November 8, 2023

Top 6 Benefits Of Collagen Supplements

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Avanthika Nityanand

M.Sc Human Genetics, B.Sc Plant Biology & Plant Biotechnology

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Top 6 Benefits Of Collagen Supplements
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Moderate-Stronge Evidence Level for Skin, Hair & Nails

Updated on 12th March, 2024

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the most plentiful protein throughout the human body, forming a key part of connective tissues in various body parts such as tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles.

This protein is abundant and vital, offering structure to the skin and fortifying bones.

Out of the 28 identified collagen types, four stand out in prevalence:

  • Type I is ubiquitous across connective tissues.
  • Type II is integral to joints and the intervertebral discs, acting as shock absorbers for the spine.
  • Type III constitutes reticular fibers, which are essential to the skin and blood vessels.
  • Type IV plays a crucial role in the structure of the kidneys, inner ears, and lenses of the eyes.

The rise in the popularity of collagen supplements in recent years is notable. These supplements are often hydrolyzed to improve absorption, meaning the collagen proteins have been broken down into smaller pieces.

Collagen supplements are available mainly in powder form but can also be found in capsule form. They vary in composition, with some providing only a single type of collagen and others boasting a mix of up to five types.

Certain foods, like pork skin and bone broth, can boost natural collagen intake, which may increase the body's collagen levels through dietary means.

Which Foods Contain Collagen?

Gelatin, a processed protein derived from collagen, is found in foods like bone broth, offering a dietary source of collagen.

Since collagen is an integral component of animal connective tissues, various types of meat, including chicken skin, pork skin, beef, and fish, are rich in collagen.

For the body to synthesize collagen effectively, the presence of Vitamin C is essential. Therefore, incorporating Vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and bell peppers into your diet is important.

shallow focus photography of yellow lime with green leaves
Citrus fruits like orange are rich in Vitamin C. Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

The impact of consuming collagen from foods on the body's collagen levels is still under study, and it's unclear if they offer the same benefits as those claimed for collagen supplements.

In digestion, enzymes break down collagen in food into amino acids and peptides. On the other hand, the collagen in supplements is pre-digested or hydrolyzed, which is believed to allow for more efficient absorption than the collagen obtained from food sources.

Health Benefits Of Collage

Optimising Skin Health

Collagen serves as a foundational element for your skin, crucial for its strength, elasticity, and moisture. With age, the natural production of collagen decreases, which can lead to drier skin and the emergence of wrinkles.

Nonetheless, research indicates that ingesting collagen peptides or supplements infused with collagen could decelerate skin aging by mitigating wrinkles and enhancing skin hydration.

close up photography of woman laying on table
Photo by chris howard on Pexels.com

An analysis encompassing eleven studies primarily involving women showed that a daily intake of 3–10 grams of collagen over approximately 69 days resulted in noticeable improvements in skin elasticity and moisture levels.

The efficacy of these supplements may be attributed to their ability to stimulate the body's own collagen synthesis. Moreover, they may encourage the generation of other skin-structuring proteins, such as elastin and fibrillin.

While some anecdotal evidence suggests that collagen supplements can ward off acne and other skin disorders, rigorous scientific research has not substantiated these claims.

Providing Joint Relief

Collagen is vital for the health of cartilage, the flexible tissue that cushions your joints.

With advancing age, the collagen levels in the body dwindle, elevating the risk of joint degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Research indicates that collagen supplements might ameliorate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and alleviate joint discomfort.

A review study focusing on individuals with osteoarthritis demonstrated that collagen consumption significantly ameliorated joint stiffness and mitigated the symptoms associated with the condition.

The prevailing theory suggests supplemental collagen might be deposited in the cartilage, prompting tissue regeneration and collagen production. This could result in reduced inflammation, enhanced joint support, and diminished pain.

Although these findings are encouraging, medical professionals advise that more conclusive evidence is required before endorsing collagen as a definitive therapy for osteoarthritis.

Maintaining Bone Structure

Collagen forms the cornerstone of bone structure, bestowing them with rigidity and robustness.

As we age, not only does our body's collagen production decline, but our bone mass does as well, potentially leading to osteoporosis, characterized by diminished bone density and an elevated risk of fractures.

Collagen supplements have been shown to potentially slow the rate of bone loss, thereby mitigating the risk of osteoporosis.

