The word ‘collagen’ is derived from the Greek word ‘kolla’ meaning ‘glue’ and ‘gennao’ meaning ‘I produce’ which is appropriate considering that collagen is perceived as the substance which holds the body together.
In ancient times, around 6200 BC, collagen was just used to produce glue by boiling skin, tendons, and ligaments of animals. With time, as scientific advances were made, the real purpose and importance of collagen have been established by various studies and research.
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Why Use Collagen Supplements?
Collagen is an important source of protein and exists in ample quantities in the human body as the body keeps producing it. But certain factors such as age, poor diet, smoking and exposure to UV light can cause a rapid decline in the levels of collagen especially after the age of 25.
Though collagen levels in the body cannot be measured, the body displays certain signs to indicate when collagen production may be lower. The first and most visible sign is that of the skin. Collagen is the substance that gives skin its firmness and elasticity.
Wrinkled and flaccid skin is one of the first indicators that your body has less collagen to cope with. Similarly, weak cartilages can result in disabling joint aches in the knees, again a sign of lower collagen levels. Brittle nails, inflexible tendons, weak muscles can be signs of lack of enough collagen in the body.
Collagen supplements may be required either when your body has diminished levels of collagen due to age factors or when you do not get the essential protein requirements from your daily diet. Collagen supplements are an effective way to ensure that you get more collagen presence to maintain good health as well as recover from medical conditions created by a lack of collagen.
Most collagen manufacturers use terms such as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides in their products. The term ‘peptides’ is a reference to short chains of amino acids that are made available through a process known as hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is used to break the collagen protein into its smaller components, peptides or amino acids, which are easily absorbed and used by the body.
9 Health Benefits of Collagen
Collagen is only the most abundant protein in the human body. Various studies and research support the numerous benefits collagen peptides can provide to our body through the numerous amino acid components it contains. The following are some of the known research-backed benefits of collagen.
Reduces Pain and Inflammation in Joints
Collagen supports free mobility of joints, tendons, and ligaments and provides strength to the cartilages which act as protective tissues in the joints. Depleted collagen levels due to age, hamper joint movements making them rigid and painful.
Clinical studies indicate that hydrolyzed collagen with the help of amino acids helps increase collagen synthesis, reduce inflammation and joint pain to treat osteoarthritis conditions and support joint mobility.
Collagen can support joint health, prevent pain, deterioration of cartilages and joints in people leading an active lifestyle or athletes who engage regularly in intense physical activities.
According to various studies on the effect of collagen supplements, it has been noted that “orally administered collagen hydrolysate has been shown to be absorbed intestinally and to accumulate in cartilage”. This, in turn, may stimulate the tissues to produce its own collagen. Researchers have suggested that this may lower inflammation, reduce pain and improve the functioning of people with osteoarthritis.
SUMMARY: Collagen supplements have the potential to enhance joint health by reducing inflammation and encouraging collagen synthesis. This may reduce joint aches caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis or by strenuous physical activities.
Skin Health: Wrinkle-Reducing Effects
Collagen makes up almost 75 – 80% of skin in the human body. It plays a significant role in maintaining the skin’s hydration and elasticity. As we age, our internal production of collagen reduces. The lowered levels of collagen impact the skin, allow the formation of wrinkles and result in loose skin.
Research and studies indicate that collagen peptides possess anti-aging properties to maintain skin elasticity, prevent wrinkles protect skin from damage. Though most collagen supplements are broken down into their constituents by our stomach acid, studies have found that hydrolyzed collagen gets absorbed in the gut and this is sent through the blood to our skin and joints. A 2015 UK study from MINERVA Research Labs noted that:
“Oral nutritional supplement consisting of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, and essential vitamins and minerals, leads to a significant improvement in wrinkle depth. It is also able to induce noticeable improvement in elasticity and hydration of the skin.”
Collagen supplements that help reduce wrinkles are considered beneficial to assist in producing key proteins such as elastin and fibrillin and stimulate the body’s natural production of collagen and prevent aging of the skin.
SUMMARY: Collagen supplements can support skin health and reduce wrinkles by providing required hydration and improvement in the skin’s texture. It aids elasticity by encouraging the production of other proteins that increase the skin’s resilience to promote anti-aging effects.
Promotes Better Sleep Quality
Collagen peptides have glycine as one of the primary components and this may be helpful in treating insomnia. Glycine has been found to possess sleep-promoting qualities and it works by lowering body temperature. Studies suggest that when collagen supplements are consumed before bedtime especially glycine can promote deep, quality sleep at night and reduce daytime sleepiness.
Glycine has shown capabilities in increasing serotonin, the sleep-inducing hormone to provide relief from insomnia. Serotonin can help restore regular sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep.
SUMMARY: Collagen peptides supplementation may improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia. It can help regularize sleep patterns to provide deep, restful sleep.
Improves Bone Mineral Density
Collagen gives our bones the necessary structure to keep them solid and strong. Bone mineral density (BMD) measures the amount of minerals, such as phosphorus and calcium, in our bones.
