Collagen Supplements: Hope or Reality?
The promise of long, luscious hair, stronger nails and glowing skin with fewer lines and wrinkles is enough to make some people whip out their credit card and buy the latest collagen supplement on the market. Along with skin health, collagen is also said to help relieve joint pain, prevent bone loss and boost muscle mass. But do collagen supplements do what they say, and if they did, wouldn’t more people be taking them?
Collagen is a structural protein made of amino acids that holds cells and tissues together. It accounts for about 80% of all connective tissue, including skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. A total of 28 types of collagen exist, with the body needing the first three types to produce all the varieties it needs. Our skin is made up of 75% collagen, and from the age of 20 we lose about 1.5% of collagen a year. Because collagen plays a role in strengthening skin and supporting elasticity and hydration, as we age the depletion of collagen can lead to dry skin and wrinkles. Which is why ingestible collagen supplements and drinks containing collagen have gained popularity in the past few years.
But will collagen supplements actually slow the signs of aging? According to research, yes. One study found women who consumed a drink containing collagen daily for 12 weeks had a significant reduction in wrinkle depth and experienced increased skin hydration, compared to a control group. Another study showed women who took a supplement containing 2.5-5 grams of collagen for eight weeks had an increase in elasticity and more hydrated skin, compared to those who did not take the supplement .
Not All Collagen Is Created Equal
The three main sources of collagen are bovine, porcine and marine, with the effectiveness varying between each one. Marine collagen is considered superior as it’s absorbed up to 1.5 times more efficiently into the body because of the smaller size of the fish collagen peptides. Marine collagen is also especially high in type I collagen, the one associated with anti-aging.
Products that have a high dosage of marine collagen, such as Xtend-Life’s Zupafood for Skin, which contains 2000mg of Collactive™ marine collagen in every serving, and Skin-Support, contain enough collagen to supplement your body’s naturally depleting supply. A clinical study on Collactive™ Collagen on 44 women over the age of 40 showed a decrease in wrinkles and an increase in hydration. After just 28 days, 71% of the women noticed a significant decrease in the number of deep wrinkles and after three months subjects reported an increase in hydration of the entire epidermis.
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The benefits aren’t limited to skin health, however, with some studies showing taking collagen supplements could help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain. Supplemental collagen can potentially accumulate in cartilage and stimulate tissues to make collagen, possibly leading to lower inflammation and reduced joint pain. In one study, 73 athletes took 10 grams of collagen every day for 24 weeks. By the end of the 24 weeks, they experienced a decrease in joint pain when walking and at rest, compared to the group that did not take collagen.
There are ways to coax your body into naturally producing collagen, which includes reducing your sugar intake to limit the glycation process, while increasing your Vitamin C intake. Eat foods rich in Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamin E, which will help fight free radical damage. Quit smoking, which we all know is bad for your skin because of the chemicals in tobacco that damage collagen and elastin, and stay sun safe when exposing your skin to harsh UV rays.
If you’re considering incorporating a collagen supplement into your daily routine, it could take a little while to notice the effect on your skin, but you might find a surprising number of benefits to your joint health and movement at the same time.
 Borumand M, Sibilla S. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. J Med Nutr Nutraceut [serial online] 2015 [cited 2018 Aug 7];4:47-53. Available from: http://www.jmnn.org/text.asp?2015/4/1/47/146161
 Department of Dermatology, University of Kiel, Germany. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208
 AIBMR Life Sciences, Inc., Puyallup, Washington 98373, United States. Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22486722
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