In one year-long study, women in their post-menopausal years supplemented their diet with a concoction of calcium, vitamin D, and 5 grams of collagen. In contrast, others took just calcium and vitamin D. By the study's conclusion, the group supplementing with collagen showed markedly lower levels of proteins that signal bone degradation and a reduced bone mineral density loss rate.

Another study echoed these findings, where post-menopausal women consuming 5 grams of collagen daily for a year experienced a bone mineral density increase by up to 7%, starkly contrasting to those who did not supplement with collagen.

Bone mineral density is an indicator of bone strength and is critical in assessing the risk of osteoporosis. Despite these optimistic findings, more comprehensive human trials are needed to confirm these benefits.

Optimising Muscle Mass

Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body and plays a crucial role in the composition and function of skeletal muscles.

Emerging research points to collagen supplements as beneficial for those grappling with sarcopenia, the age-related decline in muscle mass.

In a study spanning 12 weeks, 27 aging men with sarcopenia took part in an exercise regimen while also ingesting 15 grams of collagen daily. The outcomes were promising: these men saw increased muscle mass and strength, outperforming their counterparts who exercised without collagen supplementation.

The hypothesis is that collagen supplementation might enhance the synthesis of muscle proteins like creatine and may also encourage muscle growth post-exercise.

However, it's important to note that collagen is not as potent for muscle building or strength enhancement as whey protein. This is attributed to its lower branched-chain amino acids, critical for muscle synthesis. Whey protein is a more abundant source of these essential amino acids.

The potential of collagen to augment muscle mass is still under investigation, and further research is warranted to validate these findings.

Optimising Heart Health

The potential role of collagen supplements in heart health has interested researchers.

Collagen is essential for the structural integrity of arteries, the vital blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to tissues throughout the body. Insufficient collagen can lead to diminished arterial flexibility and elasticity.

A deficiency in this protein can contribute to atherosclerosis, a condition marked by the narrowing of the arteries, which can escalate the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In a study that lasted six months, 31 healthy adults consumed 16 grams of collagen daily. By the end of the study, there was a notable decrease in arterial stiffness compared to the beginning of the study period. Moreover, participants saw an average increase of 6% in their HDL cholesterol levels, the "good" cholesterol, which is believed to protect against heart problems like atherosclerosis.

While these findings are intriguing, they underscore the need for further research to understand the relationship between collagen supplementation and cardiovascular health fully.

Side Effects of Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements are widely regarded as safe, with minimal side effects noted.

Nonetheless, it is important to be aware that certain collagen supplements are derived from allergenic sources such as fish, shellfish, and eggs, posing a risk for individuals with allergies to these foods.

While instances of nausea and bloating have been noted by some individuals consuming collagen supplements, research into these side effects has not yielded consistent results.

Additionally, there have been anecdotal accounts of collagen supplements causing digestive discomfort, including heartburn and a sensation of fullness. In general, collagen supplements are considered safe for the majority of consumers.

How Long Does It Take To See Results?

The process of collagen renewal in the body is gradual. Therefore, regardless of the intended benefits—skin enhancement or joint pain alleviation—it typically requires a minimum of eight weeks before any significant improvements are discernible.

Research assessing the impact of collagen on skin and joint health commonly spans at least eight weeks, while investigations into its effects on bone health may extend to periods up to a year.

Consequently, patience is crucial when using collagen supplements, as immediate results are unlikely.

Collagen Supplements For Vegetarians & Vegans

Collagen, unique in its amino acid profile, poses challenges for those seeking alternative sources. Vegan collagen is a possibility, crafted using genetically modified yeast and bacteria infused with human genes responsible for collagen production, enabling these microorganisms to produce collagen independently.

Further exploration is underway into certain bacteria that naturally possess proteins akin to collagen, holding potential as future sources.

To support collagen production, supplements enriched with its primary amino acids—glycine, proline, and lysine—can be found, sometimes sourced from vegan ingredients. These may be combined with vitamin C, vital for collagen synthesis, and hyaluronic acid, which aids tissue hydration.

Takeaway

Taking collagen supplements could offer a spectrum of health advantages with minimal recognized risks involved.

They may bolster muscle mass, safeguard against bone density loss, alleviate joint discomfort, and enhance skin vitality by mitigating wrinkles and dehydration.

Despite broader claims, substantial evidence supporting collagen's impact on weight management, digestive wellness, and cognitive health remains elusive.

It remains uncertain if the collagen in natural food sources confers the same health perks as that in supplement form.

Given their safety and ease of use, collagen supplements are potentially beneficial options tailored to individual health objectives.

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