So you sipped on a collagen-powder infused beverage every day of 2018 expecting it to transform your skin into the vibrant sheath it once was, or at the very least to stop your skin from acquiring more age-related wrinkles.
It makes sense that you believed collagen was your answer: After all, the collagen we make naturally is needed for healthy hair, skin and nails, as well as for strengthening our bones, tendons and ligaments. And as for the skin specifically, collagen is what keeps skin looking young as it helps it maintain its elasticity. Once you get into your 30s, your natural collagen production starts to decline. The new trend of getting collagen facial fillers, which is similar to Botox, pumps collagen into your skin to help prevent and eliminate wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Here’s the thing with taking collagen in supplement form though: Your body doesn’t use the whole collagen the way it uses the collagen you make naturally, so your skin may never see the effects. What your body does do is break down the collagen from a powder supplement, for example, into amino acids, most of which probably never make it to your skin. Some experts say it’s unlikely that any of this whole collagen you’re getting from supplements even makes it into your bloodstream.
This, however, DOES NOT mean collagen supplementation might not be beneficial in other ways: It’s just unlikely to offer magical powers for your skin. Here’s how it might be more valuable:
As mentioned above, collagen is needed for much more than the skin, and there is legitimate evidence that a collagen supplement can provide value to your body. The amino acids from a collagen supplement can still be distributed to areas of your body that need them most, like the heart or the brain, but the skin itself is essentially a low priority.
Our bodies have cells called fibroblasts. Their job is to produce collagen, but in order to produce collagen they need amino acids, specifically glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Collagen supplements, in the form of hydrolyzed collagen, then can help deliver these amino acids to where your body needs them most. And from there, your body can start making more collagen. So while the collagen itself from a supplement might not be usable collagen, per se, the amino acids it breaks into are used to make more collagen naturally. And the older you get, the more this becomes important.
Further, there’s some evidence that collagen supplementation helps decrease joint pain. A 2008 study from Penn State University found collagen supplements helped reduce joint pain in 147 athletes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885).
Other potential benefits include:
• Reduce inflammation (especially in people with osteoarthritis)
• Improves gut health
• Supports a healthy metabolism
• Promotes healthy brain function
• Helps with sleep
If you’re interested in taking a collagen supplement, here are three tips for selecting a brand that has the most chance of helping you:
1. Make sure it’s hydrolyzed collagen (this means it is in a form that make it more absorbable and usable in the body).
2. Marine collagen is best: The four main sources of collagen peptides come from either cow, pig, chicken or fish. Marine is best because it’s in the purest form and is most easily absorbed into the blood. If you do choose a collagen sourced from a cow, pig or chicken, make sure it’s grass-fed.
3. Check to label to ensure the collagen peptides do not have any fillers.
This, however, doesn’t mean you necessarily NEED a collagen supplement. If you’re eating well, you could very well be making enough of your own collagen. If you eat a lot of protein-rich foods like chicken, fish, beef and eggs, and are getting enough Vitamin C, zinc and copper, then you might be good without a collagen supplement. On top of this, three great ways to boost your natural collagen without taking a supplement include consuming bone broth, organ meats and sardines. If the above doesn’t sound like you, then consider a collagen supplement.
We would love to hear your experiences if you have been taking a collagen supplement. Have you noticed any health benefits?