Collagen supplements have been pretty buzzy over the last few years. being credited with helping with joints, wrinkles, hair growth, gut health, and more. From collagen supplements to bone broth, beauty gurus and nutritionists alike are touting its benefits for skin, hair, nails, and joints.
Here’s the science behind how collagen works, how best to use it, and foods and supplements that contain collagen.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up a large portion of your body’s total protein content. It's found mainly in connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin, and bones—so it's literally holding your body together. Collagen provides structural support to these tissues and helps keep them strong.
Collagen is also a major component of cartilage, which gives joints their flexibility. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen naturally, which can lead to reduced elasticity of the skin, joint pain and other age-related issues.
Potential Benefits of Collagen
Collagen has recently been hyped as a miracle supplement, and people claim it has head-to-toe benefits. There is some evidence that collagen may help:
- Increase strength and recovery
- Reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin elasticity
- Maintain hair growth
More research is needed to fully understand the benefits of collagen.
Sources of Collagen
Collagen can be found naturally in food sources such as fish and meats—especially in the skin, bones, and tendons.
Additionally, there are many collagen supplements available on the market that contain hydrolyzed collagen peptides or specific types of amino acids that comprise collagen. However, it is important to read labels carefully as some products may not include all the necessary building blocks for healthy collagen production.
What is collagen made of?
Collagen is made up of amino acids, specifically glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.
When you digest collagen supplements, your body breaks it down into these three amino acids and then reassembles it into proteins that your body can use. Vitamin C is involved in collagen synthesis, so a lot of people opt to take vitamin C in food or supplement form alongside their collagen supplement.
Risks of Collagen Supplements
Although collagen is generally considered safe for most people, there are some potential risks associated with its use. Individuals who are allergic to fish and shellfish may have adverse reactions to collagen supplements derived from these sources. Some collagen supplements are derived from pork, so if you are avoiding pork for dietary or religious reasons, you may need to check the source of your collagen supplement.
Additionally, taking too much collagen may cause digestive issues such as bloating and cramping.
It's important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new supplement regimen.
Is collagen worth the hype?
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use a collagen supplement will depend on each individual’s needs and goals. For people looking to reduce joint pain and improve skin health, collagen is definitely worth considering—especially if taken in combination with other natural remedies like exercise and proper nutrition. You may opt to experiment with a collagen supplement for a few weeks to see if you notice any improvement—but check with your doctor before starting collagen or any supplement.