Learn what collagen is, the health benefits of collagen, its role in the body, and what you should know before taking a collagen supplement.
Collagen – a word usually thrown around when talking about aging, especially of the skin. Some even refer to it as the “fountain of youth”. But what is collagen? Let’s take a deeper look at the health benefits of collagen, the unique roles it plays in the body, and why taking a collagen supplement might be right for you.
What Does Collagen Do?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, accounting for 30% of the body’s protein. It helps tissues become stronger, more elastic, and more resilient. It’s an important building block for connective tissue, bones, skin, and muscles. You could even go as far as saying collagen is the glue that holds your body together!
Some other roles of collagen include:
- Providing structure and elasticity to the skin
- Blood clotting
- Supporting new skin cell growth
- Helping replace dead skin cells
- Providing protection for organs
- Easing joint pain
- Strengthening bones and muscles
Why Should I Take Collagen?
Starting in your 20’s, you start to lose collagen, with a steady decrease each year. On top of that, existing collagen can become damaged from smoking, lack of sleep, a poor diet, and excess sun exposure.
As we age, collagen decreases and can lead to:
- Joint pain
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Weakening muscles
The body makes collagen but you need enough vitamin C, copper, and zinc to effectively synthesize it. Plus as we age, the body isn’t able to absorb or synthesize nutrients as well, in many cases due to a decrease in stomach acid production. This is where a collagen supplement comes in handy.
Collagen supplements are sold as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen. Both are easily absorbed forms. Supplements are usually made from beef, pork, or fish sources. But taking the precursors to help your body make collagen more effectively can also be a great strategy! Here’s a great collagen-building supplement to gain the benefits of building collagen naturally in the body.
Types of Collagen
There are over 28 types of known collagen, but five main types are commonly referred to. Let’s look at each.
Type I: Supports skin, bones, and connective tissue. Type I makes up over 90% of your body’s collagen. It’s usually the form found in collagen supplements because of its high usage within the body and ability to support skin health.
Type II: Provides joint support and is found in elastic cartilage.
Type III: This type is found primarily in the arteries, muscles, and other organs of the body.
Type IV: Found in the majority of skin layers throughout the body.
Type V: Provides structural support to the skin, lung, and placenta. It’s an essential part of tissue elasticity.
Health Benefits of Collagen
Improves Skin Appearance
Collagen can help firm the skin, improve skin elasticity, and slow wrinkling. One study found collagen significantly improved the elasticity, density, and hydration of participants’ skin when taking a collagen supplement. Another study showed a 35% reduction in wrinkles after three months of taking a collagen supplement! This is why collagen gets its reputation for being “anti-aging”.
With the strong role collagen plays in the skin, it can also help wound healing. One study found that marine collagen is an effective component for wound healing.
Improves Nails and Hair Quality
Hair is made up of the protein keratin. To make keratin, your body needs several different amino acids. Collagen provides them! While few studies on humans have been completed, many people notice an improvement in their hair with collagen.
But collagen can help with more than hair. When taking a daily collagen supplement, 80% of people reported their nails looked better and the frequency of broken nails reduced by 42%. The study also found a 12% increase in the growth rate in nails.
Muscle and Bone Strength
Collagen is involved in mineral deposition of the bone as well as bone development. In one study, collagen increased the mineral density of bones in females after menopause. Interestingly, marine collagen was shown to protect against and delay the development of osteoarthritis. With the availability of amino acids that collagen provides, muscle and bone tissue synthesis is supported so it’s an attractive option for long-term use for bone strengthening.
Joint Pain Relief
Collagen can reduce pain and support joint health. One study of athletes showed that taking collagen for joint pain relief reduced the risk of further joint deterioration. Researchers found that those taking the collagen supplement had fewer swollen joints and joint tenderness than the placebo. Additional studies are needed to learn about collagen’s effect on joint pain, but current studies on the benefits of collagen are promising.
Supports Gut Health
With its high levels of amino acids, collagen plays a big role in the building blocks of the gut wall. It helps repair and restore the gut lining. So much so, it can help with lingering symptoms, like leaky gut or IBS. Collagen is a great way to strengthen the gut lining – plus, it’s easy to digest and absorb.
Are There Dangers In Collagen Supplements?
Something you don’t often hear in the hype around collagen is what to watch out for. While it can be a safe and effective supplement, it’s important to be well-informed on what you’re taking. Some collagen supplements are not as well made and can have some dangers. Heavy metals are one of those dangers. Even at low levels, heavy metals are considered likely carcinogens and can cause organ damage, as well as disrupt hormones.
These heavy metals can include:
It’s essential to make sure the collagen supplement you’re taking is third-party tested for toxins and heavy metals. Third-party quality testing is a way for products to be tested for health and food safety. It looks at the amounts of certain heavy metals to see if the product contains them above the set limits.
So how do you know if a collagen supplement is safe and free from heavy metals? Start by reading the labels and look for proof of third-party testing. Don’t assume that it’s safe and sourced from clean ingredients. Many collagen supplements make claims that are unregulated – Pure! Natural! Clean! While these can be misleading, reading the labels and verifying third-party testing on the product website can help. That way you make sure you’re getting the safest supplement that will safely give you the many health benefits of collagen.
Don’t want to buy a collagen supplement? Or not a fan of taking pills and powders? No problem! You can get a good amount of collagen naturally through bone broth. There are several high quality bone broths on the market that you can buy, however making your own at home is always the best way to go! Sipping a cup of warm bone broth first thing in the morning can be a great way to start your day.
Collagen Supplementation and Optimal Health
Collagen can be a great addition to your wellness routine. With its impact on the skin, joints, and gut health, collagen has many benefits. Just make sure you research your collagen product to make sure it’s safe and third-party tested. Not sure where to start to enjoy the benefits of collagen? Here’s a great collagen-building supplement to start with that’s safe and effective.