Collagen accounts for 30% of the human body’s protein. It is the primary building block of your muscles, skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and connective tissues. It can also be found in your internal organs, blood vessels, and intestinal lining. Collagen is made from 3 amino acids, proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, that bond together to form protein fibrils in a triple helix structure. The body needs vitamin C, zinc, copper, and manganese in order to make this triple helix, thereby making them essential for collagen synthesis.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and it is what gives our skin and joints structure and keeps them strong and flexible. It’s especially concentrated in the middle layer of our skin and plays a key role in keeping skin moisturized and supple. It is likely most well-known for its prominent role in the world of skin care cosmetics and supplementation.
If you walk down any cosmetic aisle, you will likely find a plethora of collagen-based products that promote improved skin elasticity, increased skin hydration, and reduced appearance of wrinkled skin. There is also the hope that collagen, which keeps the skin from sagging, can return it to its fresh, smooth, plump, youthful looking skin. It also helps to promote thick, healthy hair and hard, strong, healthy nails.
Collagen production in the body can begin to decline naturally as early as age 25. The process can be hastened by lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, overexposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, poor sleeping habits, oxidative stress, and lack of exercise.
If you are looking to increase your body’s collagen levels with food, collagen can only be found in the connective tissues of certain animals. Beef, pork skin, chicken skin, and fish are all excellent sources of collagen that can be found in food. One of the latest, and most popular trends in collagen supplementation is bone broth. It’s been made in homes for centuries, but it is now available in any grocery store. You can still make your own at home with little more than some bones, vegetables, and a slow cooker.
There are proponents who contend that collagen, a protein, helps with satiety which can manage your appetite and help your weight loss plan. Another theory is that collagen may help you to maintain lean body mass, and therefore help you to burn fat.
The truth is, even if there was a magic potion or supplement that could help you to lose weight without doing the tried and true things people have done for decades to do so, it likely would not be collagen. The main foundation of weight management is a healthy diet (with a consistent caloric deficit for weight loss), regular exercise, proper hydration, good sleep habits, and stress management. Weight loss should be a slow, gradual process to be both healthy and sustainable.
There have not been many studies on collagen’s impact on fullness and satiety but since it is a protein it is important to note that this abstract reports that a moderately elevated protein intake may represent an effective and practical weight loss strategy. Some of the potentially beneficial outcomes from increased protein ingestion include increased satiety, increased thermogenesis (which also influences satiety and energy expenditure), and the retention of lean muscle mass while improving the metabolic profile.
This study reports that gelatin (derived from collagen) may be able to support satiety as it is thought to stimulate glucagon like peptide 1, which promotes ghrelin and leptin management.
The additional fiber and hydration that comes with certain versions of supplementation used in research could also be contributing factors to the fullness and satiety being experienced.
Collagen protein supplements could possibly help curb your appetite due to the satiety that results from both the extra protein combined with the fullness from increased hydration and extra fiber as part of the protocol. This study demonstrates that collagen supplementation short term (after only 1 dose) can impact leptin levels; there were no changes however in the perception of hunger, desire to eat, or sensation of fullness in the participants. Leptin is a hormone related to satiety so there is potential with collagen but more research needs to be completed over longer periods of time and more participants to observe additional changes.
There is some data to support collagen protein’s impact on healthy lean muscle mass.
This 12 week study on the impact of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training (RET) combined with collagen peptide supplementation on the skeletal muscle proteome in recreationally active men concluded that the use of RET in combination with collagen peptide supplementation results in a more pronounced increase in body mass (BM), fat free mass (FFM), and muscle strength than RET alone. Evidence showed that protein supplementation following RET helps to further enhance muscle mass and strength.
This randomized controlled study of the impact of collagen peptide supplementation in conjunction with resistance training on the body composition and muscle strength of 53 older male subjects found that, when compared with placebo, collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training further improved body composition by increasing FFM, muscle strength, and the loss in fat mass (FM).
This review found an increasing body of evidence to provide a rationale for the use of collagen hydrolysate to boost joint health. They called for ongoing research to clarify how collagen hydrolysate provides its clinical effects to determine which populations are best suited for supporting joint health with this supplement. There is stronger evidence with the clinical human trials that were done with eggshell membrane and boosting joint comfort. Eggshell membrane naturally contains collagen along with hyaluronic acid which can support healthy cartilage and joint mobility.
Though collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is considered to be the primary building block of bones, muscles, skin, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues, it is mostly known for its role in the world of skin supplementation. Collagen supports skin strength and elasticity, reinforces its natural moisture barrier, helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and holds out hope for the return of soft, plump, smooth, youthful looking skin.
Collagen can also promote nail growth as this study demonstrated. Following daily oral supplementation of specific bioactive collagen peptides (BCP), increased nail growth and improved brittle nails, in conjunction with a notable decrease in the frequency of broken nails, was observed.
This randomized controlled study demonstrated that supplementation with 5g of specific collagen peptides significantly increased the bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and the femoral neck in postmenopausal women with age-related decline in bone mineral density (BMD), especially when combined with vitamin D and calcium.
There are no known side effects of collagen supplementation, though rare, some people can experience digestive distress initially.
There is no magical formula to losing weight. It is a long-range health goal that can be achieved with a healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and whole grains, all facilitating the right caloric deficit to lose 1-2 pounds per week. In addition, proper hydration, adequate sleep, and exercise are necessary. There are plenty of reasons to use collagen protein supplements, and if your ideal weight, (whether increased or decreased), comes about as a result of using them, consider it a happy coincidence. There is not enough research data to demonstrate that using collagen protein supplements as a tool to achieve weight loss will be anything more than circumstantially effective.
Care/Of has several excellent articles that could be excellent resources for you if you are considering collagen protein supplementation.
It is always a good idea to consult your physician, healthcare practitioner, or a registered dietician before beginning any supplementation regimen.