic, and without blood vessels, which avoids rubbing and wear between bones, forming a cushion between them.

Joints permit you to do different kinds of movements in many directions, allowing you to bend the knees and elbows, move the hips turn the head, among others. Maintaining good joint health promotes a good quality of movement and helps you to have a better quality of life. 1

Importance of joint health

The musculoskeletal system is composed of the muscle system, bone system, and joint system. All of these systems work together to make the movements organicJoints are only one part, but if it does not work well, our musculoskeletal systems fail, causing poor kinetic movement, and consequently damage. Several reasons promote the wear of cartilage, such as ageing, being overweight, and injuries. As the damage is progressive and causes degenerative joint problems, therefore, it is important to prevent and detect these diseases in their early stages.2

Overview of coconut's collagen support

Overall in this article, we are talking about coconut derivates, their benefits and how they help in joint disease treatment both as a promoter of collagen protein formation and as a reliever of pain and inflammation in many joint diseases. Going through the collagen concept and its importance in our body, the several beneficial properties of coconut,  the relationship between coconut and collagen formation and its use as a reliever of joint diseases.

Understanding collagen

What is collagen?

Collagen is a protein found in the body, but not just any protein, it is the most abundant protein, with about 30% of the body’s protein being collagen. There are several types of collagen, the most abundant are types I and II, which provide structural support and strength to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, other connective tissues, and skin. Collagen is made from four principal amino acids; Proline, Hydroxyproline, Hydroxylysine, and Glycine, which adding vitamin C, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese form a triple helix structure. 

Collagen has a specific role, among which are;

  • Providing support, structure, and strength to our body.
  • Helping Fibroblasts to make up the middle layer of skin called the Dermis, permitting the cells' growth and, at the same time providing structure, elasticity, and strength to our skin.
  • Replaces dead cells in all our organs.
  • Forms a protective covering for organs.
  • Helps blood clotting.3

Role of collagen in joint health

Collagen, especially Collagen type II plays an important role in the building of joint cartilage and also has anti-inflammatory effects. When our joints start to wear, our range of movement is limited, and at the same time, affects our bones and muscles causing injuries, and progressive diseases. A diverse range of factors can cause joint wear, from genetic factors to ageing, but all of them can cause progressive musculoskeletal damage, which could become a disabling disease if it is not treated, highlighting the importance of collagen supplement consumption.

Natural sources of collagen

Our body starts to lose collagen from age 20 onwards, and from the 20s to 40approx. 1% of our collagen is lost each year, and after the loss is even higher. For that reason, it is essential to incorporate collagen into our daily diet. Is important to know the natural sources of collagen to boost our intake. The richer sources of collagen are4

  • Bone broth
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Egg white
  • Berries
  • Garlic
  • Tropical fruits, among others

Coconut and collagen

The role of coconut in collagen production

Coconut, especially coconut water, is a great source of vitamins and minerals, providing large quantities of vitamin C, Zinc, copper and Manganese, which are essential to make the helical structure of collagen protein5

Types of collagen in coconut

Besides the large health benefits that coconut provides to our body, it promotes restructuring and glowing effects on the skin, as well as, nourishing and repairing effects on hair and nails due to stimulating the production of collagen I and III. These types of collagen are not produced by coconut, but many researchers have discovered that it increases the production of collagen II found in cartilage tissue of joints.5,6

Nutrients in coconut supporting health

Vitamins in coconut 

Coconut are high in a large range of vitamins B, like B1(Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), and B6 (Pyridoxine). The role of vitamin B is working with enzymes to release energy from carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, also functions to reduce heart disease risks, by decreasing the LDL cholesterol in the blood and increasing HDL cholesterol.

Coconut is a good source of vitamin C, which helps to enhance our immune system and is a powerful antioxidant with numerous benefits for the skin, reducing or preventing acne, and maintaining its elasticity preventing premature ageing.5,8   

It is worth highlighting an important metabolic property of helping control diabetes, due to the presence of vitamins C, and E with an antioxidant effect. These vitamins boost insulin secretion by the pancreas, and improve the cell response to insulin, thus helping to control diabetes type I and Type II.5

Minerals in coconut

Adding to the high content of vitamins, coconut has a high mineral concentration, including copper, manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, of which the last five are essential electrolytes, involved in many cellular processes. The trace elements such as copper and manganese are important in the regulation of these electrolytes and are responsible for assisting nerve control, muscle relaxation and activating the production of energy in the body. Also, it is important in the production of collagen protein structure. 

