There has been an increase in awareness and popularity with taking collagen supplements over recent years. Claims have been made that it can help with skin’s youthful appearance, increased bone density and decreased joint pain, along with other claims such as helping to heal your gut lining. For all of these reasons, it’s no surprise that collagen has become a widely sought-after ingredient in the wellness and beauty communities. But collagen’s efficacy is still pretty up in the air. Here’s what we know.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins found in the body. “Its fiber-like structure is used to make connective tissue. Like the name implies, this type of tissue connects other tissues and is a major component of bone, skin, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. It helps to make tissues strong and resilient, able to withstand stretching.”1 As we age we naturally start to reduce our collagen production. This means that our bodies are not able to replace the collagen we are losing as quickly as it is breaking down. Starting in our 20s about 1 percent of our collagen production breaks down each year. External factors such as cigarette smoking (inhaling or second hand smoke), extended sun exposure, pollution, excess alcohol, lack of sleep and exercise increases the breakdown of collagen.
Collagen As A Supplement
The first appearance of collagen was as an ingredient in serums and creams. However, this topical application is not backed by science as collagen itself is not found on the skin’s surface but deep in the layers of the skin. The fibers in collagen are too large to penetrate through the skin’s layers, the same evidence goes for the shorter chains of collagen called peptides. So I wouldn’t suggest buying anything that claims the collagen in their creams will help with signs of aging.
Oral collagen on the other hand, in the form of pills, powders, and certain foods is starting to show some scientific evidence that it can be effectively absorbed by the body. As long as it is not the natural molecule of collagen. It needs to be broken down into smaller peptides as they can easily pass through our gut barrier and into our bloodstream. In theory the body can use the collagen peptides in areas that need repair the most.
Look out for collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, as these are the two forms of broken down collagen that can be easily absorbed by the body. Collagen supplements contain amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. As additional nutrients, some supplements may also contain vitamin c, biotin or zinc. Also look out for any companies claiming their collagen as “plant based” as there is only animal based collagen to date, so this product will not contain any collagen. However, you can consume supplements that contain the primary amino acids that are involved in collagen synthesis – glycine, lycine, and proline.
What Does The Science Say? Does It Work?
The research is showing that taking collagen for many months can help with signs of aging on your skin, improve the health of your gut lining, and even increase the density in bone that are weakened naturally by age. However, most of the research being done is by companies who directly sell collagen themselves – so the information may be biased.
“Most research on collagen supplements is related to joint and skin health. Human studies are lacking but some randomized controlled trials have found that collagen supplements improve skin elasticity. [3,4] Other trials have found that the supplements can improve joint mobility and decrease joint pain such as with osteoarthritis or in athletes.  Collagen comprises about 60% of cartilage, a very firm tissue that surrounds bones and cushions them from the shock of high-impact movements; so a breakdown in collagen could lead to a loss of cartilage and joint problems.” 1
The scientific proof on collagen is starting to rise, and more and more research is being done to prove it’s benefits. The great news is all research that has been done has not been showing any negative side effects of taking collagen as a supplement. 1
There are more and more people starting to share their own personal experiences with taking the collagen supplement and the benefits they are experiencing from it. But do keep in mind, if you are going to give it a try, you need to take it every day for at least 1-3 months before you can really see and feel the benefits of it.
How Much Do You Need For It To Be Effective?
As of right now, health authorities have not provided any guidelines for how much collagen to take in a day. This will all depend on what type of collagen you are consuming. There are three types of collagen: hydrolyzed collagen, undenatured collagen, and gelatin.
This type of collagen is derived from cattle, marine, poultry, pigs and other animal sources and has been broken down into a more digestible and easier to absorb peptide particle. It is the most common form of collagen supplement as it is in powder or capsule form and can be added to smoothies, hot and cold drinks, soups, baked goods and other forms of food.
A 2019 study has found that taking anywhere from 2.5-15g of collagen a day may be safe and effective.
2.5g per day: could benefit joint pain, skin health, and hydration 11, 12, 13
5g per day: can improve bone density 14, 15
15g per day: can help with muscle mass and body composition 16, 17
This is raw collagen derived from chicken cartilage, some human studies have suggested that taking daily doses of 10–40 mg of undenatured collagen per day may improve joint health. 18, 19
As all collagen is, this is derived from animal sources and is a form of cooked collagen. This type of collagen is not really sold as a supplement as it’s usually used as an ingredient in gelatinous desserts or foods. There is limited research showing daily serving sizes for gelatin, so it is best to refer to the packaging for the products recommended serving size.
Can you eat too much collagen?
It seems as of right now that collagen is a relatively safe product to consume without any side effects. However, always refer to the product packaging for recommended doses of that particular collagen as there has been reports of feeling overly full, unpleasant taste, and other stomach complaints. 20
Where Can Collagen Be Found?
Collagen is a type of protein and it can be found in your muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, organs, skin, intestinal lining and other connective tissues. You can see why it is such an important component in our bodies as it helps to make tissues strong and resilient.
In food, naturally collagen is only found in animal flesh like meat and fish that contains connective tissue. However, there is a variety of both animal and plant foods that contain materials to help our bodies natural collagen production.
