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Benefits of Collagen Supplements

Benefits of collagen supplements

The potent benefits of collagen supplementation are a subject of considerable interest in the field of clinical nutrition. Harnessing the power of this naturally occurring protein may open a pathway towards enhanced gut health, improved skin vitality, and an increase in the intake of crucial amino acids such as glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids, often overshadowed by their more prominent counterparts, are the unsung heroes that ensure the health of our connective tissues, playing a pivotal role in maintaining our overall wellbeing.

As a committed Clinical Nutritionist and advocate for health optimisation, I've personally experienced the potential of collagen. Further, I often recommend it to my clients, especially those dealing with gut health issues or individuals who, as they age, seek to improve their skin health. This article will dive deep into the multifaceted world of collagen, unravelling its science-backed benefits, potential uses, and the ways it can enrich your nutritional strategy. You can also listen to the video below if you prefer to listen to an audio version of this article.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, found primarily in your skin, bones, and connective tissues. Think of it as the glue holding your body together. It provides structure, flexibility, and support, with several types playing distinct roles in the body.

One popular form of collagen is collagen or hydrolysed collagen, a type of collagen that's been broken down to make it more easily absorbed by the body. This form is often found in collagen supplements, and it can be mixed into liquids like water or smoothies without affecting their texture or taste.

What is the difference between collagen and other protein?

Collagen distinguishes itself from other proteins in a truly remarkable way, primarily due to its unique amino acid profile. Sure, proteins generally comprise of a variety of amino acids, but collagen's blend holds a unique edge, starring glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline — the trinity of amino acids less common in other protein sources.

While meat consumption and whey protein powders do offer a wide spectrum of amino acids, they generally lack in the collagen-specific ones, particularly hydroxyproline. Now, this might get you wondering why these amino acids are worth a fuss. Here's a sneak-peek into their charm:

  • Glycine: This amino acid is a fundamental building block for DNA and RNA strands. Additionally, it supports your immune system and aids in the production of glutathione, one of the body's master antioxidants. Glycine's role doesn't end here, it's also vital for healthy sleep patterns.

  • Proline: Proline is crucial for the production of collagen itself, supporting healthy skin, ligaments, tendons, and heart muscles.

  • Hydroxyproline: This one's a biggie in collagen synthesis, essentially acting as a stabiliser, ensuring that our bodies can use the protein effectively.

Supplementing with collagen provides these special amino acids in a convenient, concentrated form. Not to mention, collagen supplements are generally more digestible and absorbable, thanks to their hydrolysed form. This ensures that your body gets the most out of the collagen you consume.

Types of Collagen

While there are at least 28 types of collagen, the three main types found in the human body are Type I, II, and III. Type I is the most abundant, providing structure to skin, bones, and tendons. Type II is predominantly found in cartilage, whereas Type III supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.

It's important to note that many types of collagen supplements are hydrolyzed, meaning the collagen is broken down into smaller particles, which are more easily absorbed by the body.

How Does Collagen Work in Your Body?

Collagen provides structure to your skin and strengthens your bones. It's made of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which are needed for our bodies to produce collagen naturally. However, as we age, the body's natural collagen production declines.

Collagen also helps in the creation of other proteins that promote skin elasticity and hydration. Taking collagen supplements may help the body to produce more of this crucial protein, offsetting the effects of aging.

Why Does Your Body Need More Collagen?

As we age, the body produces less collagen, resulting in wrinkles, sagging skin, and weakening joints. Existing collagen breaks down, and the production process slows down. By consuming collagen, we may be able to support collagen production in the body and potentially slow down the aging process.

The Role of Collagen Supplements: Do They Actually Work?

Research on collagen supplements has shown promising results, especially for skin health and joint pain. Collagen supplements are made from the connective tissues of animals and are broken down into for better absorption. Once ingested, these supplements can help increase collagen levels in your body, which in tuen contrinut to skin health, joint health, and more.

Potential Health Benefits of Collagen Supplements

Hydrolysed collagen may have a number of benefits for your body and health. Let's dive into the details of these benefits.

Collagen and Heart Health: The Heart of the Matter

Collagen powder not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about improving cardiovascular health. However, this protein's critical presence in our arterial walls may have implications for heart-related conditions.

Arterial Structure: Our arteries, the body's blood highways, rely on collagen for their structural integrity. It acts as a scaffolding, keeping the arterial walls strong and flexible. A lack of collagen may weaken these vital pathways, potentially affecting heart health.

