Collagen is a special type of protein that is abundant in connective tissues, such as skin, ligaments, bone, cartilage, and tendons. Collagen is the main structural component of bone, cartilage, and other connective tissue in the body. It provides strength and elasticity to the tissues and gives skin its structure.
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body, found mainly in your skin, bones, tendons, joint capsules, and other connective tissues. As well as being found in the bodies of all humans, it is also found in animals, plants, and fungi.
Collagen is a natural elastin like protein found in many areas of our body. It is the main protein that makes up the skin, the ligaments in our joints, scar tissue in wounds, and our bones. It also makes up a lot of the tissues of the digestive system, and plays a part in the development and growth of embryos. Collagen is also used as a natural building block in the formation of the blood vessels, cartilage, tendons, tissues and organs.
Helen Kollias, PhD, reviewed the manuscript.
Should you take collagen? | What exactly is collagen? | Collagen vs. gelatin | Joint pain | Skin health | Hair growth | Protein content | Gut health | Pregnancy and postpartum |
Thousands of individuals pour white powder into their coffee or tea every morning.
Collagen is the white powder, and it’s having a moment.
Many individuals take it because of claims that it may enhance skin, hair, joint, bone, and gut health (perhaps you or your clients). It’s also the “cleanest” and “most absorbable” protein source available. (At least, that’s what collagen supplement manufacturers claim.)
Do collagen supplements, on the other hand, really work?
We’ll discover out in this article.
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What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein present in the skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body. Collagen production decreases as we become older. (Greetings, wrinkles and aching joints.)
Kinds I, II, and III make up 80 to 90 percent of the collagen in our bodies, despite the fact that there are at least 16 distinct types of collagen. 1
What is the origin of collagen?
Collagen supplements are typically made from cow hide (bovine collagen) or fish collagen (fish collagen) (marine collagen). These are usually in the form of a flavorless powder that dissolves in water. They may also be taken as a tablet or a drink.
Collagen is also present in foods. Bone broth, specific pieces of beef and poultry, and fish (particularly the skin) are all excellent sources of collagen.
Some companies advertise collagen products that are vegan or vegetarian, however these goods do not include collagen. Instead, they include minerals like vitamin C that may help with collagen synthesis.
What’s the difference between hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, and gelatin?
The first comparison is straightforward: hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides are identical.
The term “hydrolyzed” simply refers to the process of breaking down protein chains into shorter chains, or peptides, using heat, enzymes, or acid.
Hydrolyzed proteins, or shorter peptides, are said to be simpler to absorb than longer-chain proteins. However, evidence, especially in the case of collagen, contradicts this hypothesis. 2
Cooked collagen is known as gelatin. At high temperatures, it is liquid, and at low temperatures, it gels. (Think of gelatin-based products like Jell-O.)
Collagen and gelatin are almost identical in terms of nutrition. What’s the major distinction? Gelatin is a lot less expensive. (I’ll get to it later.) In fact, most of the evidence for collagen’s potential benefits—such as collagen regeneration in muscles and tendons3,4—comes from gelatin studies.
The genuine advantages of collagen supplements
Here’s what we know about collagen supplements thus far.
Collagen may help with joint discomfort.
This is one of the most well-studied of all the collagen’s buzzed-about advantages. (Hey, we’d want to play tennis without hurting our knees!)
When taken with vitamin C, type II collagen may help to maintain joint health, according to some studies. 3 The vitamin C portion is crucial because the body need vitamin C to produce collagen.
However, studies and meta-analyses have shown little evidence that collagen supplementation helps individuals with joint problems such as osteoarthritis and tendinopathy (tendon disintegration). 5,6
One frequent argument is that since collagen is derived from bone and cartilage, it should include all of the nutrients required to repair these bodily components. However, most of the amino acids in collagen are either ones that we can manufacture ourselves (such glycine, proline, and alanine) or ones that our bodies don’t utilize effectively (like hydroxyproline). 7
Bottom line: Some study suggests that taking collagen with vitamin C may assist with joint issues, but the data is mixed.
Advertising has no effect on your body.
Many collagen supplements are sold to address particular issues such as wrinkles or joint discomfort.
And it would seem logical that if your skin or joints are deficient in collagen, you could just supplement with collagen to make up for it, right?
However, just because you consume more collagen doesn’t mean you’ll get more collagen wherever you want it.
Rather, your body decides where the amino acids from collagen (or any other protein source) go.
Amino acids are more likely to be utilized to make enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters—as well as to develop and maintain lean tissue—than to smooth out wrinkles.
Just because a collagen brand claims to be good for skin or painful knees doesn’t guarantee your body will utilize it that way.
Collagen is good for your skin.
Collagen is the protein that gives our skin its plumpness and elasticity. Collagen and collagen-boosting compounds are popular in skincare products because of this. Collagen supplements, meanwhile, claim to improve skin suppleness and fight wrinkles “from the inside out.”
While collagen has the potential to enhance skin, there isn’t enough data to support this claim.
Collagen may promote the synthesis of hyaluronic acid in the skin, which keeps it hydrated and plump. 8,9 Collagen supplements did improve skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density, according to one study. 10
Collagen supplements, on the other hand, offer nothing to decrease collagenase, an enzyme that we all make and that gradually destroys our collagen reserves. As a result, the benefits of collagen supplements can only be sustained if you continue to use them forever.
Furthermore, many of the collagen studies for skin health (as well as other areas of health) have been sponsored and conducted by the businesses who developed the goods. Industry-funded research isn’t necessarily skewed, but it’s a possibility.
Last but not least, there are more dependable methods to boost collagen synthesis and keep your skin’s collagen reserves healthy:
- Vitamin C 11, retinol/retinoid acid12,13, glycolic acid, and/or hyaluronic acid14 are all included in skincare products.
- Putting on sunscreen15
In the end, further study is required, although collagen supplements may (at the very least) assist with skin health.
Hair growth with collagen
Some of the amino acids required for the production of keratin, a protein found in hair, are present in collagen.
However, there is presently no proof that supplementing with collagen would help your hair grow quicker, thicker, or promote hair regeneration.
Bottom line: If you want your hair to grow, don’t depend on collagen.
Collagen as a source of protein
Collagen is not an optimal protein source, despite its claims of being “better” and “very absorbable.” In fact, until recently, it was regarded as a “junk” protein that wasn’t utilized for very much.
There are many causes for this.
Collagen is an imperfect protein, for starters.
That is to say, it lacks all nine necessary amino acids (EAAs). 7.16.6 (Collagen is missing tryptophan, as shown in the graphic below.) Because your body cannot produce EAAs, it must get them from diet.
Incomplete proteins have a role in a balanced diet, but owing to its low-quality status, collagen is just not worth the money.
Collagen is deficient in tryptophan and contains less EAAs than whey.
Reason #2: Other EAAs are deficient in collagen.
As a result, collagen still ranks low in terms of quality when compared to other proteins like whey, casein, or soy, even when tryptophan is added.
(Read our guide to finding the best protein powder for you to learn more about protein quality and why it matters.)
Collagen isn’t the greatest choice for improving exercise recovery, muscle growth, or muscle retention. 17 Collagen lacks the amino acid leucine, which is required for muscle protein synthesis. 18 (Read more about leucine in our BCAAs article.)
In conclusion, collagen is not the highest-quality protein supplement available.
Collagen is beneficial to intestinal health.
Collagen contains the amino acids glycine and proline, as well as a small amount of glutamine. These amino acids, according to some, have the ability to repair the gut lining and improve digestive health, especially in individuals who have “leaky gut.”
While intestinal permeability is linked to a number of digestive disorders, it has no obvious symptoms.
While some studies suggests that glutamine and glycine may be beneficial to gut health, further proof is needed. 19
(For additional information on how to enhance gut health, see this complete probiotics website.)
Bottom line: Collagen supplementation is unlikely to enhance intestinal health.
Collagen and postnatal recovery during pregnancy
Collagen contains a lot of glycine, which is a non-essential amino acid (your body can make it).
However, recent study suggests that in the latter stages of pregnancy (35+ weeks), it may be conditionally necessary, meaning you may need to supplement with food. This is because the dietary requirement for forming a baby’s collagen reserves has risen. 20
As a result, several prenatal nutrition experts recommend taking collagen supplements throughout pregnancy, particularly in the latter stages.
While this isn’t a terrible suggestion, it isn’t required if your diet contains enough complete proteins. (In late pregnancy, 1.52 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is required each day.) 21) Glycine may be found in abundance in whole-food proteins such as meat, fish, protein powders, and dairy.
(The only exception is vegans, who may not get enough glycine from whole foods in late pregnancy.) Collagen, on the other hand, isn’t a vegan choice.)
