Let's get real, we all want to stay young... Forever. But even though that's not possible, there are ways in which we can help slow down the aging process. Cue, Collagen. Collagen is one of the most popular health supplements in the health and wellness community due to its proclaimed anti-aging properties and outstanding health benefits. From supporting healthier skin, growing your nails, promoting joint health, and providing a great source of protein to help build lean muscle mass and strength Collagen is proving to be an all-star complement to your diet that can potentially provide the fountain of youth you’ve been looking for. But, what are the actual proven health benefits of Collagen? Does it really live up to all of the hype? We’re going to find out.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein, specifically a polypeptide containing a mixture of the amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine. As one of the most abundant proteins in the human body, Collagen consists of nearly one-third or 30% of total human protein.1 Collagen is engrained within the connective tissue of animals and humans, specifically found in the cartilage, tendons, muscles, and bones (think of Collagen, as the glue that holds everything together).
Your body naturally produces collagen from certain vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. However, Collagen production naturally declines as you age.2 When the production of Collagen declines, we’re met with wrinkles, sag, and sometimes even cellulite, which is completely natural considering our bodies are not capable of repairing themselves as they once did, in your adolescence. Suggested health claims, propose that Collagen can benefit and repair muscle, joints, and bones, and also support healthy hair and skin.
The Different Types Of Collagen
At least 28 different types of Collagen have been identified, however, three primary forms of Collagen are the most prevalent. Most manufacturers will offer either, “Type I”, “Type II”, or “Type II” Collagen Peptides or a distinct combination of the three.
Most of the time, when you purchase Collagen Peptides you’re buying hydrolyzed collagen. Hydrolyzed simply means that the amino acid chains have been fragmented into smaller molecules for easier digestion and mixing ability. So what type of Collagen is the best and what type of Collagen should you take? The truth, is that all types of collagen will help benefit your skin, nails, joints, and protein metabolism since collagen is composed of beneficial amino acids. With that said, Collagen Hydrolysate is probably the best way to supplement with Collagen, considering you can mix it in anything from smoothies to your cold brew and stack an extra 18 grams of protein per two-scoop serving. Collagen can be taken from a variety of animal sources such as beef, chicken, and marine sources such as fish
Types I, II, and III
TYPE I Collagen mainly comprises the skin, hair, nails, organs, and bones, which accounts for nearly 90% of all Collagen within the human body.
TYPE II is the main component of cartilage and the type most commonly found in Collagen Peptides.4
TYPE III is a fibrillar collagen and consists of only one collagen chain in contrast to most other collagens. It’s the second most abundant type of collagen in the human body and is found in the muscles, blood vessels, and intestines. Bovine collagen is particularly rich in types I and type III collagen.
The Benefits Of Collagen
Contrary to popular belief, the human body does not directly synthesize Collagen to directly influence bone growth, rejuvenate cartilage production, or directly produce healthier skin and nails. Collagen has to be absorbed and broken down into amino acids just like any other nutrient and utilize them where needed. However, the introduction of collagen peptides into the human body can provide some significant health benefits since collagen can be a catalyst for additional collagen production.