As we age, bone deterioration can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that occurs when bones lose density and become weak. Low BMD is associated with weak bones and the development of osteoporosis. This increases our risk of fractures.
Hydrolyzed collagen supplementation has been found to help in restricting bone deterioration and recover from such diseases effectively. Studies have also suggested that postmenopausal women who took supplements with both calcium and collagen were benefitted from reduced bone loss, than those who took only plain calcium.
Another study indicated that intake of certain collagen peptides showed a good 7% improvement in Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in postmenopausal women who experienced a BMD decline due to age factor. Based on bone markers, these supplements showed better bone formation and less bone deterioration.
SUMMARY: Supplements containing a combination of collagen and calcium may be effective in preventing osteoporosis. Studies have noted that certain collagen peptides may help in increasing bone density and reduce bone deterioration.
Collagen Improves Gut Health
Collagen lends support to maintain gut health. The amino acids in collagen peptides play a vital role in protecting the digestive system to maintain good gut health and a healthy intestine.
Out of the many amino acids that collagen contains, glutamine plays a significant role in protecting intestinal health. Glycine, another amino acid is shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that may protect the body from intestinal disorders.
SUMMARY: The amino acids in collagen supplements, such as glutamine and glycine, may support intestinal health and help in maintaining a healthy and strong digestive system.
May Enhance Muscle Protein Synthesis
Along with bone bass, collagen aids in maintaining muscle mass too. Since collagen comprises a notable percentage in muscle tissue, it promotes muscle growth and keeps them strong enough. With age and reduced levels of collagen, muscle weakness can set in.
Research shows that resistance training along with collagen supplementation may assist in a remarkable increase of muscle strength, lean body mass and lower fat mass in older men with Sarcopenia than those who undertook resistance training without supplements.
Additionally, the study suggested that consumption of collagen, an essential protein, post-exercise may enhance muscle protein synthesis and prevent it from breakdown.
A 2014 study from the Department of Sports Medicine and Sports Nutrition, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany investigated whether collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance exercise training (RET) influenced the protein composition of skeletal muscle. 25 young men were administered 15 grams of specific collagen peptides or a placebo daily. This was given within an hour after their training sessions.
The researchers noted that the collagen supplementation after resistance exercise training can significantly promote body mass, muscle strength, and lean mass in comparison to the placebo.
SUMMARY: Consuming collagen supplements can increase muscle protein synthesis and have a positive effect on elderly men by enhancing muscle strength and growth to prevent muscle loss that occurs with age.
May Reduce Risk of Heart Diseases
Collagen has been found to promote cardiac health. It provides a strong framework for arteries, blood vessels, and heart tissues to maintain cardiac health.
Proline, one of the important amino acids in collagen peptides prevents the narrowing of arteries that can result in a disease called atherosclerosis. The study concluded that healthy adults who took collagen supplementation for six months showed beneficial results which may help prevent the onset of atherosclerosis.
In addition, the study also indicated that collagen was able to contribute to an increase of 6% in the levels of HDL. HDL, considered the ‘good cholesterol’, contains components that may lower atherosclerosis and reduce the risk of other heart diseases.
SUMMARY: Collagen supplementation may be beneficial in raising good cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Collagen Supports Weight Loss
Collagen peptides, especially the amino acid glycine can help you lose weight effectively. Glycine plays an important role in promoting lean mass which in turn can boost fat loss and aids in muscle growth by converting glucose into usable energy.
Several studies show that glycine combined with a calorie-restricted diet can accelerate fat loss, and preserve muscle mass. Some studies suggest that collagen peptides containing glycine can prevent the progression of obesity.
Compared to whey protein, collagen hydrolysate supplements assist in maintaining nitrogen balance and preserving lean muscle mass in older women. Research suggests that collagen supplementation may help reduce weight gain and inhibit fat cell enlargement to alleviate estrogen-induced obesity in menopause.
SUMMARY: Collagen supplements can promote weight loss by increasing and preserving lean mass. They also work by reducing weight gain and inhibiting the growth of fat cells to reduce obesity.
Collagen Aids Liver Detoxification
Collagen supplements which contain glycine help in detoxing the liver. The liver is the main organ that processes the toxins for removal from the body. Glycine aids in the synthesis of glutathione an antioxidant. Antioxidants are vital in the human body as they protect cells from damage.
Studies also show that glycine can protect from alcohol-induced high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides that can lead to a weak liver or result in conditions such as a fatty liver. Glycine supports the liver in the process of removing toxins and helps in faster recovery.
SUMMARY: Collagen supplements may support the detoxification of alcoholic substances from the liver to maintain good lipid levels and prevent the onset of fatty liver disease.
5 Things to Consider When Buying a Collagen Supplement
While numerous supplements are claiming to provide collagen benefits, it is important to understand what to look for while choosing a collagen supplement to attain maximum benefits. Listed below are some guidelines that can be followed to help choose the right collagen supplement for one’s needs.
Identify your Purpose
The first thing that one should keep in mind while looking for a collagen supplement is the reason why you need a supplement. Identifying the reasons such as wrinkled skin or joint pain will help you decide what type of collagen supplement and from which food source would best serve the purpose.
