Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Collagen supplements have gotten a lot of attention in the past few years. With many companies selling collagen supplements and each of them putting out their research it is hard to find unbiased information related to its effectiveness and quality. While results seem promising there is a need for more studies to determine if supplementation is critical. Here is everything you need to know!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein that is produced by the body and is the most abundant protein found in our body. There are at least 28 kinds of collagen that we know exist. Type I, II, and III are the most common in the human body. You can get these types of protein by consuming certain foods like when you eat cartilage directly off the bone, consuming bone-in fish, eating organ meats, or drinking bone broth. The role of collagen is vital when it comes to whole-body health. It helps form the structure of our skin, bone, cartilage, and muscles. It keeps the integrity of our joints, muscles, ligaments, and skin and is known as the "glue." Collagen is one of the biochemical products that are known to decrease with age, stress, too much sun exposure, so many people opt to supplement. While we can all agree that collagen is essential to the body, there is some debate about how much supplementation helps. So, have there been any studies that show benefits from taking a collagen supplement?
Whole Body Health
Research does support the use of collagen for skin elasticity and dermal collagen density. Doubt of effectiveness from collagen supplementation was based on the assumption that the collagen molecule was too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream but hydrolyzed collagen peptides are smaller and are easily absorbed by the body. Studies also show the positive effects of collagen for skin hydration and the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. One double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher than those who did not take collagen supplements. Secondly, type I collagen supplementation may help with the production of Keratin that actively supports healthy hair, scalp, nails, and connective tissue.
As for the musculoskeletal system, collagen type II is a basic structural component of our joints. Beauty Director Alexandra Engler at MindBodyGreen.com writes "One randomized clinical trial found that people who took a type II collagen supplement for 180 days experienced improvements in their physical function and helped improve joint mobility and comfort. Another recent study showed that when athletes who previously suffered joint injuries regularly took collagen, their overall joint health was supported. As for bone health, it's a more time-intensive benefit to track—simply given how long the bone turnover timeline is —however, this clinical trial found that postmenopausal women had enhanced bone density at 12 months after consuming collagen peptides daily for a year."
According to VeryWellHealth.com, "In 2019, researchers evaluated studies that investigated the effects of collagen supplements on osteoarthritis symptoms. The meta-analysis published in International Orthopaedics concluded that collagen is effective in reducing stiffness associated with the condition. It was less effective at reducing pain and functional joint limitation."
Two well-known studies have favorable results with collagen supplementation for body composition helping increase lean body mass or fat-free body mass which is helpful when considering body mass index and the muscle to fat ratio.
Two main types
Bovine - Collagen derived from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows is going to be of higher quality than any other kind of collagen supplement. Collagen found within the connective tissue, bones, and cartilage of a cow is most similar to the collagen makeup found in humans. This is typically types I and II. Type III is found more in the bone marrow and from the skin and scales of fish such as cod, haddock, or snapper.
Some Collagen supplement powders will include synergistic nutrients such as L-Glutamate, Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin B and C which is giving your supplement a little extra bonus.
Qualities to look for in a supplement
Just like with all supplements it is important to read the labels and ingredient lists. Don't just rely on the front advertisements which are full of claims that may be misleading.
"Hydrolyzed" "Peptides" "Grass-fed" "Wild-caught" are all good signs as well as "Grass-Fed" and "Pasture-raised. Stay away from brands that list artificial colors, sweeteners, and flavors, as well as fillers, chemical preservatives, gluten, GMOs, soy, and other known food allergens in the ingredient list.
The bottom line:
Like all supplements, collagen supplements are not regulated by the FDA so it is up to us as the consumer to delineate which, if any, are worth our money and more importantly add to our overall health. I think a good quality collagen powder is more helpful than not for maintaining healthy skin, joints, and cartilage and may ease ligament damage related to osteoarthritis and injury. Is it a cure-all? Of course not, but a collagen supplement may be a good "supplement" to a healthy and active lifestyle.
From the desk of Dr. Lisette Miller Kondrad. Dr. Miller is a licensed Chiropractic Physician and Board Certified Acupuncture Provider who has been in clinical practice for over 7 years. She has helped hundreds of patients through chiropractic care and acupuncture. Click here to contact Clark Road Chiropractic Center with any questions or to schedule your appointment!