Collagen is the most common protein found in the human body. It makes up most of the human body’s connective tissue, including the skin, cartilage, bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles (1).
Collagen accounts for 30% of all protein mass in the human body. There are over 28 types of collagen proteins in the body. In fact, the word ‘collagen’ itself means glue, which indicates its relevant role in holding and connecting structures together (2).
Yet with age, collagen production slows down. Certain lifestyle habits – such as sunbathing and smoking – can further decrease collagen production in the body. Consequently, joint pain may arise and wrinkles may start to appear (4).
Collagen supplements, on the other hand, decrease arthritis symptoms, joint pain, and wrinkles that emerge from a decrease in natural collagen production. In other words, they combat the age-related effects associated with collagen (5).
1Collagen decreases arthritis symptoms and joint pain. Research shows that collagen supplements reduce symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, scientists gave participants collagen supplements for 3 months. After the 3 months, 4 patients reported decreased swollen joints and pain, as well as complete remission of the disease (6).
Similarly, other studies showed that osteoarthritis patients experienced a decrease in symptoms via the use of collagen supplements. In fact, the patients involved in the study reported a significant improvement in their daily functioning. In turn, their overall quality of life drastically improved (7).
In addition, athletes suffering from joint pain also saw a reduction in their symptoms (8).
From this, many researchers and scientists alike have concluded that collagen supplements are useful in decreasing joint pain, reducing further deterioration of the joint, and improving overall joint health (9).
2Collagen improves skin health and appearance. Age contributes to wrinkles, dryness, fine lines, and looseness in the skin. Collagen, on the other hand, is a protein that is well-known for its potential to reduce these age-related skin effects (10).
In fact, aging reduces collagen by 1% every year (11).
A 2014 study explored the link between collagen supplementation and skin health. Researchers found a significant improvement in the skin elasticity of participants after 4 weeks (12).
Another study found skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles, and roughness decrease after 8 weeks of taking a collagen supplement (13).
3Collagen can increase hair growth. In women with temporary hair thinning, collagen supplementation was reported to improve hair volume, thickness, and scalp coverage in just 90 days. After 180 days, hair shine, skin smoothness, and skin moisture retention also appeared to improve (14).
Collagen also has similar benefits when applied topically to the hair. It is able to reach the outer layer of hair follicles, improving the thickness of the hair (15).
4Collagen can help build strong bones. Collagen is a major building block for bones. And with age comes a decrease in bone density. In fact, individuals aged 70 and older have significantly decreased bone density, leaving them susceptible to injuries, such as bone fractures (16).
Further, individuals with osteoporosis or another porous bone disease lose bone density faster than the average person. Again, it increases an individual’s risk of fractures and injury (17).
Hydrolyzed collagen supplements cause an increased production in chondrocytes, cells that produce collagen. Studies that explored this link indicate the usefulness of collagen supplements for improving bone density (18).
5Collagen can help build muscle mass. In a 2015 study, researchers explored the link between collagen supplementation and body composition. The study consisted of 53 older male adults suffering from sarcopenia, a condition where one loses muscle mass as they age. After 12 weeks, the group taking collagen supplements had increased muscle strength, increased fat-free mass, and decreased fat mass (19).
This is because collagen contains glycine. Glycine is an amino acid necessary for creatine synthesis. Creatine aids your muscles in producing energy to perform weight-lifting exercises. Thus, an individual is able to get through an intense workout and gain muscle via collagen supplementation (20).
6Collagen may help reduce cellulite. Cellulite is caused by a layer of fat pushing against the connective tissue. As a result, the skin may appear lumpy or dimpled (21).
A 2015 study reported that long-term collagen supplementation (over 6 months) might lead to an improvement in cellulite appearance. However, more studies are needed to prove this claim since the study was sponsored by collagen supplement manufacturers (22).
7Collagen may aid in blood sugar regulation. While exercise and diet are often recommended for blood sugar regulation, collagen supplements may play a part as well.
In a 2010 study, 50 healthy participants took collagen twice a day for 3 months. After 3 months, these individuals had significantly lower levels of fasting blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure readings, and decreased cholesterol levels (23).
However, collagen is a great way for those with diabetes to consume protein, without also consuming high amounts of sugar. In fact, medium and high doses of marine collagen peptides were found to increase glucose metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity in rats. However, human trials are needed to further prove and support this link (24).
8Collagen can help heal bedsores. A 2006 study examined 89 residents in long-term care facilities that suffered from pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores. A collagen supplement was given to the experimental group 3 times a day for 2 months. The participants’ ulcers in experimental group healed twice as fast as the control group, indicating the potential use of collagen in treating bedsores (25).
9Collagen can improve gut health. Collagen plays a critical role in strengthening the lining in the digestive tract. This lining can become damaged, such as in the case of leaky gut syndrome (26).
Surprisingly, low levels of serum collagen were found in 170 individuals that suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (27).
