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Gelatin is a protein made from the skins and bones of pigs and cows. It's a common ingredient in a number of products, including:

Why do people take gelatin?

Many people with arthritis take gelatin supplements. Gelatin contains collagen. That's a material in the cartilage that cushions the bones in your joints.

The idea behind this usage is that eating gelatin (with collagen) will add collagen to your joints. However, that's probably not true. The collagen in gelatin gets broken down when you eat it. It wouldn't travel directly to your joints.

Nonetheless, there is some evidence that gelatin could help ease joint pain in people with osteoarthritis.

In animal studies, gelatin supplements also reduced swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis. However, we need more research to know if gelatin is effective in either of these cases.

There's no standard dose for gelatin. Ask your health care provider for advice.

Can you get gelatin naturally from foods?

Gelatin is a common ingredient in foods and medications.

What are the risks?

Side effects. Gelatin supplements can cause side effects such as:

Some people have allergic reactions to gelatin.

Risks. When eaten in foods, gelatin is considered safe by the FDA. We don't know how safe it is to take high doses of gelatin supplements.

Some experts worry that gelatin has a risk of being contaminated with certain animal diseases. So far there have been no reported cases of people getting sick in this way.

We also don't know if gelatin supplements are safe in children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using gelatin supplements.

In general, you should tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on January 23, 2015

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