Recent Research: A study on 30 healthy adults revealed a potential link between collagen and arterial flexibility. Participants who consumed 16 grams of collagen daily over six months showed reduced arterial stiffness. Another study involving 70 healthy older individuals demonstrated that daily supplementation of 2.5 grams of pork collagen led to a significant reduction in arterial stiffness, as measured by baPWV.

Table 1.1: Collagen Supplements and Arterial Flexibility Study Details

Variables Description
Number of Participants 30 healthy adults
Intervention  16 grams daily
Duration 6 months
Outcome Reduced arterial stiffness

Table 1.2: Pork Collagen Supplementation and Arterial Stiffness Study Details

Variables Description
Number of Participants 70 healthy older individuals
Intervention  2.5 grams daily
Duration 12 weeks
Outcome Reduced arterial stiffness

The above insights suggest that consistent collagen might serve as a proactive measure in maintaining our arteries' elasticity and, subsequently, supporting overall heart health.

Collagen and Muscle Health

Research on collagen peptides (CP) and their  benefits for muscle health has been a topic of interest among scientists. In a study published in Springer, 24 recreationally active males were administered either 20 g/day of CP or a placebo for 7 days before and 2 days after performing 150 drop jumps. The objective was to observe the effects of CP on markers of muscle damage, inflammation, and bone turnover. Notably, while muscle soreness was not significantly different between the CP and placebo groups, a pronounced effect size indicated reduced soreness in the CP group 48 hours post-exercise. Furthermore, countermovement jump (CMJ) height showcased a quicker recovery in the CP group compared to the placebo group at the same 48-hour mark. However, the study concluded that CP offered moderate advantages for the recovery of CMJ and muscle soreness but did not significantly impact inflammation and bone collagen synthesis.

Collagen and Muscle Protein Synthesis in Elderly Men

Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is a fundamental process for muscle growth and repair. This metabolic process incorporates amino acids into bound skeletal muscle proteins and is primarily stimulated by resistance training and protein ingestion. A study suggests that collagen powder could potentially enhance MPS.

A study suggests that collagen powder could potentially enhance MPS. elderly men who undertook a 12-week resistance training program along with 15g of collagen protein experienced significant gains in fat-free mass (FFM) and muscle strength compared to those who took a placebo. While the exact mechanism by which collagen influence muscle protein metabolism is still unknown, this study points towards a potential increase in MPS with collagen.

Key Study Findings
- Collagen, when combined with resistance training, led to significant gains in fat-free mass (FFM) and muscle strength in elderly men.
- Collagen may potentially enhance Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS).

Collagen and Muscle Recovery

Collagen powder has also been found to speed up recovery times post-exercise. Collagen protein reduced muscle soreness and improved recovery time two days after starting supplementation.

Further research found that collagen peptides help strengthen ligaments and joints, reducing the likelihood of injury. They also found that collagen aids in the repair of cartilage and other connective tissues, which can be beneficial for individuals who engage in high-impact activities.

Key Study Findings
- Collagen reduced muscle soreness and improved recovery time post-exercise.
- Collagen helps strengthen ligaments and joints and repair cartilage and other connective tissues.

Joint Pain and Arthritis Support

Study Title & Duration Author & Year Participants Intervention Outcome
24-Week study on collagen hydrolysate use in athletes with activity-related joint pain Clark, K. L. et al. (2008) 147 varsity team or club sport athletes (97 statistically evaluated) 25 mL liquid with 10 g collagen hydrolysate vs. placebo Improvement in joint pain in athletes treated with collagen hydrolysate.
Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: 6-month study Bruyère O et al., (2012) 200 individuals aged 50+ with joint pain ≥30 mm on VAS Collagen hydrolysate 1200 mg/day vs. placebo for 6 months At 6 months, 51.6% in collagen group showed clinically significant improvement vs. 36.5% in placebo.
Meta-analysis on collagen supplementation's effect on Osteoarthritis symptoms García-Coronado JM et al., (2019) Data from various randomized controlled trials Oral collagen supplementation Collagen showed effectiveness in reducing OA symptoms, with reductions in the WOMAC index and VAS scores.

Collagen, an essential component of our joint health, plays a significant role in maintaining the integrity of our cartilage - the rubber-like tissue that protects our joints. As we age, our body's collagen production decreases, which could potentially increase the risk of degenerative joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis.