Researchers have assumed from such studies that an increased intake of collagen could potentially help the tissues in the digestive tract. The collagen would be able to build up the lining and protect it. In turn, one’s gut health would substantially improve (28).
1Collagen can have very high calcium levels. It is cautioned that collagen supplements derived from fish sources contain high levels of calcium. It’s important to carefully read each label, especially if you suffer from an allergy (29, 30).
2Collagen can cause heartburn (31).
3Collagen may cause an allergic reaction. Some supplements are made from common food allergens, such as fish, shellfish and eggs. People with allergies to these foods should avoid collagen supplements made with these ingredients to prevent allergic reactions.
Overall, the risk of taking collagen supplements is low, especially for those that do not suffer from food allergies of any kind.
Collagen peptide comes in a powder that can be easily incorporated into foods.
The peptide form does not gel, so you can mix it into smoothies, soups or baked goods without affecting the texture.
According to Dr. Buchanan, MD, consuming a minimum of 8 grams of hydrolyzed collagen per day to increase the levels of glycine and proline circulating in your bloodstream. However, she suggests increasing dosage to 15 to 30 grams per day if you need a skin, hair or nail boost.
What does collagen do to your face? One of the most well-known benefits of collagen is its ability to promote glowing, vibrant skin. This essential protein provides elasticity to the skin, helping it to appear more youthful and healthy.
Is collagen safe to take? Research suggests that supplementing with collagen is a safe and effective way to improve the health of skin and joints. But, as with any supplement, it’s best to be cautious. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements, making it impossible to know if the supplement matches what’s on the label.
What are the side effects of taking collagen? Collagen supplements have the potential to cause digestive side effects such as feelings of fullness and heartburn.
How much collagen do you need in a day? It’s recommended to take a minimum of 10-15 grams daily, and up to 30 grams daily if: Your skin, hair, and nails could use a boost.
Do you take collagen on an empty stomach? Many people abide by this method because you need stomach acid to digest proteins, so in theory, taking collagen on an empty stomach ensures you will be able to better break down the collagen. However, you do not need to take collagen on an empty stomach to obtain the benefits.
What food is full of collagen? Orange produce, like carrots and sweet potatoes, are loaded with vitamin A, which restores collagen that’s been damaged. Omega-3-rich fish like mackerel, salmon, and tuna along with grass-fed meat (which is also high in omega-3) protect the fatty membrane around skin cells.
Does collagen help you lose weight? So collagen can help you lose weight, but it won’t do all of the work for you. Instead, collagen is great for providing you just the right tools to act on your diet plans – adding collagen into your diet can help to decrease your food and energy intake, beat cravings, and prevent pain due to physical activity.
Is collagen hard to digest? For most people, the answer is no. However, if you have chronic digestive issues and gelatin-rich bone broths may be hard to digest. In this case, collagen hydrolysate has a lower molecular weight than gelatin and is thus easier for the body to absorb.
Does collagen help you sleep? The glycine collagen peptides can help calm your mind to get a restful night’s sleep.
Does collagen make you gain weight? Collagen is a major component of muscle tissue, so it should come as no surprise that it can have a big impact when it comes to building muscle mass. Plus, collagen also contains a concentrated amount of glycine, an amino acid involved in the synthesis of creatine.
Should I take collagen at night? There is no best time to take it. Some swear by taking collagen in the morning while your stomach is empty to maximize absorption. Others swear by taking it at night, so your body has ample time to process the collagen while you sleep.
How do you increase collagen naturally? When your body makes collagen, it combines amino acids nutrients you get from eating protein-rich foods, like beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs and dairy products. The process also requires vitamin C, zinc and copper.
Does collagen help the brain? Glycine makes up roughly 20% of the amino acids in collagen peptides. Glycine can help to improve sleep and has inhibitory functions that take action against excessive excitation in the brain. This allows your mind to calm down and focus.
Does collagen help receding gums? Receding gums often result in tooth sensitivity and can lead to decay of the root and persistent inflammation of the gum. New research demonstrates that a novel method using bovine collagen is able to enhance gum healing.
How long does it take to see results from taking collagen? As with any health supplement, results vary from person to person. Some people may start to see results in as little as three weeks, with some differences being noticeable after about two months.
Will collagen supplements help acne scars? Collagen also provides immediate improvement to scars by replacing lost volume. Collagen can help speed collagen formation and tissue repair to heal acne scars. Your skin will become smoother and more hydrated to boot.
What happens if you have too much collagen? Collagen is a protein that makes up connective tissues, such as the skin. When you have too much collagen, your skin can stretch, thicken, and harden. It also can cause damage to internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Collagen is a well known all-natural supplement, with many benefits and very few side effects. It has been shown to relieve joint pain, increase muscle mass and improve overall skin complexion by reducing wrinkles, dryness and improving elasticity.
There are many other benefits of collagen; however, the science is inconclusive and needs much more time to prove the truths.
The best natural sources of collagen include bone broths, egg whites, spirulina, and some fish. However, it is unknown whether the collagen in food has the same benefits as supplements.