The Benefits of Collagen Supplements: Do They Really Work?

Collagen is having a moment. But do these heavily desired supplements really give you a wrinkle-free face, stronger muscles, and healthier joints? Let’s find out.

By Adarsh Soni
24 Jun 2021

What is collagen?

The word ‘collagen’ derives its meaning from the Greek word for glue, and that accurately describes the role it plays in our body. Collagen is a structural protein that binds both cells and tissues together and helps them maintain their shape, and is found abundantly in our bones, muscles, tendons, teeth and most importantly in our skin. As we age, our body starts producing less and less collagen, which can lead to several health-related problems ranging from premature aging to more serious issues like arthritis. But you can easily boost your body’s collagen production with the help of certain nutrient-rich foods and easily available supplements.

The different kinds of collagen
As mentioned in the book Molecular Cell Biology by Harvey Lodish et al, there are four main types of collagen:

  • Type I: It accounts for 90% of our body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibres. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
  • Type II: It is made up of more loosely packed fibres and is found in elastic cartilage, which cushions our joints.
  • Type III: It supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.
  • Type IV: It helps with filtration and is found in the layers of our skin.

Health benefits of collagen supplements
Collagen supplements are available in both edible and topical forms and have been proven to be beneficial for the body in multiple ways:

  • Promotes healthy skin

Skin is the largest organ of the human body and functions as a physical barrier to protect the body from pathogens, chemicals, and UV radiation, so protecting it is vital for our survival. According to a research conducted by Dr Ehrhardt Proksch, Department of Dermatology, University of Kiel, Germany, oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin. In other words, collagen is responsible for maintaining the suppleness and elasticity of skin. The study also found that direct exposure to the sun is one of the reasons for collagen depletion in our skin.
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  • Reduces chances of arthritis

A study conducted by Dr Kristine L Clark, Department of Nutrition and Sports Nutrition for Athletics, Penn State University, Pennsylvania, USA, found that athletes who, for six months, took a hydrolysed collagen supplement—basically collagen proteins that have been broken down into easily digestible amino acids—experienced less joint pain during activity and at rest. Similar studies have linked collagen supplements to lower rates of back pain or reduced knee pain among people with osteoarthritis.

  • Helps build muscle

A 2019 research conducted by Dr Vanessa Oertzen-Hagemann, Department of Sports Medicine and Sports Nutrition, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, among physically active men showed that a combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training increased muscle mass and strength more than a placebo.

Natural sources of collagen
Collagen is naturally found in food items that are rich in:

  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, gooseberries, guavas, broccoli etc.
  • Proline: Egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms.
  • Copper: Sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils.
  • Amino Acids: Commonly found in meat and poultry but vegan protein alternatives like tofu and legumes are just as beneficial.

In addition to the natural sources, collagen supplements also come in the form of collagen powder that can be easily incorporated into everyday food items. The peptide form can be added to smoothies, soups, or baked goods without affecting their texture. Several cosmetic creams, lotions and serums also contain collagen.

Along with eating collagen-rich foods and investing in supplements, one must also steer clear of collagen depleting behaviours, which include smoking, staying out in the sun for too long, and eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates.



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