A 24-week clinical trial was conducted at Penn State University to examine the effects of collagen hydrolysate on activity-related joint pain in athletes. 147 physically active athletes with no joint disease were recruited, and data from 97 of them were statistically analyzed. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups: one group received 25 mL of a liquid with 10 g of collagen hydrolysate, while the other group received a placebo. The study found that the collagen hydrolysate group experienced statistically significant improvements in various parameters of joint pain compared to the placebo group. In particular, among athletes with knee arthralgia, the effects of collagen hydrolysate were even more pronounced. This study suggests that collagen hydrolysate may help improve joint pain in athletes, potentially supporting joint health and reducing the risk of joint deterioration in this high-risk group. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

A 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a food supplement containing 1200 mg/day of collagen hydrolysate for individuals with joint pain in either the lower or upper limbs or the lumbar spine. The study involved 200 participants, aged 50 and above, experiencing joint pain of at least 30 mm on a visual analog scale (VAS). The primary outcome was the comparison of clinical responders between the collagen hydrolysate and placebo groups after 6 months. A clinical responder was defined as a person with a clinically significant improvement of at least 20% in their most painful joint VAS score. Results showed that 51.6% of the collagen hydrolysate group were clinical responders at 6 months, compared to 36.5% in the placebo group (p<0.05). However, no significant difference was noted between the two groups at 3 months. Both groups showed similar safety and tolerability profiles. The study suggests potential benefits of collagen hydrolysate for joint pain, but further research is required to substantiate these findings.

Osteoarthritis (OA), a prevalent chronic disease, is a significant cause of disability worldwide. In recent times, collagen supplements have emerged as a promising treatment option due to some encouraging results in managing OA symptoms. To gain a clearer understanding of collagen's effectiveness, a detailed meta-analysis was conducted, pooling data from randomized controlled trials. This study specifically focused on evaluating the impact of collagen on OA symptoms, utilizing two widely recognized assessment tools: the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and the Visual Analog Scale (VAS). The findings were notable: collagen  led to a marked reduction in the overall WOMAC index, especially highlighting a decrease in stiffness. However, its impact on pain and functional limitations remained less definitive, requiring more focused studies. Additionally, a noteworthy improvement was observed in the VAS scores post-collagen intake. In summary, this meta-analysis adds weight to the potential benefits of collagen supplements in managing OA, though more research is recommended to cement these findings and explore further nuances.

Bolstering Bone Health with Collagen

Emerging research suggests that collagen supplements may play a crucial role in maintaining and improving bone health, particularly in postmenopausal women. Several studies have explored the potential benefits of collagen on bone mineral density and bone markers, with promising results.

In a 2015 study, 39 postmenopausal women with osteopenia were randomly assigned to take either a dietary supplement made of calcium-collagen chelate or a control supplement daily for 12 months. The calcium-collagen chelate supplement contained 500 mg of elemental calcium and 200 IU vitamin D. The study found that the loss of whole body bone mineral density in women taking the calcium-collagen chelate supplement was significantly lower than that of the control group after 12 months. 

A 2018 study involved 131 postmenopausal women with primary, age-related reduction in bone mineral density. These women were given a daily oral administration of 5g specific collagen or a placebo for 12 months. The results demonstrated that the intake of specific collagen significantly increased bone mineral density in the spine and femoral neck compared to the control group. 

In a follow-up observation in 2021, 31 postmenopausal women with reduced bone mineral density completed a four-year open-label follow-up study. All participants received specific bioactive collagen. The study found that long-term supplementation with specific bioactive collagen led to a clinically relevant increase in bone mineral density in the spine and femoral neck. 

In conclusion, these studies provide compelling evidence that collagen supplements, particularly those containing specific collagen or calcium-collagen chelates, may have significant benefits for bone health in postmenopausal women. However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these effects and to establish optimal dosing and supplementation protocols.

Collagen and Skin Health

Probably the biggest reason people take a collagen supplement is for skin health. The belief is that collagen helps skin's structure, helping maintain its elasticity and hydration. As we age, collagen levels naturally decline, often leading to drier skin and wrinkle formation. However, recent research suggests that a daily collagen supplement may help counter these effects.

Table 1: Key Studies on Collagen and Skin Health

Study Participants Intervention Duration Outcome
Proksch et al., 2013 114 women aged 45-65 years Daily supplementation of 2.5 g of BCP (Verisol®) 8 weeks Reduced eye wrinkles and improved dermal matrix synthesis.
SOUKEN Laboratories, 2008 (Asserin et al., 2015) 33 Japanese women aged 40-59 years Daily drink with 10g of Peptan (either Peptan®F [fish] or Peptan®P [porcine]) 8 weeks Improvement in skin moisture levels.
COSderma Laboratories, 2012 (Asserin et al., 2015) 106 Caucasian women aged 40-65 years Daily powder drink with 10g of Peptan®F (fish origin) 12 weeks Improved skin hydration, increased collagen density in dermis, and decreased fragmentation of dermal collagen network.
Boo-Yong Lee et al., 2018 64 individuals Daily supplementation of 1000 mg of LMWCP 12 weeks Improved skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling.

