Whether at the gym or by the office coffee maker, you’ve likely come across someone using collagen products or have at least heard about the health trend. If so, you may be wondering if there’s any science to back the rising popularity of taking collagen supplements. If you’re considering giving collagen a try or are just curious, read on to better understand what collagen supplements can—and can’t—do for you.
What Is Collagen and Where Does it Come From?
Collagen is a protein found in abundance in the human body. It’s a core component of skin, bone, ligaments, tendons, muscle, and other tissues around the body. While the body produces the protein naturally, production slows with age, and certain behaviors, such as smoking, can damage your existing collagen.
Collagen supplements and collage-rich products come in many forms. You’ll find topical products with added collagen, like lotions, serums, creams, and face masks, as well as consumable collagen forms like capsules and powder. Hydrolyzed collagen, also known as collagen peptides, is perhaps the most popular collagen product. The substance dissolves in hot and cold liquids and doesn’t change the texture or taste of whatever you add it to, making it very versatile.
What Does Collagen Depletion Look Like?
Collagen’s natural effect on the body is a key part of how humans stay healthy and youthful. When collagen production decreases, the most apparent effects are typically seen in the skin, hair, and nails. Without sufficient collagen, they all can become dry and brittle.
Some of the benefits of collagen are more critical to long-term health. For example, collagen is essential for healing, and someone with a collagen deficiency will see minor cuts and wounds take longer to heal. Lacking collagen can also affect the healing process for sprains, torn ligaments, and broken bones. This is one of the reasons why injuries take longer to heal in older individuals.
Proven Collagen Benefits
If you take collagen supplements, these are some of the changes that you may see happen. All of these benefit claims have support from third-party or medical research.
- Improvements to Skin Appearance– Because collagen gives structure to skin, it makes sense that increasing collagen intake might improve the overall health of your skin. A handful of studies support this idea; for example, 2015 clinical trials showed that collagen supplements could improve skin hydration and reduce some of the physical hallmarks of aging skin.
- A Healthier Heart– Collagen is present in muscles, and that includes the heart. But it may have a more significant impact on the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Open-label trials indicated that collagen tripeptide (CTP) does assist in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis, plaque buildup in arteries.
- Joint Pain Relief– Collagen protein assists in the production of cartilage, which covers joints and allows them to move smoothly. Though more research needs to be done to investigate the connection between supplementing collagen and joint health, studies have shown that consuming collagen may help those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis manage pain and stiffness.
- Better Bone Health– As people age, their bones begin to decrease in density, leaving them more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Preliminary research suggests that collagen could be a therapeutic agent for treating osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Additional Collagen Claims
Collagen provides structure to tissue across the body and plays a pivotal role in several bodily systems, so it seems logical that increasing collagen intake would have diverse health benefits. However, the jury’s still out on some of the claims made by health and wellness bloggers, influencers, and celebrities.
For example, the widespread use of topical collagen products to improve skin health has limited scientific rationale, as the collagen in skin care products like lotions and creams can’t penetrate the dermis. Furthermore, the claims that taking collagen can help burn fat and lose weight lack evidence.
A Natural Boost for Your Body
While not every claim made about collagen supplements is accurate, the evidence is clear—these supplements have many potential health benefits and limited side effects. If you want to give collagen supplements a try, proceed with caution and be sure to research the manufacturer or brand before buying. Look for brands that use carefully-sourced ingredients, and opt for hydrolyzed collagen for its bioavailability.