You can find easily digested forms of collagen in meat and seafood, supplements and even bone broth.
Lifestyle Habits That Can Help Collagen Production
Along with a well-balanced diet, here are some healthy habits that may help with protecting the collagen production in your body.
Reduce Stress: Chronically high cortisol levels in the body can decrease the production levels of collagen naturally in the body. So start mindful practices like meditation and breathing techniques to decrease the amount of stress you may have in your life.
Get A Good Amount Of Sleep: Among many other factors, sleep is extremely important for the human body. But not just any sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours a night of adequate sleep will help with many daily functions in the body.
Stop Smoking: There are many health concerns that we are aware of when it comes to a habit like smoking. But this also includes trying to avoid secondhand smoke whenever you can.
No Excessive Time In The Sun: Now this does not mean hiding from the sun. The sun provides the vital vitamin D that we need for many functions in the body including the immune system. So aim to get 10-20 min of daily direct sunlight 3-4 times a week, but the rest of the time be sure to use sunscreen or cover up with layers and hats.
Exercise Regularly: Exercise is hugely beneficial in so many ways, but some studies have found that exercise can slow down cell activity involved with aging.2
What Are The Benefits Of Collagen?
Helps with gut health
Collagen can play a key role in helping with the repair and strengthening of the gut lining in our digestive tract. This is due to the amino acids it contains, glycine and glutamine. There is research coming out showing the benefits of collagen on the gut and specifically leaky gut. However, do keep in mind all of the research as of right now is all based on animals, there has not been much if at all any human research on this subject.
Although this being said, a research paper published in 2017 has shown that among IBD patients, there was an imbalance between the formation and breakdown of collagen fibres, and this was connected to inflammation. An older study from 2003 showed that IBD patients do have a decreased amount of type 4 collagen. As we know, collagen is a part of connective tissue, and this makes up our colon and GI tract. Therefore, increasing your levels of collagen may be a supportive environment for your body to heal.
Even though there has not been much human research being done on collagen and its effects on the gut, there has been recent human research of l-glutamine on gut health! Since collagen contains glutamine, this could be a step in the right direction. It can help with inflammation, “Several lines of evidence indicate that glutamine has an anti-inflammatory property by influencing a number of inflammatory signalling pathways.”3 As promising as this is, more human research needs to be done to know its full potential.
It can help with what is naturally lost through aging
Your body starts to produce less collagen as we age starting in our twenties, and collagen peptides added to your diet may serve to replace what your body begins to lack as you age, and support your overall health.
Collagen is a good source of protein and is easily digestible
For some people digesting proteins like chicken or beef can cause digestive upset and may be hard on their body. Collagen supplements are hydrolyzed, meaning the collagen is broken down. This means that collagen supplements may potentially be a more comfortable way for your body to digest protein. The process of hydrolyzing also means that the collagen supplement can be easily dissolvable in water which then can be added to everyday foods like water or smoothies.
Collagen may help with skin’s signs of aging
This is by far the most researched when it comes to the benefits of collagen. In a 2019 systemic review, researchers analyzed 11 randomized, placebo-controlled studies of more than 800 patients who took up to 10 grams (g) per day of collagen with the goal of improving skin health. The results? “Preliminary results are promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging. Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density.”6
Collagen may help to decrease joint aches and pains
There is no doubt that when you have joint pain, exercise becomes a much harder habit to follow. A study from 2017 found that athletes with knee pain who took 5 g of collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks had less joint pain during exercise compared with a placebo group. Oral collagen may support cartilage repair and may also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Whether you decide to start taking collagen or not, don’t forget to also work on other collagen-depleting factors such as sleep, smoking, pollution, stress and exercise as mentioned in this blog post. Taking a supplement is exactly as the name suggests, you supplement with everyday lifestyle changes. Be diligent with quality control and do your research into the company you are sourcing your collagen from. Check to make sure the company is doing their part to source good quality collagen and following safe practices in how they manufacture their products. Also, be sure to follow the supplement’s recommended dietary requirements (RDA) to be sure you are not taking too much of it a day. Any supplement in high quantities over the RDA is not good for anyone, always follow the package directions when consuming supplements.
A Collagen Product I Recommend:
After my diagnosis of celiac disease I decided to try taking collagen to help the healing of my gut lining. Along with following a gluten free diet, I found taking collagen helped to improve my bowel movements, bloating, inflammation in the gut and in my joints and helped my hair and nails grow back stronger along with helping to heal the rashes I had on my skin.
Was it the gluten free diet or taking collagen that helped? I believe it was both, as I stopped taking collagen for a few years and recently just started taking it again. After a few days of taking it I’m starting to see a few improvements in my overall health again.
I am a proud affiliate with the Canadian company Organika, and I stand by their products as they are high quality, follow industry leading practices, they are backed by researched nutrition, mindful crafting and they really source out the best quality ingredients for their products.
They have won awards for Canada’s #1 collagen for a reason.
Follow this link to look through their wide selection of collagen to find the one that is right for you and be sure to use my code LEWSLIFE25 for 25% off site wide!
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