Skin Elasticity

In a study conducted by Do-Un Kim, Hee-Chul Chung, and colleagues, published in "Nutrients" in 2018, the efficacy of Low-molecular-weight Collagen peptide (LMWCP) on human skin was explored. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involved 64 participants. These individuals were administered either a placebo or 1000 mg of LMWCP daily for 12 weeks. By the end of the study period, the LMWCP group displayed significant improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling compared to the placebo group. The findings suggest that LMWCP could be a potential functional food ingredient to enhance skin health.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study by E Proksch et al., the impact of specific bioactive collagen peptides (BCP) VERISOL® on skin aging was evaluated. One hundred and fourteen women, aged 45-65 years, took either 2.5 g of BCP or a placebo daily for 8 weeks. The results showed that BCP significantly reduced eye wrinkle volume by 20% after 4 and 8 weeks compared to the placebo. This effect persisted 4 weeks after discontinuing BCP. Furthermore, after 8 weeks, there was a significant increase in the content of procollagen type I (65%) and elastin (18%) in the BCP group versus the placebo. Fibrillin increased by 6% in the BCP group, but this was not statistically significant. In summary, oral consumption of specific bioactive collagen, namely Verisol®, effectively reduced skin wrinkles and boosted dermal matrix synthesis.

Skin Hydration

Regarding skin hydration, a study conducted in 2008 at SOUKEN Laboratories in Tokyo involved 33 Japanese women between 40-59 years, who were provided with either a placebo or Peptan from fish (Peptan®F) or porcine origins (Peptan®P). These participants consumed a drink containing 10g of either the placebo or Peptan daily over a span of 56 days. This study focused primarily on assessing facial skin parameters, especially skin moisture levels.

Furthermore, research in 2012 at COSderma Laboratories in Bordeaux, France, emphasized the positive impacts of collagen supplementation on skin hydration after 8 weeks. This investigation included 106 women, aged 40-65, who consumed a formulated drink every morning with either a placebo or 10g of Peptan (fish origin). Findings indicated a pronounced increase in the collagen density in the dermis and a reduction in the fragmentation of the dermal collagen network after just 4 weeks, which remained consistent through the 12-week period.

Additionally, ex vivo experiments using human skin explants, treated with specific collagen peptides of fish origin (Peptan®F), showed that these peptides influenced the production of collagen and glycosaminoglycan, which might provide an explanation for the positive clinical outcomes observed.

Lastly, the study by Boo-Yong Lee et al. in 2018 also identified that the LMWCP group had significantly improved skin hydration levels after both 6 and 12 weeks compared to the placebo group.

Wrinkle Reduction

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study by E Proksch et al. (2013), the impact of specific bioactive collagen peptides (BCP) VERISOL® on skin aging was evaluated. One hundred and fourteen women, aged 45-65 years, took either 2.5 g of BCP or a placebo daily for 8 weeks. The results showed that BCP significantly reduced eye wrinkle volume by 20% after 4 and 8 weeks compared to the placebo. This effect persisted 4 weeks after discontinuing BCP. Furthermore, after 8 weeks, there was a significant increase in the content of procollagen type I (65%) and elastin (18%) in the BCP group versus the placebo. Fibrillin increased by 6% in the BCP group, but this was not statistically significant. In summary, oral consumption of specific bioactive collagen peptides, namely Verisol®, effectively reduced skin wrinkles and boosted dermal matrix synthesis Furthermore, in the study conducted by Do-Un Kim, Hee-Chul Chung, and colleagues, published in "Nutrients" in 2018, it was specifically highlighted that participants who consumed Low-molecular-weight Collagen peptide (LMWCP) saw a significant reduction in skin wrinkling over the course of 12 weeks.

Collagen and Liver Function

Glycine, a primary amino acid in collagen, has several roles in our body. Among them, it's involved in the formation of bile salts in the liver, aiding in fat digestion. Bile, beyond its digestive role, also helps in the elimination of certain waste products.

