Who’d have guessed that a substance found in bones and skin would become a must-have supplement? We’re talking about collagen.


“Collagen is a type of protein that plays an important role in the building and support of many tissues, from bones and cartilage to skin, hair, eyes, and the digestive system,” says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.


When you take a collagen supplement or consume collagen-rich foods, you are consuming collagen derived from an animal, according to Ryanne Lachman, RDN, a functional medicine dietitian at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Collagen peptides are commonly available in powdered or capsule form, and collagen can also be found in bone broth.


There are potential side effects, as with any supplement.


While collagen is generally considered safe, you should always consult with your healthcare team before incorporating a supplement into your diet. The following side effects are possible: Collagen supplements, according to ConsumerLab.com, may cause a rash or, in rare cases, liver problems.


Aside from that, a common disadvantage of collagen supplements is that they add to your grocery bill. Vital Proteins, a popular collagen peptide brand, sells a 10-ounce container for $25. Hum collagen supplements for skin, hair, and nails are $40 for a 30-day supply.


If you’re going to invest in them, you should be aware of the plethora of potential benefits collagen supplements can provide. Continue reading.


1. Supplements help to replace what is naturally lost as we age.

According to Angelone, collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together. According to research, it accounts for roughly one-third of the protein in your body. The problem, she claims, is that your body begins to produce less collagen in your thirties and forties. Collagen peptides in your diet may help to replace what your body starts to lose as you age, as well as support your overall health.


2. Collagen Is an Easy-to-Digest Protein Source

Your body works hard to digest protein from sources such as chicken or beef, and some people may experience digestive symptoms such as burping or stomach pain after eating, according to Lachman. However, collagen supplements are hydrolyzed, which means the collagen is broken down, making it easier for your body to digest. She believes that collagen supplements could be a more convenient way to get protein into your diet. The hydrolyzing process also allows collagen peptides to dissolve in water, making them relatively easy to use in everyday foods (like water or smoothies).


3. Collagen Aids in Wrinkle Smoothing and Skin Elasticity

According to Lachman, the most well-researched benefit of taking collagen is skin health. Researchers analyzed 11 randomized, placebo-controlled studies of more than 800 patients who took up to 10 grams (g) of collagen per day with the goal of improving skin health in a January 2019 review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. What were the outcomes? The supplements were shown to improve skin elasticity, aid in moisture retention, and increase the density of collagen fibers within the skin. “Ten grams per day is a small scoop,” says Lachman, and it could be a small step toward looking younger.


4. Collagen May Aid in the Relief of Joint Aches and Pains

Joint pain can make it difficult to exercise, which can derail you from reaching your goals. Taking a collagen supplement may assist you in regaining control. “There is some evidence that collagen can be beneficial for supporting connective tissues and alleviating joint pain following exercise,” Angelone says. For example, one study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism in January 2017 discovered that athletes with knee pain who took 5 g of collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks had less joint pain during exercise when compared to a placebo group. Oral collagen may aid in cartilage repair and may also have anti-inflammatory properties.


5. Oral Supplements Could Improve Gut Health

There is a “gut healing” theory about collagen in inflammatory digestive conditions such as irritable bowel disease (IBD). “According to some research, collagen levels are lower in patients with these conditions.” “Taking collagen would help correct a deficiency,” Lachman explains.


According to a study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics in May 2017, there was an imbalance between the formation and breakdown of collagen fibers in IBD patients, which was linked to inflammation. Previous research has also found that IBD patients have lower serum levels of type 4 collagen. Collagen is a component of connective tissue that makes up your colon and GI tract, so increasing your levels may create a favorable environment for your body to heal. This is a new concept, she says, but it could be one advantage of trying a supplement or dietary approach to increase collagen intake.


6. Collagen Could Improve Your Heart Health

Mixing collagen into your coffee may also be beneficial to your ticker. In May 2017, a small uncontrolled open label study published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis looked at 32 people who took a collagen tripeptide twice a day. After six months, markers of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in artery walls), such as cholesterol and arterial stiffness, had improved. (According to the Mayo Clinic, coronary artery disease is the deadliest form of heart disease when atherosclerosis affects the arteries that lead to your heart.) The collagen, according to the researchers, may help fortify blood vessel walls, lowering the risk of artery disease.


7. Peptides Can Help Maintain Bone Health

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, bone mineral density declines with age, especially after menopause. Participants who took collagen peptides for one year increased their bone mineral density compared to the control group in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial on 102 postmenopausal women. According to a January 2018 article published in the journal Nutrients, researchers hypothesized that this was due to collagen stimulating bone formation while slowing bone loss.


8. Collagen May Be Useful in Joint Disease


According to a Molecules article published in November 2019, there are various types of collagen. Type 1 (found in beef) is beneficial to your skin, whereas type 2 (found in chicken) may be more beneficial to arthritic joint pain, according to Lachman. Joints are made up of cartilage, which is primarily composed of collagen. A study published in the Eurasian Journal of Medicine in June 2016 discovered that patients with knee osteoarthritis who took acetaminophen along with type 2 collagen experienced less joint pain while walking and had a higher quality of life than those who took the medication alone. Having said that, research is mixed and hasn’t yielded a definitive answer. Lachman recommends purchasing a supplement that contains a variety of animal collagen sources for the broadest range of benefits.


9. Collagen Will Not Assist You in Losing Weight

Protein consumption is essential for a healthy diet. The nutrient is required to help your body build muscle, which is lean tissue that is more metabolically active than fat (meaning it leads to faster metabolism, according to the Mayo Clinic). However, you should consider collagen in this context: It can’t be the only change you make to your eating habits and lifestyle. “Adding collagen powder to a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and excess calories will not help you lose weight,” Lachman says.