Collagen Supplements – Are They Worth the Hype?

Collagen supplements are all the rage these days.  They claim to do everything from reduce wrinkles to help joint pain to prevent bone loss and to even help you lose weight.  But do they work?   Let’s start with the basics.  What is collagen?  Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and one of the main building blocks of bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  Your body naturally makes collagen and when collagen levels are high (when you’re young!), the skin is moist, soft, smooth and firm.  Unfortunately, as we age, collagen production decreases which results in the common signs of aging such as wrinkles and sagging skin, as well as stiff joints. But can taking collagen supplements help maintain our youth?  The jury is still out.  Scientists are not sure if collagen taken by mouth is actually absorbed into our bloodstream or if it is broken down and destroyed by stomach acid and enzymes in the gut.  More studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of collagen supplements.   In the meantime, there are plenty of natural ways to support collagen production in the body.

  • Protein/Amino acids: Your body makes collagen from amino acids that you get from eating protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs and dairy products.  The amino acids proline, glycine, lysine and leucine are all important for collagen production.
  • Vitamin C: This nutrient is found in citrus fruits, red or green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and greens, and is essential for collagen production. It can also be taken as a nutritional supplement.
  • Vitamin A (retinol): This antioxidant found in foods like sweet potatoes, kale, berries, and organ meat, helps to boost and protect collagen.
  • Zinc, Manganese and Copper: These minerals are found in meats, shellfish, nuts, whole grains and beans and are needed for collagen production.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: The anti-inflammatory properties found Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent loss of collagen.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidant rich foods such as blueberries or green tea help protect the skin against free radical damage which in turn can damage collagen.
  • The Three “S’s”: Smoking, sugar and sun exposure (in excess) can all damage collagen.
  • Ginseng: As an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, ginseng has been found to promote the growth of collagen.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help protect collagen.

 

 

References:

(1) 8 ways to stimulate collagen production in skin. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317151#Ways-to-boost-collagen

(2) Collagen Products: Healthy or Hype? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/collagen-supplements.html

(3) Collagen — What Is It and What Is It Good For? – Healthline. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen

(4) DePhillipo NN;Aman ZS;Kennedy MI;Begley JP;Moatshe G;LaPrade RF;. (n.d.). Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30386805/

(5) Skin Health. (2020, January 02). Retrieved from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health

(6) What are the best foods to boost collagen? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/collagen-foods#summary