The benefits of collagen have been well-touted over the past few years, from glowing skin to healthy joints to strong bones. But are there grounds for these claims?
As it turns out, Yes: Several studies have found that adding collagen-rich foods orto your diet offers a number of benefits and really helps improve the health of your skin, joints, hair and bones.
However, there are a few things you should know about collagen before incorporating it into your daily wellness routine. Below you’ll find an in-depth explanation of collagen, including what it is, where to find it, and how you can benefit from it.
What is collagen?
Before we discuss its benefits, what is collagen? In short, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and makes up one-third of all proteins. It serves as the connective building block that holds your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and skin together.
There are nearly 30 known types of collagen, but type I is the most common (it exists in all connective tissues and makes up 90% of all collagen in the body). Types II, III, and IV are also common and are found in various parts of the body, including your joints, kidneys, ears, and blood vessels.
All of this brings us to another pertinent question: What is collagen good for? Your body naturally produces collagen by combining multiple amino acids (such as proline and glycine) with zinc, vitamin C, and copper. However, as you age, production slows and the existing collagen in your body begins to break down at a faster rate.
When this happens, you may notice that your skin becomes more wrinkled, your tendons and ligaments become less flexible, and your muscles tighten. To prevent or delay these effects, some people consume collagen (through food or supplements) to replace what their body has lost.
Adding collagen to your diet
If you want to increase collagen production, you need to make sure your diet includes foods with these essential ingredients:
- Bone broth
- Fish and shellfish
Eating a well-balanced combination of these foods is the best way to boost your collagen levels. However, you can also consider taking supplements (usually in powder or capsule form) if you are not getting enough collagen through diet alone.
For best results, experts advise taking aone hour before exercise, but always check the label and talk to your doctor before starting a new wellness routine.
Benefits of collagen
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore some of the benefits of collagen.
Builds stronger bones
Bones are full of collagen, but as we age, the protein begins to degrade. In turn, this can lead to a decrease in bone strength and density. However, by including collagen supplements in your diet, you may be able to prevent bone loss and reduce your risk of bone-related problems, including osteoporosis and fractures.
Reduces joint pain
Collagen also works together with cartilage to keep your joints functioning properly. Over the years, as it wears down, this can lead to stiff and painful joints and put you at a higher risk of osteoarthritis. The good news is that taking collagen has been found to reduce joint pain in physically active people. It can also serve as a pain reliever for people with existing joint problems.
Improves the skin
Your skin also contains collagen, which gives it elasticity and hydration when you’re young. But as you age, your skin becomes more saggy and wrinkled due to depletion of collagen levels. Interestingly, studies show that adding more collagen to your diet can increase skin firmness and hydration, visibly reducing the effects of aging.
Supports healthy hair
Collagen is created with some of the same amino acids that are used to build keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. Because of this connection, there is some evidence that consuming more collagen can help the health of your hair by promoting growth, reducing thinning, and slowing graying.
Adds muscle mass
Muscle tissue consists of up to 10% collagen. When the collagen in your body starts to break down, you can lose muscle mass and potentially develop a condition called sarcopenia (age-related muscle wasting). Fortunately, studies show that collagen supplements, along with increased protein intake and resistance exercise routines, can help people with sarcopenia build back muscle strength.
Disadvantages of collagen supplements
Despite these benefits, there are a handful of downsides to collagen supplements that you should consider before incorporating them into your routine.
They contain animal products (and sometimes allergens)
Traditional collagen supplements and all dietary supplements in general are made from animal products, so they are not suitable if you follow a plant-based diet. While there are some vegan collagen options on the market, it’s unclear how they compare to those made from animal products. Likewise, if you have food allergies, be sure to read the label of your collagen supplements carefully. In some cases, they may contain common allergens such as fish or eggs.
Regulation is a gray area
Collagen supplements are regulated as food (not drugs) by the US Food and Drug Administration, which means that their ingredients and production are not monitored by an official governing body. These products are not subject to the same regulations and rigorous approval process as pharmaceutical products, so it can be difficult to know about the quality, purity and safety of the ingredients.
Effectiveness studies are limited
Although there are studies on the effectiveness of collagen (many of which we have cited above), more research needs to be done. Additionally, some of the existing studies were funded by companies that manufacture collagen supplements, which may raise ethical questions about bias.
Similar supplements to collagen
It is difficult to find other supplements that replicate the effects of collagen because its amino acid composition is different from that of other proteins. However, you can try increasing your intake of glycine and proline, the key amino acids that are involved in creating collagen. They are most often found in protein-rich foods such as meat and poultry, but are also available in supplement form.
If you’re most interested in how collagen can help improve your hair, nails, and skin, you might consider keratin or biotin, which are usually available in shampoos and salon treatments, but are also sold as nutritional supplements. . Biotin is also found in certain foods, including legumes, egg yolks, nuts and avocados.
For more advice on supplements,. plus, for better sleep without drowsiness the next day.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.