While much has been written about collagen and users waxing lyrical about the many benefits of this protein, others are still wondering what all the fuss is about. Touted as a new youth elixir, the collagen supplement market seems to have grown exponentially. Every few months there seems to be a new brand on the shelves, promising everything from improved digestion to glowy skin! This article has a closer look at what collagen is and what collagen supplements help with.
So what is collagen exactly?
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body. It’s responsible for roughly 70 % of the weight of skin alone. You can think of it as a glue-like substance that helps support and strengthen connective tissues. It is found in the skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, intestinal lining, blood vessels, bones, and eyes. In short, it keeps us looking and feeling good and more youthful.
As we age, the production of collagen wanes. This is most notable when joints become stiff or when lines and wrinkles start to form on the face. Environmental pollution, smoking, UV radiation, and other physical stressors also deplete the collagen reserves which may lead to other health problems such as:
- aching muscles
- thinning hair
- cellulite, blood-flow issues
- rheumatoid arthritis
- leaky gut
- loss of mobility
Since vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, being deficient in this nutrient can cause a decrease in collagen levels too. Older people or people with compromised immune systems may not be absorbing nutrients as sufficiently or synthesizing them as effectively.
Fortunately, collagen supplements can help with declining collagen levels. Look out for hydrolyzed or peptide forms of collagen. These forms are essentially smaller sections of the longer amino acid chains that form collagen. The smaller molecules are easily digested and dissolve much faster.
Collagen is produced from mainly 3 sources, namely marine (fish), bovine (cow or beef), and chicken. Deciding which type of collagen supplement to take, would depend on your own personal health reasons and motivation. If you suspect a deficiency in collagen levels, a high-quality collagen supplement can help with various concerns.
Collagen supplements can help how?
Collagen supplements are showing promise in a lot of areas and may be used to:
Increase muscle mass
Collagen forms the connective tissues in our muscles. When we age, and our collagen levels decrease, so does our muscle mass. Studies show collagen supplementation to be beneficial for both men and women. Oral supplementation with hydrolyzed collagen along with resistance training has been shown to improve body composition and increase muscle strength in recreationally active men.
A study focusing on pre-menopausal women likewise showed an increase in lean body mass and also an improvement in body composition.
A 2017 animal study shows there may be hope for osteoarthritis sufferers. Oral supplementation of hydrolyzed collagen Type 1 given to mice indicates evidence of symptom relief. It was found that collagen consumption delivered an anti-inflammatory and protective effect against post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA).
The beauty industry knows that collagen is great for the skin! For years injectable collagen fillers have been used to fill out hollow or sunken areas in the face to create a more youthful appearance. Since then, oral supplementation of collagen has become very popular in the fight against aging. Many studies, like this one, show just how effective collagen supplementation is when it comes to skin health and aging. For 12 weeks, 75 women, aged 35 years and older were given liquid peptide collagen, along with other nutrients such as vitamin C. Positive effects were observed such as improved skin hydration, elasticity, and density.
Another study found similar results, after giving women aged between 35 and 55, 2.5-5 grams of collagen hydrolysate daily over a period of 8 weeks. Skin elasticity, moisture, and roughness improved.
Reduce joint pain
The most notable effects of aging are not only the lines and wrinkles that start to form on the face but the stiffness and loss of mobility experienced later in life. As collagen levels decrease in the body, our joints may feel stiffer and swollen. This study found that collagen supplements (especially Type 2 collagen) can help make a difference in people’s lives who suffer from joint pain and related osteoarthritis.
Improve a leaky gut
Collagen may also play an important role when it comes to leaky gut. This syndrome occurs when bad toxins and microbes pass through the lining of the digestive tract into the bloodstream. Collagen appears to soothe the gut lining by healing the damaged cell walls. People with inflammatory bowel disease have been shown to have decreased levels of collagen.
Since collagen has everything to do with connective tissue, taking collagen supplements may help ease gastrointestinal symptoms and other related disorders such as leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and even Crohn’s disease.
Strengthen teeth, hair and nails
Collagen is the building block of teeth, hair, and nails. This is why taking collagen supplements can help with brittle nails, thinning hair, hair loss, and weak teeth.
Both proline and arginine, 2 amino acids found in collagen, help maintain a healthy heart.
Proline repairs tissue within the arteries provides flexibility to the blood vessels and helps control blood pressure. Whilst arginine contributes to better blood circulation by widening the arteries and relaxing the muscle cells. Heart attack patients and those taking heart medication should not take collagen supplements without first consulting their doctor.
Collagen may improve the quality of sleep. The amino acid glycine is abundant in collagen and helps promote more restful and deeper sleep. This is according to a 2015 animal study that found that glycine has sleep-inducing and hypothermic effects in rats. Further human and rat studies concluded similar results that proved glycine effective in promoting better sleep.
Last thoughts on what collagen supplements help with
Taking collagen supplements can help with many health issues as many studies have shown. Since oral collagen gets digested and broken down into many different amino acids, it is important to make sure that adequate levels of vitamin C are maintained. Collagen cannot be formed without vitamin C being present. Being deficient in vitamin C may cause an imbalance of collagen levels in the body. A simple blood test performed by your doctor will be able to determine if you are deficient in vitamin C. Too much collagen on the other hand may cause problems too, such as heart attacks and blood pressure problems.
Taking dietary supplements such as collagen under the supervision of a healthcare professional is always advised especially if you have underlying medical conditions. This article was not written or overseen by a medical professional and should not be viewed as advice or diagnostic information.
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Disclaimer and Word of caution: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is also not the intention to imply that vitamins or dietary supplements are substitutes for a balanced diet or are in any way more beneficial or superior to dietary nutrients. It is also not intended to imply that normal health may be affected by not taking vitamin or mineral supplements or receiving intravenous vitamin C infusions.
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