Collagen is a protein responsible for healthy joints and skin elasticity, or stretchiness. It’s in your bones, muscles, and blood, comprising three quarters of your skin and a third of the protein in your body.
As you age, your existing collagen breaks down, and it gets harder for your body to produce more. As a result, many people turn to collagen supplements. These supplements are usually powders, though there are also capsules and liquid supplements available.
Collagen is also produced naturally in the body by combining amino acids, the building blocks of proteins found in food. To produce collagen, your body needs:
Proline: found in egg whites, dairy, cabbage, mushrooms, and asparagus
Glycine: found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, and a variety of other protein-rich foods
Vitamin C: found in citrus fruits and bell peppers
Zinc: found in beef, lamb, pork, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, beans, milk, cheese, and various nuts and seeds
Copper: found in organ meats, cocoa powder, cashews, sesame seeds, and lentils
Fourteen grams of collagen peptide (supplement) contains:
Protein: 12 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 0 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Sugar: 0 grams
The same amount of collagen peptide also contains 29 milligrams of calcium, 44.9 milligrams of sodium, and 0.98 milligrams of potassium.
Potential Health Benefits of Collagen Supplements
Because it makes up so many critical parts of our bodies, collagen is not only beneficial but essential to maintaining good health. However, the benefits of collagen supplements are still debated. While there is reasonable evidence that they help maintain hydrated skin and relieve osteoarthritis pain, more research is needed into less well-understood benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Here are some commonly cited benefits of collagen supplements:
As you age, your bones become less dense and more brittle, breaking more easily and taking longer to heal. Studies have shown that daily collagen supplements can help make your bones denser, slowing the aging process that makes them brittle and helping your body to produce new bone.
Skin Elasticity and Hydration
Oral collagen supplements have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity for older people. They might also help to lessen wrinkles.
While more men go bald, many women also experience hair loss or thinning as they age. In one study, a group of women with thinning hair saw significant increases in their hair’s quantity, scalp coverage, and thickness while taking daily collagen supplements.
Some people’s nails break more easily than others, and don’t grow as fast. One study in a group of women showed faster nail growth and fewer broken or chipped nails after only four weeks of daily collagen supplements.
Reduced Osteoarthritis Pain
For people with knee osteoarthritis, oral collagen supplements might act as a mild pain reliever and improve joint function. It may take about three to five months of daily treatment before you see these improvements.
Increased Muscle Mass
A combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training could potentially help increase muscle mass and strength.
Potential Risks of Collagen Supplements
Side effects of collagen supplements are rare. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to hold off on taking a collagen supplement for now, since there isn’t yet enough research to come to any conclusions about their safety.
The effects of collagen supplements continue to be researched and debated. Instead of buying these supplements, you can always help your body make more collagen naturally by ensuring your diet is packed with healthy foods.
To produce collagen, your body puts the amino acids glycine and proline together with other amino acids including vitamin C, zinc, and copper. You can help your body produce more collagen by eating lots of glycine- and proline-rich foods like chicken, beef, fish, dairy, eggs, and beans. For vitamin C, zinc, and copper, you should also be sure to eat foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, shellfish, nuts, and whole grains.