Collagen, sourced from animal bones, cartilage, and skin, has been gaining popularity as an anti-aging solution. Collagen is available in oral and topical forms, such as supplements, powders, liquids, and cosmetic products like moisturizers and serums.
Research on the benefits of collagen is lacking. Most studies have only looked at the effects of collagen on animals. Still, some human studies have found that collagen may promote skin, bone, muscle, and joint health. Some evidence suggests that collagen might improve heart and gut health, too.
Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is not just found in animals. The body produces collagen, too. In fact, collagen is one of the most abundant structural proteins in the body. Collagen is the main component of connective tissue, found in our bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin. The body makes collagen from amino acids, which we consume in protein-rich foods.1
As the body ages, it produces less collagen, which causes wrinkles, sagging skin, and weak joints. Certain lifestyle factors also interfere with collagen production, such as excess added sugar, sun exposure, stress, and smoking.2
Benefits of Collagen
Most research on the benefits of collagen looks at the effects of collagen peptides. Collagen peptides form when collagen breaks down into smaller parts.
Some evidence suggests that collagen peptides may improve skin, bone, muscle, and gut health. Though, there is not enough evidence to fully understand the benefits of collagen peptides.3
Helps Reduce Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Research has found that collagen peptide supplements may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.4
During menopause, collagen begins to diminish in the skin. In fact, within five years of menopause, the skin loses nearly one-third of its total collagen. Decreased collagen causes fine lines and wrinkles, as well as sagging skin.5
In a review published in 2022, researchers noted that collagen peptide supplements might reverse those effects by increasing skin elasticity and hydrating the skin. In addition to supplements, topical collagen in cosmetic products (e.g., moisturizers and serums) may promote skin health.4
Might Strengthen Bones
As with collagen in the skin, bone mineral density decreases during menopause. The bones lose calcium, which typically forms and strengthens bones. As a result, the bones become brittle and prone to fractures. Postmenopausal women have a high risk of osteoporosis.6
Research is limited on how collagen peptides impact bone and muscle loss. One study published in 2018 found that collagen peptide supplements helped increase bone mineral density among postmenopausal females.
Among 131 females taking collagen peptide supplements, the researchers found that bone markers in their blood samples showed improved bone formation and reduced bone loss.7
May Protect Against Muscle Mass Loss
Similarly, muscle mass declines with age. Tissue changes cause the muscles to become rigid and less toned.6
One study published in 2015 found that collagen peptide supplements helped boost muscle mass and strength. In the study, the researchers looked at 53 older males with reduced muscle mass.
Over a 12-week resistance training program, the males took either a collagen peptide supplement or a placebo. The researchers found that the supplement group had increased fat-free mass and muscle strength than the placebo group.8
Helps With Joint Pain
Joint pain is common among older adults. As people age, the joints lose fluid, causing the cartilage to rub together and decrease. As a result, the joints become painful and stiff. Some older adults develop arthritis.6
One review published in 2019 found that collagen peptide supplements may decrease osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms. OA, known as “wear and tear,” happens when joints break down.
The researchers found that collagen peptide supplements helped reduce joint stiffness among people with OA. In contrast, the supplements did not greatly impact joint pain and mobility.9
May Promote Heart Health
Some evidence suggests that collagen peptide supplements may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Though, research is limited.
One review published in 2023 found that college peptide supplements helped reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, both of which impact CVD risk.10
Has Been Shown To Promote Gut Health
There is a lack of research on whether consuming collagen improves gut health. One study published in 2022 found that collagen peptide supplements may improve mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, like bloating.
In an eight-week study, researchers looked at the impacts of a 20-gram collagen peptide supplement among 14 people. The researchers found that nearly all of the people reported reduced GI symptoms.11
How To Take Collagen
In addition to collagen peptide supplements, topical collagen in cosmetic products might improve skin health. Collagen is available in powders and liquids that you can add to foods and drinks, as well.
Typically, people take 2.5- to 10-gram doses of collagen peptide supplements daily for as long as six months. Consult a healthcare provider about how much collagen you should take if you are unsure.3
Is Collagen Safe?
The lack of research on collagen consumption makes predicting potential side effects difficult. Though, 10-gram doses of oral collagen peptide supplements daily for five months are safe to consume and rarely cause side effects.
Researchers are not sure whether pregnant and breastfeeding people can safely consume collagen. Likewise, it’s unknown if collagen interacts with any medications.
Consult a healthcare provider if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications before taking collagen.3
Alternative to Collagen
In contrast to consuming collagen, research has found that consistently eating a whole-food diet promotes skin, joint, and gut health.12,13,14
A whole-food diet includes:15
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Starchy vegetables (e.g., sweet potato and spaghetti squash)
- Lean proteins
- Fresh fruits
- Whole grains
Those foods provide various nutrients and a healthy balance of macronutrients. With a whole-food diet, you will get plenty of antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory compounds that promote overall health.
A Quick Review
Collagen, available as supplements, powders, liquids, and in cosmetic products, may have anti-aging benefits. Some evidence suggests that collagen promotes skin, bone, muscle, and joint health. Though, research is limited.
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