nutrition

Myth vs. Science: Do Collagen Supplements Actually Work?

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

6 min read

Collagen is an important and abundant protein in your body. Evidence suggests that collagen supplements can support your health in a variety of ways.

Collagen 101

What is collagen?

Collagen is a molecule and the most abundant protein in the body, as well as one of the most important. It’s found in tendons, ligaments, fat, skin, and other places.

Collagen helps hold our bodies together, forming scaffolding that is essential to your body’s strength and bone structure. It’s a core part of what’s known as the extracellular matrix, a network of molecules that helps your body’s connective tissues hold together.

Collagen is often discussed in terms of its benefits for hair, skin, and outward appearance generally, and has sometimes been called “the fountain of youth.” But it’s important to also remember that collagen is doing important work inside our bodies, too. It serves a number of important functions: It helps with wound and tissue healing, as well as cornea, gum, and scalp repair; helps with bone and blood vessel repair, helps our eyes; and is present in biological functions of the cell, including proliferation, survival, and differentiation.

In other words, collagen can help us look and feel our best. And maintaining a healthy level of collagen in turn helps your body support and maintain more. Since your body starts losing collagen between 18-29 years of age, and then can lose up to 1% per year after age 40, it can be important to try to boost your levels.

Types of collagen

There are 28 types of collagen that have been identified. They differ in key ways, including in where they’re being used in your body. However, they share the fact that all collagen fibrils have at least one triple helix structure.

Among these 28 types, there are five main types of collagen. They are:

  • Type I. This type makes up 90% of your body’s collagen and is the most common collagen in skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments, vascular ligature, and organs.
  • Type II. This type is found in the cartilages and offers joint support.
  • Type III. This type is found in skin, arteries, muscles, and organs.
  • Type IV. This type is found in some layers of your skin and parts of the extracellular matrix.
  • Type V. This type is found in some layers of skin, in hair, in the tissue of the placenta, and in the corneas of the eyes.

Do collagen supplements work?

Collagen for skin

Collagen supplements are commonly used to support skin health. The available research indicates that collagen supplements support skin health. A growing number of studies suggest that it’s possible for aging or damaged skin to be rejuvenated. One randomized, placebo-controlled study of sixty healthy men and women – aged between 40 and 75 – found that the group taking collagen showed significant skin improvements compared to the placebo group.

Moreover, a review of 19 studies comprising 1,125 participants between the ages of 20 and 70, 95% of whom were women, found that taking hydrolyzed collagen was good for skin hydration and elasticity, as well as the lessening of wrinkles. The research suggests that the most effective doses for improving skin health range from 2.5 to 15 grams per day for up to eight weeks or more.

Collagen for hair

Collagen is essential to your body’s production of keratin, the protein that your hair is primarily made out of. Collagen is also the main component of dermis, the connective tissue layer containing hair follicles. Keeping up healthy collagen levels can help maintain the health of your hair, but more research is needed to demonstrate its effects.

Collagen for joints

There’s good research to support the claim that collagen hydrolysate supports joint health. A 24-week study of the use of collagen hydrolysate in athletes with exercise-related joint pain found that the supplement had a positive effect on joint comfort. The study had implications for the possible use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health. Furthermore, Care/of’s Veg. Collagen, made with eggshell membranes, has been shown in multiple human clinical studies to support healthy joints with wear and tear from exercise. In one human, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the use of eggshell membrane collagen was shown to improve flexibility scores compared to those who used a placebo. Another study – this one of 85 healthy adults – looked at joint comfort and flexibility post-workout. The study showed that eggshell membranes were associated with greater joint comfort and flexibility.

Collagen for bone and muscle

As a source of protein, collagen supplements likely promote muscle growth, when they are used by people who are also involved in resistance training. One study of recreationally active men engaged in resistance training found that collagen supplements supported the protein composition of skeletal muscle. Another study – a three-month study of 53 older men – found that those who consumed 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen after resistance training gained much more muscle than the placebo group. What these studies clearly show is that collagen supplements post-workout can work better than taking no protein at all; what remains to be seen, though, is whether collagen supplements work better than other protein sources. But, if bone and muscle support is your goal, you can feel good about incorporating collagen supplements into your routine.

How to boost collagen production

Diet

One way to boost collagen production is to consume collagen through your diet. Indeed, some dietary adjustments might be the most effective way, offering you collagen that your body can use right now. Collagen-rich foods and foods that boost collagen production can also help create the amino acids – that is, the building blocks – that support your healthy skin goals. Some collagen-rich foods include: bone broth, chicken, fish and shellfish, citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruits, garlic, leafy greens, bell peppers, tomatoes, beans, and cashews.

Lifestyle

We know it’s not easy to make big lifestyle adjustments when you’re already busy trying to manage everything in your life. Fortunately, there are small tweaks you can make to lifestyle that can help boost your collagen production.

Try to cut back on or quit smoking, because smoking has been shown to contribute to collagen loss. The same is true of excessive alcohol consumption. If you can moderate your drinking a little bit, you can see improvements to collagen levels. You can also improve skin health and collagen levels by protecting your skin from UV radiation. And, lastly, get enough sleep.

Supplementation

One popular collagen supplement is collagen hydrolysate – collagen that’s been broken down into easily dissolvable amino acids and available in supplement form. Studies show that orally consumed collagen hydrolysate is effective at improving skin hydration, and reducing wrinkles. Our Care/of collagen powder is made from hydrolyzed collagen, making it easy for your body to digest and absorb.

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