On a similar topic, several women claim that using collagen supplements helped them heal and recuperate after giving birth. There is no proof that taking collagen supplements is better than eating a protein-rich diet. Collagen, on the other hand, is safe for new mothers, so if this is an option that appeals to you, go for it!
Bottom line: Collagen may be beneficial to pregnant or postpartum women, but there is no substitute for a well-balanced, protein-rich diet.
Is it necessary to use collagen supplements?
In the end, it’s up to you.
Here’s a brief rundown of the possible advantages and their proof quality:
Collagen supplements may assist with joint and skin health to a limited extent, but they are unlikely to help with anything else.
Here are a few more things to think about before making your choice.
The quality of supplements varies.
Heavy metal contamination of collagen is a source of worry. So, to guarantee purity and quality, seek for alternatives that have been evaluated by a third party. (For further information, see the “purity and quality” portion of our protein powders page.)
Gelatin is a safe and inexpensive substitute.
Not only is gelatin less expensive, but it may also be safer. This is because, in most nations, food production rules are considerably tighter than supplement manufacturing restrictions.
Also, keep in mind that the majority of the studies that supports collagen supplementation was done using gelatin.
Get adequate protein and vitamin C in your diet.
If you’re not already doing these two things, it’s probably not worth it to spend money on collagen.
Aim for approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day as a minimum (0.36 grams per pound). Many individuals, though, may benefit from more:
- Adults over the age of 65 should consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (0.55 to 0.91 grams per pound)
- 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for athletes and active individuals (0.55 to 1.0 grams per pound)
- People who wish to lose weight or alter their body composition: Every day, 1.6 to 3.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (0.75 to 1.5 grams per pound)
Adult females need 75 mg of vitamin C per day, whereas adult men require 90 mg. Supplementing with up to 2,000 mg per day is safe. 22
You don’t need to megadose to activate collagen, according to study on collagen and vitamin C, which utilized 48 mg of supplementary vitamin C. Vitamin C alone has also been proven to enhance collagen production. 23 This is very cool!
More collagen isn’t always a good thing.
It’s possible to have too much of anything: exercise, sleep, or water.
Taking additional collagen doesn’t make sense since the advantages of collagen are limited. (If you decide to take collagen or gelatin, 10-15 grams per day should enough, since this is the amount examined in most joint and tendon studies.)
Collagen is a low-quality protein that should not be substituted for other sources of protein in your diet. That’s when we risk crossing the line from “can’t hurt, may help” to “potentially dangerous.”
We now lack studies comparing collagen to higher-quality protein sources like beef and whey, which would help us determine if collagen is really “unique.”
To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.
Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Lodish H, Berk A, Lawrence Zipursky S, Matsudaira P, Baltimore D, Darnell J. Freeman, W. H., 2000.
2. Alcock, R. D., Shaw, G. C., Tee, N., and Burke, L. M. Plasma Amino Acid Concentrations in Healthy Active Males After Ingestion of Dairy and Collagen Proteins 6:163 in Front Nutr. 2019 Oct 15;6:163 in Front Nutr.
3. G. Shaw, A. Lee-Barthel, M. L. Ross, B. Wang, and K. Baar. Collagen production is boosted by vitamin C-enriched gelatin intake before intermittent exercise. 2017 Jan;105(1):136–43. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):136–43.
4. Lis, D.M., and Baar, K. Collagen Synthesis Effects of Different Vitamin C-Enriched Collagen Derivatives International Journal of Sport Nutrition, Exercise, and Metabolism. 2019 Sep 1;29(5):526–31.
5. Liu X, Machado GC, Eyles JP, Ravi V, Hunter DJ; Liu X, Machado GC, Eyles JP, Ravi V, Hunter DJ; Liu X, Machad A comprehensive review and meta-analysis of dietary supplements for the treatment of osteoarthritis. The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a paper in February 2018 with the following title: 52(3):167–75.
6. Fusini, Fusini, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchia, Bisicchi A comprehensive evaluation of nutraceutical supplements in the treatment of tendinopathies. 2016 Jan;6(1):48–57 in Muscles Ligaments Tendons J.
Current Concepts and Unresolved Questions in Dietary Protein Requirements and Supplements in Adults, by SM Phillips. 2017 May 8;4:13. Front Nutr.
