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Benefits of Taking Collagen: Fact & Fiction

Recent headlines remind us that Jenn Anniston and TV personality Emma Willis use collagen supplements as part of their beauty regimen. And if you do your research, you’ll see that Kelly Ripa, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian, and Kate Hudson also talk about the benefits of taking collagen.

These are gorgeous ladies who seem to defy the normal processes of aging. Should we take that to mean collagen supplements fulfill the marketing claims? As a reminder, those claims include more youthful skin, thicker hair, stronger bones, and more flexible joints.  

Read on to learn what the research says about the benefits of collagen and the rationale for taking collagen supplements. Ultimately, you and your physician should decide if collagen is an appropriate regimen. But this post should give you the background you need to engage with your health professional and ask the right questions.

Woman drinks supplement with text overlay that reads, the benefits of taking collagen, fact and fiction.
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In brief: Research on the benefits of taking collagen

Some studies have shown collagen supplements to deliver anti-aging benefits:

  • A 2013 study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology linked collagen supplementation to higher skin elasticity.
  • A 2018 study concludes that oral intake of collagen peptide may improve skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling.
  • A medical research review published in 20016 in Current Medical Research and Opinion finds that collagen hydrolysate taken orally can accumulate in cartilage. This may help treat degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis.

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While these studies somewhat support the benefits of collagen, more research is needed. Unanswered questions about oral collagen supplements include:

  • Among the studies that support collagen’s anti-aging benefits, were those benefits the result of the collagen or some other ingredient in the supplement?
  • Which collagen types are best for cosmetic improvements?
  • How efficiently can the body convert consumed collagen into collagen in the skin?
  • How does oral collagen compare to topical treatments that contain collagen or improve the skin’s collagen production?

Despite the unknowns about collagen supplements, there are many companies producing and marketing these youth-promising pills. Why? Because collagen is an important protein in the body and researchers know that collagen production declines as we age.

What we do know: Collagen’s role in the body

Collagen is a structural protein in the human body. As Payal Patel describes, collagen is a building block for bones, tendons, cartilage and hair, skin, and nails. It provides strength and support throughout the body by protecting softer tissues and connecting them to the skeleton.  

The important aspects of collagen include:

1. Structure

Collagen is a fibrous protein made of long chains of amino acids. These amino acids are essential for maintaining the integrity and strength of various bodily tissues.

2. Skin health

Collagen contributes to healthy skin by providing elasticity and hydration. As we age, collagen production naturally decreases, which can lead to wrinkles and sagging skin.

3. Bone strength

Collagen is a key component of bone tissue. It gives bones flexibility and strength, making them resilient to fractures and injuries.

4. Joint function

In joints, collagen acts as a cushion, preventing bones from rubbing against each other. This cushioning effect is vital for joint flexibility and mobility.

Collagen production and resilience

The body produces collagen on its own, but several factors can affect its production. These include age, diet, and lifestyle.

1. Age

As mentioned, collagen production declines with age. Lower collagen in the skin is associated with visible signs of aging.   

2. Diet

The body uses other nutrients to manufacture collagen. A healthy diet rich in vitamin C, zinc and amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, can support the body’s natural collagen production.

3. Lifestyle

Smoking, excessive sun exposure, and poor dietary choices can accelerate collagen breakdown.

Consuming collagen

You can consume collagen in two ways, through your diet or with a beauty supplement. Foods that are high in collagen include tough cuts of red meat like brisket and chuck roast, bone broth, and gelatin. Unfortunately, it’s generally not recommended to consume a lot of red meat.

For most people, collagen supplements are an easier, healthier approach. They’re available in powders, capsules, and liquid.

Questions to ask before starting a collagen regimen

Don’t jump into any dietary or beauty regimen change lightly. Do your homework and ask these questions:

  1. What does my doctor or derm think? Before making any change to your diet or beauty regimen, check with your physician or dermatologist.
  2. What type of collagen is it? There are many types of collagen, but Types 1 and 3 are most recommended for skin health. As an example, see Kissed Earth collagen products.
  3. What else is in the supplement? Read that label. Extra ingredients like vitamin C may be helpful, but too many added components may only raise the price.
  4. Where does the collagen come from? Collagen can come from cows, chicken, or marine life. If you’re buying cow (bovine) collagen, make sure it’s grass-fed and pasture-raised.  

Collagen supplements for good health

Collagen is a protein that plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s structural integrity. It contributes to skin health, bone strength, and joint function, among other things.

While there is some scientific support for the benefits of taking oral collagen supplements, more research on efficacy is needed. If you decide to give collagen supplements a try, combine it with a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices to see the best results.

Collagen supplement FAQs

Can collagen supplements reverse the signs of aging?

Collagen supplements may help improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles, but they cannot reverse the aging process.

Are there any side effects of collagen supplements?

Collagen supplements are generally safe, but some people may experience digestive issues or allergies. Talk to your healthcare professional before starting any new supplement.

How can I naturally boost collagen production in my body?

You can promote natural collagen production by eating foods rich in vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants. A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and sun protection may also help preserve natural collagen levels.

Are collagen supplements suitable for vegetarians and vegans?

Most collagen supplements are derived from animal sources, so those are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans. You can find plant-based alternatives, however. Search for vegan collagen supplements.

Can collagen improve joint pain?

Collagen supplements may help reduce joint pain and improve joint function in some people, especially those with conditions like osteoarthritis. Results can vary, though. Your healthcare provider should oversee your supplement regimen.