PhotoYou may laugh like a bowlful of Jello when you read this, but a new study finds that eating a gelatin supplement and adding a burst of intensive exercise can help build stronger ligaments, tendons, and bones.

The study was conducted by Keith Baar's Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences and the Australian Institute of Sport and is published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Injuries to connective tissue and bones are common in both athletes and the elderly, and often interfere with peoples' ability (and enthusiasm) for exercise, whether they are an elite athlete or just trying to lose weight and maintain fitness and flexibility. Therefore, researchers went looking for steps that can prevent injury and enhance recovery.

Now, it's hard to assess the direct effect of a supplement on tissues without opening up someone's knee. But Baar's laboratory has been developing techniques to grow artificial ligaments in the laboratory. They used their lab-dish ligaments as a stand-in for the real thing.

Gelatin, Vitamin C, exercise

The study enrolled eight healthy young men in a trial of a gelatin supplement enhanced with vitamin C. The volunteers drank the supplement and had blood taken, and after one hour performed a short (five-minute) bout of high-impact exercise (skipping).

The researchers tested the blood for amino acids that could build up the collagen protein that composes tendons, ligaments, and bones. They also tested blood samples for their effect on Baar's lab-grown ligaments at UC Davis.

The results showed that the gelatin supplement increased blood levels of amino acids and markers linked to collagen synthesis and improved the mechanics of the engineered lab-grown ligaments.

"These data suggest that adding gelatin and vitamin C to an intermittent exercise program could play a beneficial role in injury prevention and tissue repair," the researchers wrote.


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