Another great property of coconut worth highlighting is the elevated concentration of zinc, this mineral helps to maintain the health of the prostate gland, reducing the risk of prostate cancer5

Other beneficial compounds in coconut 

Coconut is one of the best sources of MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), corresponding to almost 60% of its fat. The MCTs are a type of saturated acid which has the ability to be rapidly absorbed from the intestines to the liver and, therefore is quickly burnt for fuel. The main MCTs present in coconut milk and oil are Lauric acid, capric, and Caprylic acid, of which several studies have discovered many properties, among them, promoting positive effects on heart health, decreasing LDL Cholesterol levels, and at the same time increasing HDL cholesterol levels, thus reducing heart attack incidences.5

The capric and caprylic acid contained in coconut are responsible for boosting the production of ketones, inducing satiety, and preventing overeating. At the same time stimulates resting heat production through thermogenesis, these combined effects produce a synergy that could be beneficial in long-term weight loss.7

Other effects that have been attributed to MCTs are at the brain level, promoting a decline in the incidence of Parkinson's disease, and improving memory and condition in patients who already have it. It has also been discovered that MCTs help treat some types of epilepsy. Both effects are continuously studied because concrete scientific evidence is lacking.5,7

Apart from all the metabolic benefits obtained from coconut oil consumption, it also has immunity system benefits. one of the most known is the antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, besides the anti-inflammatory property in which coconut acts as a moderator, decreasing the inflammation levels related to the immune system, and any inflammatory process. This characteristic is caused by Lauric, Capric and Caprylic acid.5

Scientific evidence

Research studies on coconut's impact on joint health

There are many studies, which have demonstrated that coconut water and coconut oil, boost a healthy musculoskeletal system. According to research done in female rats, which have their ovaries removed, being treated with a rich diet of coconut water, has decreased the incidence of suffering Osteoporosis, despite the decrease in hormones. Therefore, coconut water being rich in antioxidant compounds is used in the prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. Furthermore, its high content of vitamin B6 helps to reduce or prevent inflammation in joints caused by rheumatic diseases such as Osteoarthritis.9        

In the case of coconut oil, numerous studies have found that its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties are widely used in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. Together with helping to reduce inflammation and extreme pain, it also lubricates joints and reduces the stiffness provoked by this chronic autoimmune disease. Researchers suggest that coconut oil together with improving joint mobility, helps enhance flexibility and range of movement. Another compound largely found in coconut oil is Lauric acid, which helps to reduce oxidative damage, minimising the joint damage caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis.10

Incorporating coconut for joint health

Dietary sources of coconut collagen (e.g., coconut oil, coconut water)

Coconut does not have collagen in its structure, however, coconut derivatives such as coconut water help to boost collagen production in the body, due to their high content of vitamin C, copper, manganese, and magnesium, which are essentials in the collagen helical structure production, another derivative, coconut oil or coconut cream, are big sources of MCTs as Lauric acid, Caprylic and Capric acid, which have anti-inflammatory properties, and also reduce the oxidative damage of joints, thus maintaining joints in good form for a long time and preventing or decreasing the symptoms of joints diseases.

Recipes and meal ideas incorporating coconut for joint health

Nowadays we can find coconut derivatives in many forms wherever we go. It is not necessary to live in a coconut-growing country to get it, therefore we can add it to our meals easily or in some cases try to replace some ingredients with a coconut alternative. This is the case with coconut oil which, according to its characteristics is versatile, below 25°C you will see it in a butter form, so you can use it to replace normal butter in baking, making it a more healthy version. Another derivative that has similar properties to oil, is the coconut cream, which also contains a higher composition of water and, at the same time an increased quantity of vitamins and minerals. You can replace the normal dairy cream, which is higher in saturated fat, and change it with a healthier alternative with many joint benefits such as coconut cream in both sweet and salty foods. Another way to incorporate coconut into our normal meals is through coconut water consumption in replacement of any electrolyte drink because coconut water contains a higher concentration of electrolyte minerals, besides copper, zinc and manganese, essentials for collagen formation.

Tips for enhancing collagen absorption

Combining coconut with other collagen-boosting foods

Coconut minerals boost collagen formation in our body, so it is important to incorporate it daily in meals. Combine coconut water with foods rich in collagen such as fish, chicken, and eggs, among others, thus the peptide contents in the food are absorbed by the body. These minerals are essential to form the proper collagen protein helicoidal structure.5

Lifestyle factors that support collagen absorption (e.g., exercise)

Several conditions modulate collagen absorption and production by our body. One of these is the nutritional benefit as you increase your consumption of food that contains Lysine amino acid, together with foods that contain vitamin C. Lysine combines with vitamin C to form hydroxylysine, which is fundamental to producing collagen protein. Also, we need a high consumption of minerals such as manganese, copper, magnesium and zinc that help to enhance the collagen protein structure formation.

Another important factor is exercise, several studies have found that exercise improves collagen levels in two main ways:

  • Exercise helps with the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to fibroblast cells that produce collagen.
  • Exercise reduces stress. Stress is a negative factor which decreases collagen production and breaks down the existing collagen fibres, so it is recommended to exercise to help to maintain and synthesize collagen fibres.