Shigemura Y, Iwai K, Morimatsu F, Iwamoto T, Mori T, Oda C, et al. 8. Shigemura Y, Iwai K, Morimatsu F, Iwamoto T, Mori T, Oda C, et al. The effect of Prolyl-hydroxyproline (Pro-Hyp), a food-derived collagen peptide in human blood, on the development of mouse skin fibroblasts. 2009 Jan 28;57(2):444–9. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Jan 28;57(2):444–9.
9. H. Ohara, H. Iida, K. Ito, Y. Takeuchi, and Y. Nomura. In vitro cultivated synovium cells and oral consumption of collagen hydrolysates in a guinea pig model of osteoarthritis were used to study the effects of Pro-Hyp, a collagen hydrolysate-derived peptide, on hyaluronic acid production. Biotechnol Biochem. 2010 Oct 7;74(10):2096–9. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010 Oct 7;74(10):2096–9.
FD Choi, CT Sung, MLW Juhasz, NA Mesinkovsk A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications of Oral Collagen Supplementation 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9–16 in J Drugs Dermatol.
Vitamin C in dermatology, 11. Telang PS. 4(2):143–6 in Indian Dermatol Online J, April 2013.
The mechanism of action of topical retinoids, Kang S. Cutis, 75(2 Suppl):10–3 in 2005; discussion 13.
Topical retinoic acid improves the healing of ultraviolet-damaged dermal connective tissue, according to LH Kligman, CH Duo, and AM Kligman. Connect Tissue Res., vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 139–50, 1984.
J. W. Shin, S. H. Kwon, J. Y. Choi, J. I. Na, C. H. Huh, H. R. Choi, et al. Antiaging Approaches and Molecular Mechanisms of Dermal Aging International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2019 Apr 29;20(4). (9).
15. SNA Bukhari, NL Roswandi, M Waqas, H Habib, F Hussain, S Khan, et al. A review of current updates and pre-clinical and clinical studies on aesthetic and nutricosmetic benefits of hyaluronic acid, a potential skin rejuvenating biomedicine. 2018 Dec;120(Pt B):1682–95 in International Journal of Biomolecular Macromolecular Macromolecular Macromolecular Macromolecular Macromolecular Macromolecular Macromol
The amino acid content of mammalian collagen and gelatin, Eastoe JE. Biochem J., vol. 61, no. 4, 1955, pp. 589–600.
17. SY Oikawa, M.J. Kamal, E.K. Webb, C. McGlory, S.K. Baker, and S.M. Phillips. A randomized controlled study found that whey protein, but not collagen peptides, stimulates acute and long-term muscle protein synthesis in healthy older women with and without resistance exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Mar 1;111(3):708–18. Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Mar 1;111(3):708–18.
18. R.D. Alcock, G.C. Shaw, N.T. Tee, and L.M. Burke. Plasma Amino Acid Concentrations in Healthy Active Males After Ingestion of Dairy and Collagen Proteins 6:163 in Front Nutr. 2019 Oct 15;6:163 in Front Nutr.
Perspective: Prospects for Nutraceutical Support of Intestinal Barrier Function, McCarty MF, Lerner A. 2023 Mar 31;12(2):316–24 in Adv Nutr.
Rasmussen, B.F., Ennis, M.A., Dyer, R.A., Lim, K., and Elango, R. In the late stages of human pregnancy, a dispensable amino acid called glycine becomes conditionally essential. 151(2):361–9. J Nutr. 2023 Feb 1;151(2):361–9.
Protein and Amino Acid Requirements During Pregnancy, Elango R, Ball RO. 2016 Jul;7(4):839S–44S in Adv Nutr.
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The claim that collagen can help in weight loss and other health problems has been around since the 1960s. Today, collagen supplements are used by a growing number of people to improve their appearance, boost their energy levels and reduce joint pain. Can taking supplements that contain collagen help in losing weight and keeping it off? Listento Mind’s article aims to answer this question.. Read more about collagen pills and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is collagen scientifically proven?
Collagen is a protein that is found in the body. It has been proven to have many benefits, including improving skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles.
Does collagen do anything?
Collagen is a protein that helps to build and maintain the structure of your skin. It also helps with wound healing, bone growth, and muscle repair.
What are the negative effects of taking collagen?
Collagen is a protein that is found in the body and has many different functions. It helps with blood clotting, wound healing, bone growth, and skin elasticity. The negative effects of taking collagen are not well known at this time.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- collagen supplements benefits
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