Collagen is enjoying a moment of glory. The popular supplement has gained traction with consumers looking for youthful benefits for their skin, bones, joints, and more. They are slathering it on their skin, adding it to their beverages, and taking it in capsule form.
So, you may be wondering, what is collagen and what’s it good for – and more personally, should I take collagen supplements?
Let’s take a closer look…
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the principle structural protein that forms the connective tissue in our bodies. Having an abundance of healthy collagen keeps our skin elastic, our nails and bones strong, and our joints youthful. It makes up roughly 80 percent of our skin and works in tandem with elastin, another protein, to provide skin its structure and maintain its shape.
Unfortunately, as nature would have it, we begin losing a small percentage of our body’s collagen each year starting in our 20s. Our body just can’t replace the collagen as quickly as we start losing it. Add to this lifestyle factors such as sun and pollution exposure, tobacco smoke, consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates – and collagen degrades even faster.
What happens as we lose collagen over time? All the telltale signs of aging…drier, more wrinkled skin, brittle nails, and painful joints.
We all want to look and feel young. That’s why the idea of fortifying our bodies with collagen holds such allure – especially if it can preserve skin elasticity and healthy movement.
What Is Collagen Made Of?
Collagen supplements are made up of collagen peptides (also known as hydrolyzed collagen), which is collagen that has been broken down into shorter chains of two or three amino acids so that it can be easily absorbed in the GI tract. The body can, in theory, utilize absorbed peptides in areas that need repair the most. Collagen sources most commonly include marine (from fish skin and scales), bovine (from cow hide), and porcine (from pork skin).
Does Collagen Supplementation Work?
While collagen supplementation is relatively new, preliminary research for collagen benefits is overwhelmingly positive. Several studies have underscored some of the health benefits of collagen mentioned above, including supporting healthy skin elasticity, greater bone density, and healthy knees and joints. Research shows that it may also support stronger nails and hair growth.
That said, most of the available studies are small and often funded by companies that make collagen products. Carrying a bit more weight, a 2019 review of published double-blind, placebo-controlled scientific research found that collagen supplementation supports definite skin health benefits such as elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density – but concluded more research is needed.
If you don’t want to take supplements, you can consume foods that contain the building blocks of collagen, as well as collagen-rich foods.
To ensure your body has the nutrients it needs, get plenty of vitamin C, proline, glycine, and copper. Also, eating high-quality protein provides your body with the amino acids it needs for collagen production.
Collagen-rich foods include chicken skin, pork skin, beef, and fish, as well as foods that contain gelatin, like bone broth.
However, dietary consumption of collagen needs more research too. Science doesn’t know yet how well the body breaks down and utilizes collagen that comes from the diet.
While there are plenty of creams and potions containing collagen, chances are stronger that you’ll get results if you supplement. Grass-fed bovine and marine sourced collagen supplements, which have shown to be equally effective, appear to be most popular. Unfortunately, there’s no vegan option.
While more research is being conducted, experts agree that collagen supplements pose no harm. Still, it’s always a good idea to read ingredient labels and look for third-party verification.
If you’re curious, there’s enough promise here to warrant trying it out for yourself!
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