In addition exercise, like heavy lifting, helps to release the growth hormone, which stimulates the fibroblasts, resulting in higher collagen production.11

Potential contraindications and precautions

Even though collagen apports many benefits to our body, as with everything, if it is consumed in excess can produce problems. Some of these are:

  • Digestive problems, due to the high density of proteins can saturate the digestive apparatus, producing swelling, gasses, stomach pain, and diarrhoea.
  • Risk of contamination due to the main sources of collagen being animals, whose habitats can become contaminated, possibly contaminating the collagen obtained from them.
  • Increase in caloric intake; collagen is a caloric protein, so an excessive intake can block the effort toward weight loss.
  • Possible interaction with other medicines, despite there not being enough studies. It seems that collagen can behave similarly to food proteins, which could delay drug metabolism, which is decomposed by Cytochrome P450 way, increasing the levels of these drugs in the blood.12

Summary 

To sum up, as we already have seen coconut derivatives have several benefits for our body, especially the stimulation of collagen production. There are many types of collagen proteins that our body makes through specialised cells called fibroblasts, complying with diverse functions inside it. The fibroblast cell makes several types of collagen, depending on the part of the body where it is located is their differentiation. Coconut stimulates the production of collagen types I, II, and III, forming part of the skin, hair, nails, and musculoskeletal system, this last one is found, to form part of muscles and joint structure.

Coconut water contains a large amount of minerals known as electrolytes. These electrolytes are an important part of producing many vital processes for our body. Also, coconut water is especially high in minerals such as manganese, zinc and copper, which are necessary for forming the helicoidal structure of collagen.

Other coconut compounds as coconut oil contain a great amount of MCTs as Lauric acid, Capric and Caprylic acid, that have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving properties helping the treatment of rheumatic diseases such as Osteoarthritis, Arthrosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, among others, increasing the mobility, flexibility and range of motion. All these scientific findings show coconut to be known and widely recommended for the treatment of rheumatic diseases.

References

  • How can I improve my joint health | madison orthopaedics - Idaho [Internet]. [citado 15 de septiembre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://madisonorthopedics.org/how-can-i-improve-my-joint-health/
  • The importance of healthy joints [Internet]. 2016 [citado 15 de septiembre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://www.asccare.com/the-importance-of-healthy-joints/
  • Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [citado 25 de septiembre de 2023]. Collagen: what it is, types, function & benefits. Disponible en: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen
  • EatingWell [Internet]. [citado 26 de septiembre de 2023]. 10 collagen-rich foods to add to your diet. Disponible en: https://www.eatingwell.com/article/7896640/best-foods-to-eat-for-a-collagen-boost/
  • Dinner DT, dirttodinner. What are the health benefits of coconut? [Internet]. Dirt to Dinner. 2016 [citado 3 de octubre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://dirt-to-dinner.com/what-are-the-health-benefits-of-coconuts/
  • Are collagen supplements helpful for arthritis? | arthritis foundation [Internet]. [citado 4 de octubre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/treatment/complementary-therapies/supplements-and-vitamins/can-collagen-supplements-help-arthritis
  • Coconut nutrients [Internet]. Nutrivore. [citado 4 de octubre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://nutrivore.com/foods/coconut-nutrients/
  • EverydayHealth.com [Internet]. 2023 [citado 4 de octubre de 2023]. 10 surprising health benefits of b vitamins. Disponible en: https://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/surprising-health-benefits-b-vitamins/
  • Drinking coconut water is good for bones and joints? [Internet]. [citado 6 de octubre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://www.vinmec.com/en/news/health-news/healthy-lifestyle/drinking-coconut-water-is-good-for-bones-and-joints/
  • blinger_admin. The benefits of coconut oil for arthritis sufferers [Internet]. Daniel Vineyards. 2022 [citado 6 de octubre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://danielvineyards.com/the-benefits-of-coconut-oil-for-arthritis-sufferers/
  • Surgery KP. Kirby Plastic Surgery. 2022 [citado 19 de octubre de 2023]. Can exercise boost collagen production? Disponible en: https://www.kirbyplasticsurgery.com/blog/can-exercise-boost-collagen-production/
  • Posibles efectos secundarios de un exceso de colágeno - Cibdol [Internet]. 2023 [citado 19 de octubre de 2023]. Disponible en: https://www.cibdol.es/blog/1568-posibles-efectos-secundarios-de-un-exceso-de-colageno

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Leyla Alejandra Nara Canales

Master in Comprehensive Pharmaceutical Care, University of Barcelona. Spain

Leyla is a Pharmacist with several years of experience in hospital, and community pharmacy, with specialization courses in pharmaco-economy and clinical pharmacy. During her profession she has carried out pharmacovigilance projects in hospitalized and ambulatory patients, optimizing hospital resources, and improving pharmacotherapy in patients. Nowadays Leyla has found her passion in spreading her knowledge to people giving pharmaceutical advice about natural medicines on social media, and also writing articles about medical and pharmaceutical topics.

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