While collagen is a rich source of glycine, it's important to understand that the direct link between collagen intake and enhanced liver function isn't well-established in scientific literature. However, the prominence of glycine in collagen showcases the amino acid's diverse and essential roles in various physiological processes.

Recommended Collagen Products

Product Name Type of Collagen Serving Size Price Benefits/Claims
Protein Supplies Collagen Peptides (1kg) Bovine 30 grams $68.95 Supports skin, hair, nails, and joint health
White Wolf Nutrition Whey Better Collagen Bovine and marine 1 scoop (33 grams) $78.99 Supports muscle growth and recovery, skin health, and joint health
Therapure Pure Collagen Peptides + C Bovine 16 grams $26.40$65.80 Supports skin health, joint health, and gut health
GelPro PeptiPro The Original Collagen Bovine 16 grams $53.95 Supports skin, hair, nails, and joint health
GelPro Marine Collagen The Original Marine 5 grams $83.95 Supports skin, hair, nails, and joint health
Wonder Foods Beauty Collagen Bovine 1 scoop (7 grams) $63.96 Supports skin health, joint health, and hair health
GelPro Collagen Hair Health Bovine 1 tablet $58.95 Supports hair growth and strength, and skin health
GelPro NutraColl Advanced Beauty Collagen Bovine and marine 1 tablet $53.95 Supports skin, hair, nails, and joint health
JSHealth Vitamins Beauty Collagen Creamer + Bovine 1 scoop (3.25 grams) 1-2 times daily $63.99 Supports skin, hair, nails, and joint health

How Much Collagen Should You Take Daily?

The recommended collagen intake varies depending on individual needs, health goals, and the specific collagen supplement. However, studies used to test the benefits of collagen supplements typically use doses ranging from 2.5 grams to 15 grams of collagen per day. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement regimen.

Can Taking Too Much Collagen Be Harmful?

Like any supplement, consuming too much collagen may cause side effects such as digestive discomfort. Following the recommended serving size on the product label or advice from your healthcare provider is essential.

A Look at Vegan Collagen: Can It Provide Similar Benefits?

Vegan collagen supplements do not contain collagen but are composed of ingredients that are supposed to help boost the body's production of collagen. While they can be a viable alternative for those following a vegan lifestyle, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness compared to animal-derived collagen supplements.

Optimal Dosages for Hydrolyzed Collagen peptide supplements

The dosage often depends on the individual's goals and their current health status. Below is a simple guide to help you understand the general dosage recommendations for specific benefits. However, always remember that individual needs may vary, and it's best to consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice.

Health Goal

Recommended Dosage

Skin Health

2.5 - 5 grams daily

Muscle Mass

15 grams post-exercise

Heart Health

16 grams daily

Joint Pain

8 - 12 grams daily

Bone Health

5 grams daily, in combination with calcium

Dosage Skin Health

To improve skin health, including hydration and elasticity, a daily dosage of 2.5 to 5 grams of hydrolyzed collagen is generally recommended. Studies have shown that these amounts can significantly enhance skin properties after eight weeks of intake.

Building Muscle Mass

For enhancing muscle mass, research suggests that consuming collagen supplements post-exercise may be beneficial. A dosage of around 15 grams of collagen after workout sessions is often suggested to support muscle recovery and growth.

Support Heart Health

To support heart health, a higher dosage is usually recommended. Research has shown that 16 grams of collagen daily can help reduce artery stiffness, a risk factor for heart disease.

Support Joint Pain

If your aim is to reduce joint pain or manage arthritis symptoms, a daily dose of 8 to 12 grams of collagen is often suggested. Regular intake of collagen in these amounts may help to improve joint health over time.

Promote Bone Health

For bone health, particularly to prevent bone loss associated with age or conditions like osteoporosis, a daily dosage of 5 grams of collagen, in combination with calcium, can be beneficial. This combination has been shown to decrease markers of bone breakdown.

Please note that this table provides a general guideline. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen.

Key Summary

Here are the key takeaways about collagen and its supplements:

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and provides structure to skin, bones, and tendons.

  • As we age, our body produces less collagen leading to signs of aging like wrinkles and joint discomfort.

  • Collagen supplements, particularly hydrolysed or collagen peptides, may help replenish the body's collagen stores.

  • Potential health benefits of taking collagen supplements include improved skin health, stronger bones, and joint pain relief.

  • Vegan collagen supplements do not contain actual collagen but are ingredients meant to boost your body's own collagen production.

Now that you understand the potential health benefits of collagen and collagen supplements, you can decide whether they might be a beneficial addition to your daily routine. 

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