Collagen supplements are increasingly popular among wellness influencers. But what are the advantages of collagen, and are collagen supplements worth it?
What is collagen?
You may associate collagen with skin, but it is a protein present throughout the body. Although it does provide the skin with its fundamental structure, it is also found in the connective tissues of tendons, ligaments and muscles.
As we get older, the collagen in our bodies breaks down, and the ageing body struggles to produce enough to replace it. The loss of collagen, as well as lower levels of elastin, lead to sagging and wrinkled skin.
What causes collagen loss?
As well as decreased skin health, reduced collagen can also contribute to weaker bones. Therefore, it is vital to avoid lifestyle factors that reduce collagen production.
Tobacco smoking is a significant factor in collagen degradation and can lead to wrinkles and reduced elasticity. Drinking too much alcohol, experiencing excessive sun exposure and consuming too much processed food may also limit the amount of collagen the body can make and impair the skin’s repair mechanisms.
How to get collagen
Clearly, factors limiting collagen in our body are factors we already know are bad for our health. But what about increasing collagen production?
Collagen isn’t only a human protein. It’s one of the most common proteins throughout the animal kingdom. Therefore, it is theorised that humans can increase collagen levels from consuming meat such as chicken and pork skin, as well as fish and beef.
Unfortunately, scientists are uncertain whether eating a lot of collagen-rich meat actually means your body will feel the benefit of increased collagen due to the way your body breaks down and digests dietary collagen into individual amino acids.
Research suggests a better way to increase collagen is through supplements. This is because the collagen content has undergone hydrolysis and can be absorbed more easily.
One 2014 study showed that women who took collagen supplements for one month had higher skin elasticity than women who took a placebo.
Furthermore, your body needs Vitamin C to produce collagen itself. Therefore, to feel the benefits of collagen, make sure you’re getting enough Vit C from fruits and vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, and oranges. You may also consider boosting your intake with a high-quality, natural supplement.
So, do collagen supplements work?
Studies show that collagen supplements may be effective for skin health. But given the breadth of collagen’s role in the body, what are the other advantages of collagen supplements?
Collagen For Heart Health
The role of collagen for the circulatory system is to provide structure to the arteries, allowing blood to circulate to and from the heart.
A 2017 study measured the effect of collagen tripeptide on markers of buildup on artery walls (atherosclerosis). Participants showed increased HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and lower levels of artery stiffness. This means collagen may have the potential to manage the risk of coronary artery disease.
Collagen Supplements For Gut Health
Gut health is popular in the wellness community at the moment – and research suggests collagen may have a role in the ‘second brain’.
This is because two amino acids found in hydrolysed collagen – glutamine and glycine – help repair the lining of our digestive tract. Maintaining this lining is crucial for preventing a condition known as ‘leaky gut’, which can cause symptoms like bloating, fatigue and joint pain.
Research suggests glutamine can reduce inflammation in the intestinal lining. Collagen may therefore have a role in easing digestive problems.
Collagen For Joints and Bones
Painful joints and low bone density can become serious problems as we age. It can reduce mobility, make exercise difficult and limit our quality of life.
Collagen supplements could offer relief for symptoms of joint pain. For example, a 2017 placebo-controlled study found that participants supplemented with collagen after exercising experienced less knee pain.
Another study found that postmenopausal women showed less evidence of bone loss after taking collagen and calcium supplements for one year. Although more research is required, collagen supplements may help prevent or manage osteoporosis after menopause.
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The body needs collagen for strong joints, bones and healthy skin. While scientists debate the efficacy of consuming collagen-rich meat, the hydrolysed collagen offered by collagen supplements may provide a digestible version that can help the body in several ways.