While there are many collagen supplements, it is always best to see the reputation of a brand based on certain factors. Focus on manufacturers who get their collagen ingredients from clean, ethical and reliable sources.
Check for adherence to cGMP regulations in manufacturing and third-party certification by trusted groups such as NSF, UL or USP. One should also look for what the brand does regarding heavy metals, allergens, and other artificial substances.
Forms of Collagen
Collagen is available as capsules, tablets or powders. Feasibility in consuming a supplement should be taken into account. While capsules may be portable and have no after-taste, powders have the potential to be added into regular food such as beverages, semi-liquids, savory dishes and baked goods for convenience.
But be sure you go with unflavored versions. Flavored versions may change the quality of the food or liquid you add into and besides they may contain added sugars that are not desirable.
Check where the collagen is sourced from, before buying a supplement. Pure collagen should be obtained from antibiotic-free, hormone-free, free-range poultry, grass-fed bovine, wild-caught fishes to make it premium quality.
Another important aspect is that it should contain hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides.
Apart from the food sources, the addition of certain added ingredients makes a supplement more potent and effective in serving the purpose. Vitamin C is proven vital for natural collagen synthesis. So look for supplements with added vitamin C content for better collagen absorption.
Another important constituent is hyaluronic acid. According to studies, collagen, hyaluronic acid along with zinc and copper can provide extra benefits for skin hydration and help in reducing wrinkled skin.
Though the best way to add collagen is through a good, nutritious diet, there is no risk in adding a collagen supplement for a few months or so. Using the above as general markers, you can try a supplement if you need one.
Summary: Your choice of supplement should be based on your purpose for it, whether it’s for ageing skin issues or joint health. Consider the collagen source used by the manufacturer, the active ingredients used in the collagen supplement such as absorption enhancers and additional ingredients such as hyaluronic acid for reducing wrinkles.
The Recommended Dosage of Collagen
Collagen supplements are available in two different forms, hydrolyzed collagen, and undenatured type II collagen. While some benefits may be common to both forms, they widely differ in dosage and way of consumption.
The hydrolyzed collagen available as powders has no natural flavor and hence is easy to mix and use in liquids or food preparations. Manufacturers usually recommend dissolving it in room temperature water, warm liquids for consumption. Direct mixing in very cold juices, shakes or other liquid is not advisable as it can form lumps.
Hydrolyzed collagen is restricted to around 10g a day to promote healthy skin. Studies suggest that intake of 10-12g of hydrolyzed collagen may provide effective pain relief in bone and joint-related disorders. It can be taken anytime of the day and with meals. Undenatured collagen is recommended at lower doses of around 40mg once a day for relief from rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. It is ideally taken on an empty stomach before morning breakfast.
Collagen supplements are available as dermal applications as well. Skin cream with synthetic collagen may sometimes be effective but more for hydration and preventing water loss due to sun exposure.
A collagen supplement can only provide additional dietary support and is not meant to replace proteins you get naturally from your diet. Such supplements must be taken as part of your diet along with a balance of healthy foods. Make sure to increase your intake of natural protein-rich foods to get more collagen.
Summary: For healthy skin. hydrolyzed collagen intake of around 10g a day is advised while 10-12g of hydrolyzed collagen may offer pain relief in joint-related disorders. Fro rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, doses of around 40mg/day of undenatured collagen is recommended.
The Side Effects of Collagen Supplements
Collagen supplements are generally considered safe to use. Ideally, one should consult a physician before starting on any kind of dietary supplement, especially if you are using any medications. Collagen supplements are made out of chicken, beef, fish and eggs, all of which can trigger allergies. People who are allergic to any of these sources or sulfites should avoid supplements with that ingredient.
Bone broths, though an effective source of collagen, may not be advisable for those who have kidney disease or for people who are on dialysis, due to the presence of high amounts of sodium and potassium in the broth.
Side-effects from collagen supplements are minimal and can manifest in some people as heartburn, diarrhea, feelings of fullness and mild rashes on the skin. Consuming collagen in powder form can sometimes leave an undesirable taste in the mouth. Other than the above-mentioned minor issues, collagen supplements have no other significant risks and are usually proven safe and effective for adults.
Summary: Collagen supplements are generally safe for consumption, unless you are allergic to any of the ingredients used in the supplement. Please do consult a doctor if you are under any medical treatment or taking other medicines.
The Final Note
Collagen supplements are getting quite popular owing to the multiple benefits they offer, especially for people who are getting older. Collagen supplements do provide the support required to produce collagen when there is an insufficient intake of protein foods.
Besides, they are absorbed much faster and proved efficient, when taken in hydrolyzed form. But remember your body is continuously engaged in producing collagen on its own. So you will always benefit from modifying or increasing your intake of protein-rich foods that can provide the necessary nutrients for your body to manufacture collagen naturally.
A good branded collagen supplement that is ethically obtained from qualified sources with zero contaminants and available in the form of easily absorbable peptides offers you many beneficial results for your health, over time.