With a large majority of collagen being present in the skin, it’s hypothesized that supplementing with Collagen peptides will also benefit your skin elasticity and complexion. However, assuming that something you swallow will turn into the same thing once it’s digested, is not really how biochemistry works. Nevertheless, there have been some promising clinical studies that do prove the use of Collagen to benefit skin health. In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, 72 female subjects were administered 5g of hydrolyzed collagen or a placebo. The study found that after 8 weeks of Collagen supplementation, collagen peptides had a positive influence on skin elasticity and skin moisture.4
The skin and connective tissue contains cells called fibroblasts that help manufacture collagen, as long as the fibroblasts have enough of the amino acids they need such as glycine, and proline.5
Hydrolyzed Collagen Benefits
- Improved skin elasticity
- Smoother skin appearance
- Increase skin moisture
- Reduce dryness
Research has shown that Collagen, specifically hydrolyzed collagen promotes an anabolic or building effect on cartilage tissue. In a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted at Penn State University 147 collegiate athletes, (72 male, 75 female) were randomly administered 10g of hydrolyzed collagen or a placebo. After 24 weeks, the results showed a significant improvement of joint pain, joint strength and resilience in athletes who were treated with the collagen hydrolysate.3 This is particularly important for endurance athletes since joint pain can have a negative impact on athletic performance
Hydrolyzed Collagen Can Help
- Reduce Joint Pain
- Rebuild cartilage tissue
- Increase joint strength
Other investigative studies have shown that collagen has an effect on bone mineral density and bone formation. This can be extremely beneficial especially as we start aging, to help prevent injury from potential bone degradation. In a very recent randomized, controlled, double-blind 12–month study, published in the journal Nutrients, 131 women were given either 5g of collagen or a placebo. The results indicated an increase in bone density and a favorable shift in bone markers.6
Supplementation with 5g of hydrolyzed collagen per day can
- Increase Bone Density
- Reduce Bone Degradation
- Increase Bone Formation
Which Collagen Should You Take?
Picking the right type of Collagen powder could be a little challenging with so many different options. All types of collagen however will have similar benefits, in terms promoting healthier skin and promoting joint health. The biggest difference between supplements is in the additives. It’s important to take a Collagen supplement that contains ONLY hydrolyzed collagen peptides, without any added ingredients or proprietary blends to avoid fillers and substitutes. Is grass-fed collagen the best? To be completely honest, there is no real difference between grass-fed and other forms of collagen, since most are a combination of beef, chicken or marine sources.
How Much Collagen Should You Take?
The recommended dose of hydrolyzed collagen is anywhere from 10-20g per day, dependent upon your specific protein requirements, similar to any other protein supplement. Most Collagen supplements contain anywhere from 8-10g of collagen protein peptides per serving and the clinical doses have all been between 5-10g per day for improved skin, bone, and joint health.
Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?
The clinical studies on supplementation with Collagen Hydrolysate are limited, however early research has shown some promising results and potential health benefits. Results have indicated that drinking collagen does have some benefit in promoting healthy skin, yet in regards to joint health and exercise recovery, studies have been limited by small sample sizes and short trial duration. Therefore, more rigorous trials will need to be developed in order to support any promising or proven health claims.
However, since collagen is an ample source of protein, it will result in providing similar if not the same benefits and results of supplementing with any other type of protein in regards to promoting lean muscle mass, strength, and recovery.
Why Should You Take Collagen?
Traditionally, Collagen was obtained through bone broths or slow-cooked organ meats, (which personally I find appalling, but to each their own.) Considering that Collagen is within every connective tissue such as the skin, hair, nails, and bones, and that chances are you’re not really getting any collagen in your diet through eating liver and onions, supplementing with collagen hydrolysate might be worth considering. Most hydrolyzed collagen doesn’t clump and is easy to mix into a delicious smoothie, cookies, sauce, shake, or even plain water. You can even mix it in your coffee (or any other hot beverage) since it’s virtually tasteless and more heat stable than other forms of protein. Hydrolyzed collagen is also a great alternative for those that have any digestive issues or that don’t consume dairy.
- Shoulders, Matthew D., and Ronald T. Raines. “COLLAGEN STRUCTURE AND STABILITY.” Annual review of biochemistry78 (2009): 929–958. PMC. Web. 20 Aug. 2018.
- Varani, James et al. “Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin : Roles of Age-Dependent Alteration in Fibroblast Function and Defective Mechanical Stimulation.” The American Journal of Pathology6 (2006): 1861–1868. PMC. Web. 20 Aug. 2018.
- Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008;24(5):1485-96.
- Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.
- Borumand, Maryam, and Sara Sibilla. “Daily Consumption of the Collagen Supplement Pure Gold Collagen® Reduces Visible Signs of Aging.” Clinical Interventions in Aging 9 (2014): 1747–1758. PMC. Web. 21 Aug. 2018.
- König, Daniel et al. “Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study.” Nutrients1 (2018): 97. PMC. Web. 21 Aug. 2018.