Collagen Supplements – Not Just for Skin

by | Aug 8, 2022

While it is true that collagen supplements help give our skin a youthful look, collagen also has different roles that help contribute to our overall health.

collagen supplements

Collagen is the building block of connective tissue or the tissue that connects bone to skin and makes up veins and arteries. Blood and lymph are also connective tissues that transport nutrients. When nutrients reach the blood or get into the lymph, they can go throughout the body.

Collagen is a protein that helps us build muscle, aids in bone and joint health/inflammation, and can protect our hearts. There’s also the added benefit that collagen can improve the appearance of your skin. 

Many research studies have looked into collagen and its effects. We’re going to break down some of the benefits of supplementing with collagen. 

What is collagen?

Collagen is a protein that helps build connective tissue in the body. It is an incomplete protein because it does not have all the essential amino acids that humans need to eat through food. Collagen has many roles in the body. 

Where can I get collagen?

Collagen is found naturally in many animal foods because collagen is also a part of their structure. Foods like bone broths, dairy, red meat, fish, and seafood are excellent food sources of collagen. Collagen supplements are also great options such as a quality collagen protein powder. They make it easier to get a good amount of protein each day. 

Using a collagen protein powder won’t provide you with all of the essential amino acids we need. Tyrosine is the only essential amino acid not found in collagen. Some food sources for Tyrosine are chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.

Vegan supplements for collagen do exist but are much harder to come by. With such a limited quantity of vegan collagen products on the market, it may be recommended for vegans to eat collagen-boosting foods. These are foods with amino acids that our bodies need to make their supply of collagen. These foods include egg whites, citrus fruits, berries, garlic, leafy greens, beans, tomatoes, cashews, and bell peppers. 

Another option for vegans is to eat foods with some of the same amino acids in collagen. Glycine, lysine, and proline are collagen’s most abundant amino acids. Below are some foods that have all three of these amino acids:

  • Soy products like tempeh and tofu
  • Legumes like black beans and kidney beans
  • Pumpkin, squash, sunflower, and chia seeds
  • Pistachios, peanuts, and cashews

What are the benefits of collagen and collagen supplements?

Collagen has multiple benefits for our bodies, not just our skin, as many people think. 

Skin

Collagen helps improve our skin’s elasticity and slows any signs of aging. A study found that skin concerns improved when subjects took a collagen supplement (1). The skin conditions tested were pressure ulcers, skin aging, cellulite, skin elasticity, and skin hydration (1). The study found that taking between 2.5-10 grams of collagen daily for at least eight weeks showed some improvements in those skin conditions (1). While we don’t know how much of an improvement was seen in those skin conditions, this study does show that collagen has a positive effect on our skin. 

Muscle

Collagen helps boost our muscle mass when paired with a strength training routine. It can be used just like regular protein to help improve muscle growth. A study showed that when elderly men took 15 grams of collagen protein after three strength training workouts each week, they had more quadriceps strength and more fat-free mass (2). The greater quadriceps strength indicates more muscle mass. The greater fat-free mass indicates they had less fat and likely more muscle.

Collagen is very similar to whey-based protein powders in this aspect. The only difference between the two is that the collagen protein will be missing an essential amino acid that is available in the whey protein. 

Bones & Joints

Collagen can promote bone and joint health and help with pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 32 million adults in the US. Osteoarthritis causes cartilage breakdown, leading to pain and inflammation, especially around the joints. Collagen supplements are helpful for this condition because of their amino acids glycine and proline. These amino acids have anti-inflammatory effects that help ease the inflammation caused by osteoarthritis. 

Studies have suggested supplementing with at least 10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen (aka collagen that has been broken down into easily dissolvable particles) each day to lower pain caused by osteoarthritis (3). A different study tested what would happen to total bone mass if participants took a collagen supplement (4). They found that taking at least 5 grams of a collagen supplement each day for 12 months led to more bone mass (4). This means that collagen can help strengthen our bones too!

Heart Health

If you have any idea of how the heart works, you probably know it’s very flexible. Every time it beats, it is filled with blood and then contracts to pump that blood out. That blood then goes directly into our arteries. Our arteries must be prepared to take in this influx of blood and keep it pumping throughout the rest of the body.

Much like the heart, our arteries need to be flexible too. This is where collagen comes into play. Collagen is one of the biggest components that make up our arteries. When we don’t make enough or get enough through our diet, our arteries weaken and become stiffer. This makes it harder for our blood to flow freely. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fat builds up in our arteries. Fat build-up can also slow and damage the collagen of the arterial walls. With atherosclerosis, blood pressure typically rises and causes an increased risk for stroke or heart attack.

A study provided participants with 8 grams of collagen twice a day for six months and tested cholesterol level and arterial composition (5). At the end of the study, participants saw improved cholesterol levels and improved elasticity of the arteries (5). We can see that collagen has shown positive effects on our heart health and may be worth a try when it comes to improving your heart health

 

From what we discussed here, collagen has shown to be effective in helping our bodies, not just our skin. If you’re interested in adding more collagen to your diet but aren’t sure how you can always reach out to one of our dietitians, and we’d be happy to help you find the right collagen supplements to start with.

 

References:

  1. Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz MLW, Atanaskova Mesinkovsk N. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2019;18(1):9-16. 
  2. Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: A randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/s0007114515002810
  3. Moskowitz RW. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2000;30(2):87-99. doi:10.1053/sarh.2000.9622 
  4. König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women—a randomized controlled study. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):97. doi:10.3390/nu10010097
  5. Tomosugi N, Yamamoto S, Takeuchi M, et al. Effect of collagen tripeptide on atherosclerosis in healthy humans. Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis. 2017;24(5):530-538. doi:10.5551/jat.36293

Want to request an appointment? Click here!

Recent Posts

Guide to Aging Well

Sign Up to Receive Your FREE Guide To Aging Well!