With so many supplements on the market today, it can be hard to make choices concerning your health and well-being. One supplement that has had a meteoric rise in popularity is collagen.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most plentiful protein in your body, the major component of connective tissues in tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles. Collagen supports healthy skin structure and keeps bones strong. Collagen may have many health benefits, most notably improving skin health and relieving joint pain.
Collagen may be taken as a supplement in pill form or hydrolyzed powdered collagen peptides, which is readily absorbed by the body. Collagen is also found naturally in some foods such as pork and chicken skins, fish, beef, and bone broth.
Below are the top benefits of collagen supplements.
Collagen Can Improve Skin
Collagen is one of the major proponents of skin, and unfortunately, we lose it as we age, which leads to dry skin and wrinkles. Collagen strengthens skin and provides elasticity as well as hydration, which is what gives skin its youthful appearance.
Several studies have shown, however, that collagen peptides or collagen supplements may help slow skin aging, as it reduces dryness and wrinkles.
In one study, women who took up to five grams of collagen (in pill form) for eight weeks saw an increase in elasticity compared to the control group who did not take the supplement.
In another study, women who took a hydrolyzed form of collagen (mixed with a drink) daily for twelve weeks saw a significant increase in skin moisture and a reduction of deep wrinkles.
How does this work? Taking collagen supplements helps stimulate your body to produce more on its own, as well as increasing the production of proteins that help with skin elasticity.
Helps Relieve Joint Pain
Collagen is what helps maintain cartilage, which is the tissue that protects your joints. As you age, the decrease in collagen also affects cartilage, making you more susceptible to joint diseases like osteoporosis.
One study has shown that adults who took two grams of collagen for seventy days had a noticeable reduction in joint pain, and were better able to exercise and remain active than those who did not take it.
In addition to collagen, physical activity is also important for joint health. Gentle exercise such as biking, walking, swimming, and yoga are especially beneficial. Want to stay active at work? Try a desk bike like this one from Flexispot.
Doctors believe that supplementing with collagen allows the body to produce its own, thereby helping to “store” it in the cartilage, which reduces joint pain.
The recommended dose for alleviating joint pain is eight to twelve grams a day.
Supports Heart Health
One surprising benefit of taking collagen is it may support heart health.
Collagen is what provides the structure for your arteries. A decrease in collagen means arteries might become weak, which leads to atherosclerosis, a dangerous narrowing of the arteries which leads to strokes and heart attacks.
In one study, adults took sixteen grams of collagen daily for six months. Patients had a significant reduction in artery stiffness at the end of the trial, compared to the beginning of the study.
This same group also had an extra benefit of seeing a six percent increase in HDL, or the “good” cholesterol, which helps support a healthy heart.
May Help Slow Bone Loss
Collagen is what keeps your bones strong, as bones are mostly made up of collagen. As we age, collagen and bone mass both decreases, leading to osteoporosis.
In one study, women taking calcium along with five grams of collagen supplements had lower levels of the proteins that break down bone, which was a significant increase compared to women who take calcium alone. The same results were found in women who only took five grams of collagen with no calcium supplementation.
May Boost Muscle Mass
Up to ten percent of your muscles are made of collagen. Some studies suggest collagen supplementation may help loss of muscle mass as we age.
Men with frail bones took fifteen grams of collagen and followed a workout program for twelve weeks in one study. At the end of the study, the men who took the collagen supplements experienced many more gains in muscle mass than the control group who did not take collagen.
Collagen may help muscle strength by helping your body create strengthening proteins like creatine.
Other Health Benefits
There are some other benefits of collagen supplementation, but these have not been studied in depth. However, these other benefits may include:
- Gut health: Collagen may help with leaky gut syndrome, a state of permeability of the intestinal wall, which “leaks” bacteria and toxins into the body, causing many health issues, such as celiac disease, IBS, and Chrone’s Disease, to name a few.
- Hair and nails: Collagen has been a popular supplement for people looking to increase the health of their hair and nails, and may increase hair and nail growth.
- Weight loss: Some people believe collagen helps promote a faster metabolism, increasing weight loss, but there have been no studies to support this claim.
- Brain health: Some promote collagen as a mood stabilizer and anxiety reducer, but again, no studies support this claim.
Is Collagen Right For You?
Collagen seems to have many health benefits that are backed by science. Doing research and speaking with your doctor will help you decide if collagen supplementation is right for you.