Updated: Jan 13
What is Collagen
Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in the bodies of animals. Structural proteins make up the framework of your cells and tissues.
Collagen is made up of three main amino acids, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones, and cartilage are the main structures in which collagen is found and it provides structural support to these tissues.
Additionally, collagen plays a role in cellular processes such as tissue repair, immune response, cellular communication, and cellular migration, which is a process necessary for tissue repair and maintenance
Benefits of Collagen
Collagen has two major benefits: First and foremost, the body becomes less efficient at producing collagen as we age. It’s believed that the body’s natural collagen production declines as we age and may begin as early as young adulthood, around the age of 25.
Secondly, our dietary preferences and patterns have changed over time. Centuries ago, humans utilized bones, broth, organs and tendons to enrich the diet with whole-animal sources of collagen nutrition. Today, more individuals are either gravitating toward plant-based diets or, if they do eat meat, are discarding collagen-rich parts.
Taking collagen daily can improve your skin’s appearance, joint health, and bone health. It can also contain proteins and aid in workout recovery.
Collagen backed by Science
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. 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.
However, potential conflicts of interest exist in this area because most if not all of the research on collagen supplements are funded or partially funded by related industries that could benefit from a positive study result, or one or more of the study authors have ties to those industries. This makes it difficult to determine how effective collagen supplements truly are and if they are worth their often hefty price.
A downside of collagen supplements is the unknown of what exactly it contains or if the supplement will do what the label promotes. There are also concerns of collagen supplements containing heavy metals. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration does not review supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are sold to consumers.
Another potential downside is that taking a collagen supplement can become an excuse to not practice healthy behaviors that can protect against collagen decline, such as getting enough sleep and stopping smoking.
That said, the available research has not shown negative side effects in people given collagen supplements.
Should You take Collagen?
Honestly, that is up to you. I take collagen daily in my green tea and have noticed major improvements in my skin. If you try it, just do your research and try to purchase the most natural one you can find.