Collagen supplements are a pretty popular protein right now. It seems like everyone is adding it to their smoothies, shakes, and even coffee. The claims about it range from the ability to reduce the appearance of wrinkles to strengthening hair to helping keep joints healthy. So, does collagen live up to all the hype around it? The answer, especially for skin, hair, and joints, is a really big yes!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It is the primary protein in connective tissues, such as the tendons, ligaments, hair, and skin. This being said, it makes up 30% of the protein in the body and 70% of the protein in your skin. Collagen is an extremely flexible protein that provides elasticity and strength to the parts of our bodies that need to bend and stretch.
Although collagen is a protein, it is not a complete protein, meaning it does not provide all nine essential amino acids. Collagen is missing the amino acid tryptophan, therefore it shouldn’t be relied upon exclusively as a source of protein. But, it is extremely high in the amino acids proline and glycine, which is where most of the benefits come from.
As we age, natural collagen production starts to decline. A lack of collagen is why skin begins to wrinkle and sag. Other factors such as stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and a less than ideal diet can exacerbate the loss of collagen, making you look older.
Collagen for Hair, Skin, and Nails
As I mentioned, the hair, skin, and nails are all made up of collagen. Getting enough collagen from your diet can help these connective tissues stay strong. Collagen in the diet can improve skin elasticity, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.1 It can also strengthen hair and nailss.
A 2017 study evaluated the use of collagen peptide supplements for improving brittle nails. Twenty-five participants were given 2.5 grams of collagen for 24 weeks. Nail growth and the frequency of cracking or chipping was measured. Those who received collagen supplements had 12% increase in nail growth and 42% fewer broken nails. Eighty percent of the subjects reported improvement in the appearance of their nails.2
Collagen and Aging
Collagen has many incredible age-defying benefits. A 2014 study evaluated the effects of collagen supplements on the skin of 69 women between the ages 35-55. The subjects were divided into three groups and received 2.5 or 5 grams of collagen or a placebo for 8 weeks. The women’s skin was evaluated for improvements in roughness, moisture, and elasticity. Both groups who received the collagen showed significant improvements in their skin, particularly in elasticity.3
Collagen, Bones, and Joints
Although not quite as glamorous, collagen is also incredibly beneficial for joints and bones. Cartilage, found between the joints, is primarily made up of collagen. As you age, cartilage starts to degrade, which can lead joint pain and osteoarthritis.
Bones are also made from collagen, which provides structure and strength to the bones. As we age and collagen decreases, this weakens bones and the risk of fractures increases.
A 2016 review of nine studies on the benefits of collagen for joint and bone health found that supplementing with collagen can reduce age-related joint pain and slow down bone loss, even at varying doses. In all the studies reviewed, collagen also increased bone strength and encouraged growth of new cartilage.4
Where to Find Collagen
Even though collagen is the most abundant protein in the body of both humans and animals, many of us don’t get enough collagen in our diets. The reason is that collagen is found in the skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments. This means, when you eat boneless, skinless chicken most of the collagen has been removed.
Two popular sources of collagen are bone broth and dietary supplements. Real bone broth is a great source of collagen since the cooking process is able to extract the collagen directly from the bones. But, if you don’t want to spend hours making bone broth (or handling raw bones), collagen supplements, like Collagen 24/7 Protein, are your best bet. Supplements are easy to use and versatile and can make tapping into the benefits of collagen effortless.
Yours in health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL Community Registered Dietitian
- Borumand M & Sibilla S. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration, and wrinkles. 2015;4(1):47-53.
- Hexel D, Zague V, Schunck M, et al. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017;16(4):520-526.
- Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J et al. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.
- Porfírio E, & Fanaro GB. Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia. 2016;19(1), 153-164.