6 Health Benefits Of Collagen: Pros, Cons, Safety & Effects 2023
One of the most popular dietary supplements on the market is collagen, and it’s being added to practically everything, from protein powder and protein bars to skincare and even coffee. But, are there benefits of collagen supplements worth the hype, and is there a such thing as too much collagen?
The benefits of taking collagen supplements have been trending, promising greater skin glow, improved skin elasticity, reduced cellulite and stretch marks, finer wrinkle lines, healthier digestive tract, decreased bone loss, and more. And since it’s an important protein we all lose as we age, it’s no wonder that finding ways to replenish our stores has become one of the most sought-after supplements to slow down the symptoms of aging.
6 Amazing Health Benefits Of Collagen
- Improve skin health
- Improve muscle mass
- Keep your bones healthy and strong
- Lower joint pain
- Improve the health of your hair
- Promote heart health
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is one of the most important proteins in the human body since it plays a crucial role in structuring and building the cells of your muscles, bones, and connective tissues. According to research, it accounts for over 30% of the total protein in the body, and it’s found everywhere from your skin and bones to organs and intestinal walls.
Created from three essential amino acids, proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine, collagen provides your skin with elasticity and structure, protects your organs by creating a thin cover, helps your blood to clot, and even plays an important part in digestion. You can easily say there’s almost no body process where collagen isn’t involved, and that’s why maintaining high levels for as long as it’s humanly possible remains an important factor in longevity and overall health.
There are 28 different types of collagen, but type I accounts for 90% of the total collagen in the human body. Type II provides joint support and may ease joint pain, type III is mostly found in muscles and organs, type IV can be found in the skin, and type V makes the cornea of your eyes, specific layers of the skin, hair, and even the placenta.
As we age, our bodies naturally produce less collagen, while the existing levels break down faster each passing year. Both men and women experience a drastic decline in their 60s, but the loss of female hormones makes it even worse after menopause. That’s why the benefits of collagen supplementation for women may be even more prominent than in men.
The usual signs of lower collagen synthesis include wrinkles and saggy skin, weakening and shrinking muscles, joint pain, loss of mobility, circulation problems, and gastrointestinal issues that are caused by thinning of the lining of your digestive walls. Experiencing these issues is why many people start taking collagen supplements in one form or another.
Collagen can easily be obtained from food alone, but it’s mostly found in animal sources. That’s why many people who are following a vegan or vegetarian diet have even lower collagen levels in their bodies and need to resort to supplementation to get adequate levels. Still, there are some vegan collagen supplements on the market, but the jury is still out on their efficiency.
Health Benefits Of Taking Collagen Supplements
Even though there’s not enough scientific evidence to clearly state all the health benefits of taking a collagen supplement for men or women, there are some data that point to the potentially positive effects it can have on specific areas of the body.
Help Improve Skin Health
Collagen peptide supplementation may improve the look, texture, and elasticity of your skin. Studies involving hydrolyzed collagen have shown some impressive results in the appearance of the skin, especially with wrinkles, skin hydration, and even skin elasticity.
This type of collagen undergoes a special process called hydrolysis that makes collagen easier to absorb, thus creating better results after consistent use. Collagen also helps with replacing dead skin cells and creating a more rejuvenated and refreshed look.
Help Improve Muscle Mass
There are plenty of protein powders on the market that contain collagen peptides as one of their essential ingredients. This is because collagen plays an essential role in building and growing muscle tissue. Research shows how adding collagen to your post-workout supplementation regimen can have a positive effect on muscle mass, helping you grow and tone your muscles as well as enhance the recovery of muscle fibers.
Still, it’s important to note that collagen alone won’t do much in terms of muscle growth and strength. A high-quality protein powder needs to be involved as all essential amino acids have to work together to promote an increase in muscle size and strength.
Keep Your Bones Healthy and Strong
As we age, our bones become weak and brittle, leaving us at a higher risk of lower bone density (osteopenia), bone loss (osteoporosis), and even bone fracture. An increased collagen intake may play an important role in preventing bone breakdown and slowing down the rate of bone mineral density reduction.
And even though all of these studies have been done on a small sample and still more research is needed in human subjects, it does show a promising outcome for those struggling with early onset osteoporosis and other issues with poor bone health.
Lower Joint Pain
Joints and bones in your body are protected by cartilage, a type of tissue that surrounds each and every one of them and helps keep them protected by absorbing shock and preventing them from rubbing against each other.
It even adds structure and shape to some areas of your body, and that’s why any sort of damage to your cartilage may create issues, pain, and injury in your joints, making it hard to perform even the most basic functions. Also, distortion from injury or inflammation, besides the pain, may have a cosmetic impact.
The benefits of taking a collagen supplement for joint pain show up in the results of a 24-week study showcasing its effect on athletes and those with osteoarthritis. There was notable joint pain relief that subjects experienced after supplementation, due to the lower inflammation in the cartilage creating better joint support and reducing pain intensity.
Improve the Health of Your Hair
There are some potential benefits of collagen supplementation for your hair, but there’s not enough data to validate the claims. Still, the amino acids in collagen create keratin, one of the most important proteins that participate in the structure of hair.
It also acts as an antioxidant and may help prevent your hair from turning gray (an aging process due to oxidation), as well as help fight damage to the hair follicles caused by free radicals in this oxidation process. For the same reason, it might prevent nail brittleness and help improve the general health of your nails.
Promote Heart Health
Collagen and specific collagen peptides may help prevent serious cardiovascular conditions. Collagen is one of the main proteins that create the structure of your blood vessels, especially arteries, which may become stiff and less flexible once collagen production slows down. Worse, add to this atherosclerosis, and it becomes a double threat to you in the way of hypertension and poor circulation.
In fact, stiff and non-elastic arteries leading to atherosclerosis are a result of the narrowing of your blood vessels and are leading causes of heart attack and stroke.
Additionally, collagen intake may boost the levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL-C), which helps prevent atherosclerosis and reduces your risk of a cardiovascular event, e.g., heart attack or stroke.
Potential Side Effects
Collagen supplements are generally considered safe and usually produce no side effects. However, different brands include a variety of additional ingredients in their collagen products which may cause negative side effects, especially if you’re sensitive, intolerant, or even allergic to some of these ingredients.
Additionally, you might have issues if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as if you’re taking certain medications that might interfere with herbs, vitamins, and minerals found in said products.
One concern with collagen adverse reactions is with COVID-19 vaccines, which resulted in skin reactions. However, these were only due to injected collagen, not supplements, and therefore shouldn’t affect your decision to use this beneficial supplement.
Since certain foods naturally contain collagen, it’s always best to start increasing your intake via real foods before depending on supplements. Foods that contain high amounts of collagen include
- Bone broth
- Bones, skin, and cartilage of animals
- Fish skin
Collagen supplements usually come in the form of powder, but the benefits of collagen gummies, collagen water, vitamins, and different kinds of serums are all equivalent.
The Bottom Line
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, playing a crucial role in almost every process, from building skin and tissue to improving muscle mass and protecting the lining of your gastrointestinal tract.
Getting adequate amounts of collagen through food or supplements is important to slow down the body’s natural decline (i.e., aging via oxidation), but there’s plenty of research that still needs to be conducted to fully support the claims around the health benefits of collagen supplements.
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