Collagen is found throughout the body in muscle, bone, connective tissue, and skin, and it’s something we create ourselves from amino acids. It’s the most abundant protein in the body, but you may have heard that collagen has some potential benefits when taken as a dietary supplement.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at making collagen and we can end up with brittle nails, thinner hair, and more fragile skin. This is due to the presence of collagen in the epidermal layer of the skin, where our hair follicles live and where age-related collagen production decreases. Along with the visible signs of aging, we may feel the effects of decreased collagen in our bodies in the form of joint pain and weaker muscles.
We spoke to experts about the top benefits of collagen and how collagen supplements can help as we age. Looking for other ways to increase your protein intake? Discover our overview of best protein powder to support muscle growth.
1. Skin health
A review in the Gerontology (opens in a new tab) journal indicates that the age-related loss and fragmentation of collagen fibrils (the protein structure) can lead to delayed wound healing and even the development of skin cancer when the skin is weakened. So many topical anti-aging creams contain collagen, although it does little more than moisturize the skin.
Dr. Deborah Lee, physician and representative of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (opens in a new tab), tells Live Science that collagen production decreases with age, leading to sagging skin. “As we age, collagen production slows and the collagen produced is less effective – which underlies many of the changes we see with aging, such as wrinkles and sagging skin, joint pain, height loss and fractures,” she said. said. “The structure of collagen is organized with a complicated fiber system, with chains of amino acids arranged in fibrils, like strong ropes, to provide a tight and reliable support structure.”
Having worked for many years with the National Health Service in the UK, first as a general practitioner and then as a senior clinician for an integrated community sexual health service, Dr Deborah Lee now works as a medical writer and health, with an emphasis on women’s health. She is a specialist in menopause.
A 2019 review in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (opens in a new tab) reports that although the collagen in skin creams is not effective, taking an oral collagen supplement in the form of collagen tripeptide resulted in noticeable improvements in skin elasticity. The review concludes that although research on collagen for skin health is still in its infancy, the results are promising for collagen supplementation.
2. Joint health
A review in the Mechanisms of aging and development (opens in a new tab) indicates that cellular degeneration with age may be responsible for the development of osteoarthritis later in life. The review highlights several causes for this cellular degeneration, and one of the factors mentioned is the reduction in collagen levels in the body as we age.
Dr. Lee tells Live Science that sometimes people with arthritis take collagen to support joint health. “Collagen can be taken as a supplement to treat joint pain in people with arthritis. The
the scientific name is collagen hydrolyzate, but it’s also called hydrolyzed collagen, purified gelatin, HCP, and type 2 collagen,” she says. “Collagen is purchased in the form of capsules containing collagen usually made from beef, pork or fish bones, which have been boiled and processed.”
A meta-analysis in International Orthopedics (opens in a new tab) shows promising improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms when patients were given oral collagen. When results were compared on several different scales, many showed improvement in stiffness, although patient-reported pain and functional limitation did not change significantly.
3. Muscle Support and Healing
A British Journal of Nutrition (opens in a new tab) A study on the impacts of collagen peptide supplementation on older men when combined with resistance training showed improved body composition and muscle strength. As resistance training puts stress on muscles, the application of collagen, a structural protein, can help muscles heal effectively from this stress, increasing their strength and tone.
In addition to this, some medical procedures use collagen membranes or grafts to promote faster wound healing. A review in the International Journal of Biomedical Sciences (opens in a new tab) found that bovine collagen grafts create a favorable environment for bone regeneration. The review notes that 3% of people have an allergic reaction to collagen, so you should be careful when taking a supplement for the first time.
4. Heart healthy
Collagen supplementation may also support cardiovascular health. Research in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis (opens in a new tab) where patients received two daily collagen tripeptide supplements for six months indicates that collagen may improve signs of atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup). Several methods have been used to measure improvement, including testing blood lipid levels. The study concluded that collagen tripeptide can be used as an effective treatment or as a preventative measure.
5. Stronger hair and nails
A clinical trial in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (opens in a new tab) found that collagen supplementation can significantly improve the condition of brittle nails. Patients saw an increase in nail growth, and 88% of participants saw improvement even four weeks after treatment.
Hair and nails are mostly made up of keratin, which is another structural protein, but collagen plays a role in the health of our scalp and the layer of our skin that contains hair follicles. Having enough collagen in our bodies contributes to healthy hair follicles and, by extension, healthy hair, as research shows. Experimental Dermatology (opens in a new tab). It also contains the amino acids needed to make keratin.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice.