Sunday, June 9, 2019

How Gelatin (Jell-O) May Help Healing

Home made soursop flavoured
I came across Professor Keith Barr's work on ligaments, tendons and how they heal etc and was amazed that gelatin may hold the secret to recovering from many ligament and tendon injuries.

Professor Baar and his colleagues at UC Davis have been growing "engineered ligaments" in the university lab, subjecting them to all sorts of loads/ abuse) to understand what factors affect injury risk and healing. They may also have found how to train and feed (yes, you read correctly) connective tissue like ligaments, tendons, bones and cartilage.

We've always thought that connective tissue does not heal well. But Professor Baar's "engineered ligaments" grown from remnants of ruptured ACL's collected during reconstructive surgeries showed that it may not be totally true.

When ligaments are "exercised" by movement/ stretching, they respond by forming new collagen fibers (these are the building blocks for new ligaments and tendons). However, this process peaks in about ten minutes and begins to switch off if exercise is continued. Exercising for three hours may be good for your heart and muscles, but not great at all for your tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue.

The "engineered" ligaments also respond to proline, an amino acid. Professor Baar found that best way to ingest proline was taking gelatin. Their study showed that blood test of participants in a skipping rope test for six minutes, three times a day doubled the rate of collagen growth. When the participants consumed 15 grams of gelatin with Vitamin C an hour before each skipping rope session, collagen growth doubled again.

Now, I'm not asking all of you to run out and buy all the gelatin you can get, cook and eat it an hour before doing the specific exercises you need. Skeptics among you readers (myself included) will probably scoff at the idea of eating gelatin and hoping that it will specifically go to strengthen the injured ligaments and tendons in your body.

Professor Baar himself has said that as word of his research spreads, some athletes may develop unrealistic expectations. Eating gelatin without doing the specific strengthening exercises to help new collagen fibers grow in the stressed areas is one. The optimal exercises will depend on what type of connective tissue you're trying to strengthen.

For the injured and non injured athletes that are reading this, I've read that hydrolyzed collagen powder is easier to use compared to gelatin as it does not require boiling and cooling down. It also seems to be equally effective for tendons based on preliminary research in Professor Baar's lab.

For those of you who torn your ACL fully, no amount of gelatin plus specific exercises would help. This is more for patients who have strained (not totally torn) ligaments and tendons.


Lis DS and Barr K (2018). Effects Of Different Vitamin C-enriched Collagen Derivatives On Collagen Synthesis. Int J Sp Nutr Ex. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0385

Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A et al (2017). Vitamin C-enriched Gelatin Supplementation Before Intermittent Activity Augments Collagen Synthesis. Am J Clin Nutrition. 105(1): 136-143. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.138594.

*picture by Smabs Sputzer (1956-2017) from Flickr

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