Much of the globe’s population is searching for eternal beauty. Collagen has been hailed as the possible elixir for glowing and youthful and skin. Collagen supplements have been promoted to enhance the appearance of the skin, reduce joint pain, inflammation and, improve digestive health, and minimize artery stiffness. But can collagen supplements make possible all of this?
What is Collagen?
Collagen occurs intrinsically in our bodies and is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s the most important component of our skin tissue, muscles, bones, tendons, cartilage, gut, and blood vessels. Collagen is an insoluble hard, fibrous protein. It makes up 1/3d of the total protein content in the human body. There are at around 16 different kinds of collagen, but our body primarily consists of kinds 1, 2, and 3. In most collagens, the molecules are arranged together to form thin, long fibrils.
Our Bodies Natural Collagen Production
As we grow old, our collagen stores reduce, and our body makes poorer quality collagen. Everyone loses collagen at different rates. While age is a significant factor, genetics and environment play a major part. Environmental factors like poor lifestyle choices such as eating a diet high in sugar and smoking. Poor diet creates free radicals that spike the intensity of collagen breakdown. Exposure to high levels of pollution and UV rays also reduces collagen stores. Genetic defects can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can affect the processes involved in collagen production.
What Age Should You Start Taking Collagen
There’s no wrong or right time to start taking collagen supplements, but around the age of twenty five-thirty, is when most peoples collagen stores begin to decrease.
Collagen production slows by one-two percent per year. For cosmetic purposes, some people begin collagen supplements in their early twenties, while others may not start until they notice visible signs of reduced skin elasticity later in life.
Collagen Side Effects
While scientists have found collagen supplements are safe, there have been a few recorded negative effects. These include:
- Feeling heavy in the stomach (Fullness)
- Bad taste in the mouth
Anyone considering using collagen supplements for the first time on increasing their intake must consult with their physician.
Scleroderma and Collagen
Too much collagen can have adverse effects. Scientifically called scleroderma, excess collagen can cause the skin to harden and thicken. Excessive collagen can also impact internal organs, including the lungs, heart, gastrointestinal tract, esophagus, and kidneys. However, scleroderma is a rare auto-immune disorder, not caused by taking collagen supplements.
Does Collagen Make You Gain Weight
We lose muscle mass as we grow old, but a doctor may diagnose sarcopenia if a patient suffers significant muscle loss and strength. A study of older adults with sarcopenia was given fifteen grams of collagen while completing a twelve-week exercise program. They gained significantly more strength and muscle mass than men who only exercised. However, more study is required to investigate whether collagen has the potential to boost muscle mass.
Collagen Supplements Benefits
1. Skin Health
The majority of people who take collagen supplements do so for the potential benefits to their skin. Collagen supplements can help slow down the aging process by enhancing skin elasticity, reducing wrinkles, and boosting moisture levels. A study published in the JMNN (Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals) confirmed collagen supplements are beneficial to skin health. The study revealed several women who took a collagen supplement containing hydrolyzed collagen, reported significant improvements in their skin’s elasticity and hydration.
2. Cellulite Reduction
With eighty-five percent of women over the age of twenty suffering from cellulite, many supplements have been trialed to find one that will minimize the orange peel appearance of the skin. One research of women with moderate cellulite took a collagen peptide for six months. They reduced skin waviness on their thighs and showed a significant decrease in the degree of cellulite. The study concluded that collagen treatment worked in overweight and average weight women.
3. Bone Strength
As we grow, it’s not only our skin that loses its structure and strength. Bones are made of collagen, and its production slackens as we age, making bones brittle. One small study revealed taking calcium, and collagen supplements (rather than calcium alone) can help prevent bone deterioration. The combined supplement may also increase BMD(bone mineral density) to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, but they require more study(1).
4. Digestive Health
People who suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can benefit from collagen supplements. Only a small amount of study has been completed in this area. Still, it’s believed inflammatory bowel disease patients have lower concentrations of collagen IV needed for a healthy digestive tract. Collagen supplements aid connective tissue in the intestinal lining.
5. Heart Health
Atherosclerosis is a disorder caused by the pile-up of plaque inside the arteries. A six-month trial of collagen tripeptide can reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis with reduced levels of bad cholesterol and a reduction in artery stiffness.
6. Mental Health
Some people claim collagen supplements have enhanced their mental health by improving mood and decreasing anxiety. Research has found collagen V1 can protect brain cells against amyloid-beta (Aβ) proteins, which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have also linked glycine and schizophrenia. Around one-third of collagen is made up of glycine, a non-essential amino acid. Glycine can improve sleep and general psychiatric symptoms.