Collagen – it is all over social media, beauty blogs and health food store shelves. It has become popular over the recent years and is being endorsed by celebrities as the fountain of youth. Once only seen as a cosmetic injectable, it is now a common dietary supplement. But is this simply a trend? You’ll be happy to know that it is not. Ingesting collagen may have many positive impacts on your health.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant type of protein found in the body. It is created by small chains of the amino acids; glycine, proline and hydroxyproline which form peptides.1 Collagen is a key component of our joints, blood vessels, skin, muscles, and organs.1
There are several different types of collagen that can be grouped into 3 general classes; type I, II and III1. Type I collagen is found in the skin, bones, tendons and connective tissues. Type II makes up cartilage in the body and type III is found in the blood vessels, muscles and various organs.1
The Role of Collagen in Health
Collagen is a key component of your skin. It helps to maintain the strength, elasticity as well as hydration. In a 2019 study, individuals supplemented with collagen and supporting vitamins and minerals for 12 weeks.2 Researchers found significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity and density over the 12 weeks when comparing the placebo and treatment groups.2
However, collagen has other benefits in the body which go beyond skin health. Joint cartilage is another area of research where collagen has been helpful. Collagen type II plays a major role in the health of joint cartilage.3 In conditions where your cartilage becomes damaged, collagen can be helpful in improving pain, mobility and function.3
Collagen levels naturally decrease in the body with age, however, the low intake of collagen through the diet, can also cause lower levels in the body. The formation of free radicals increases the rate of collagen breakdown in the body.4 Free radicals can be caused by environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays from the sun.4 Due to its large role in skin, joint and digestive health, some possible signs of decreased collagen may include wrinkling of the skin on the face, joint pain, digestive complaints and decreased muscle mass.
The Sources of Collagen
Beef bone broth has become a popular food source of collagen over the past few years, and this is because it is rich in gelatin which breaks down into collagen once it is absorbed by the body. Poultry, dairy, beans, eggs, and seafood are also good sources of the amino acids that the body uses to make collagen.
Collagen can also be taken as a supplement, in either bovine, porcine or marine forms.1 All sources of collagen provide the same amino acids; therefore, the source of the collagen does not matter. Collagen supplementation may be helpful if you are not obtaining adequate amounts of amino acids in your diet, if you have a particular health concern, or are looking to reduce visible signs of aging.5 When taken in supplement form, the collagen is hydrolyzed which means it is broken down into groups of amino acids called peptides.1 Collagen peptides are more easily absorbed in the body than the full protein.1
The collagen craze does have merit behind it. Collagen can make visible improvements to wrinkling skin, but it also has other positive effects on the signs of aging such as reducing joint pain. The use of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation is certainly promising, however always make sure to check in with your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.
- León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed collagen—sources and applications. Molecules. 2019 Jan;24(22):4031.
- Bolke L, Schlippe G, Gerß J, Voss W. A collagen supplement improves skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density: Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, blind study. Nutrients. 2019 Oct;11(10):2494.
- Lugo JP, Saiyed ZM, Lane NE. Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition journal. 2015 Dec;15(1):1-5.
- Jariashvili K, Madhan B, Brodsky B, Kuchava A, Namicheishvili L, Metreveli N. UV damage of collagen: insights from model collagen peptides. Biopolymers. 2012 Mar;97(3):189-98.
- Czajka A, Kania EM, Genovese L, Corbo A, Merone G, Luci C, Sibilla S. Daily oral supplementation with collagen peptides combined with vitamins and other bioactive compounds improves skin elasticity and has a beneficial effect on joint and general wellbeing. Nutrition Research. 2018 Sep 1;57:97-108.