Updated November 23, 2020One of the most important proteins in the body—and incidentally the most abundant protein—is collagen. Collagen is a major building block of just about every structure in our bodies, from skin to muscles to bones to ligaments and tendons. Not only does collagen make up a large portion of our bodies, but it’s also responsible for holding all our tissues together.As we age, our body’s production of collagen naturally slows, and the collagen it does produce is of lower quality than the collagen produced by younger bodies. That’s where collagen supplements come in. These concentrated collagen powders, smoothies, chews, or pills can help you replace lost collagen due to aging, illness, or diet. Let’s look at some of the benefits of collagen supplements.1. Increase Muscle MassUp to 10 percent of muscle tissue is made of collagen, and it’s a vital component to maintaining strength and proper muscle function. While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of collagen supplementation, several studies have shown promising benefits in this area.One trial demonstrated elderly men who took collagen supplements gained significantly more muscle mass than those who didn’t take the supplements, even though the two groups performed the same exercises. Researchers conducting this study posited collagen may help promote post-exercise muscle growth.2. Strengthen BonesSince bones are composed almost entirely of collagen, and collagen breaks down as we age, most people experience pretty significant bone loss by the time they hit their 70s and 80s. Collagen could help prevent conditions like brittle-bones and osteoporosis. One study suggested taking a combination of calcium and collagen prevented more bone loss in postmenopausal women than calcium alone or no supplement.3. Improve Skin HealthYour skin needs collagen to maintain its elasticity, volume, and bounce. Over time, the collagen in your skin degrades, leading to wrinkles and thinner, dryer skin. However, several different studies have linked consuming daily oral collagen supplements with improving skin texture, hydration, and overall quality.4. Protect JointsSince collagen is one of the primary components of cartilage, the cushioning material between bones and joints, supplementing it as you get older could help prevent or at least ease symptoms of arthritis. A couple of different studies in osteoarthritis patients indicated collagen supplements greatly reduced joint pain and inflammation. Another study also demonstrated collagen supplements can ease discomfort and aid recovery for athletes with exercise-related joint pain.5. Strengthen NailsTaking collagen may help nails grow longer and stronger. A 2017 study revealed collagen supplementation could help reduce the roughness, peeling, and breakage-proneness of brittle nail syndrome. Those who took the oral supplements over a 24-week period saw a 12 percent increase in nail growth speed and a 42 percent decrease in breakage.6. Improve Hair HealthJust like collagen can help increase nail growth rate and strength, it can do the same for your hair. A six-month study on the effects of Nutraceutical (a supplement containing collagen among other ingredients) showed the compound promoted hair growth in women with thinning hair. It also minimized hair loss by helping reduce the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation.7. Reduce Heart RiskSeveral studies have indicated collagen can help reduce heart risk. Collagen gives your arteries their structure, so collagen supplements may protect your heart from damage by strengthening the arteries inside the heart and helping to prevent atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis happens when the quality of your arteries declines, making them stiff and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. One study suggested collagen supplements can help prevent this disease by reducing artery stiffness.8. Aid Gut HealthCollagen may also help improve gut health, though the science on this one is a lot shakier in this area than the others. There’s some anecdotal evidence to suggest collagen may help leaky gut syndrome. Collagen is chock-full of the amino acids our GI tract needs to self-repair, including glutamine, the main amino acid our gut uses to heal itself from oxidative stress and inflammation. Taking more of this supplement might have a calming effect on an irritated gut.Researchers have also found a link between inflammatory bowel disease and a deficiency of collagen IV. Keep in mind, correlation doesn’t mean causation. So supplementing collagen might ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, but much more research is needed in this area to eliminate the possibility of the placebo effect.Collagen Fast FactsCollagen: Where It Comes FromMost of the collagen in your body is produced by your body itself. It does this by processing dietary proteins and turning them into amino acids. It then uses these amino acids to build its own collagen fibers.The Different Types of CollagenWhile there are at least 30 known collagen types, four main types are responsible for the major functions in your body:Type IThe overwhelming majority of the collagen in your body (around 90 percent) is Type I. This kind of collagen makes up your skin, teeth, connective tissue, bones, tendons, and fibrous cartilage. It’s also fundamental to wound healing, meaning it’s also present in scar tissue. This is the type of collagen supplement you’d take if you want to strengthen bones and improve skin.Type IIThe elastic cartilage that cushions your joints is made of this type of collagen. Type II supplements are the most commonly used for osteoarthritis treatment. Some athletes use this type to improve their joint health as well.Type IIIArteries, muscles, and organs depend on this kind of collagen for support. Type III combined with Type I play an important role in the interstitial matrix: the body’s method for supporting cells, helping them maintain their shape, and determining their behavior. A lot of times, collagen supplements for hair, skin, and nails will contain Type III as well as Type I collagen.Type IVThis kind of collagen makes up part of what’s called the basement membrane: the barrier between connective tissues and the outer layers of the skin. It also plays a major role in gut and intestinal function. Supplementing with this type of collagen may help you up the ante on your skincare routine as well as improving gut health.Dietary Sources of CollagenThere are plenty of foods containing collagen. Since almost all animals besides humans need and manufacture collagen, animal products are the easiest way to up your collagen intake. Fish, shellfish, chicken, egg whites, bone broth, and lean beef are all excellent choices. Meats containing bone and connective tissue (like T-bone steak and drumsticks) are particularly collagen-rich.If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives to get your collagen fix without consuming animal products—just look for protein-rich foods. Spirulina is a great option. The majority of this blue-green microalgae is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of collagen. Other plant-based foods containing collagen are tofu and other soy products, black beans, red and yellow veggies, berries, garlic, citrus fruits, and white tea.And remember, you don’t have to consume collagen-rich foods raw. Our recipes section includes plenty of ideas for meat dishes, along with ways to dress up your collagen-rich fruits and vegetables.Support Supplements with SkincareSupplements are helpful, particularly as we get older. However, they don’t have to be the only measure you take to maintain healthy skin. While topical products can’t add to your skin’s collagen, they can ensure your skin is protected and properly moisturized.We recommend a twice-daily skin care routine. You can apply a different set of products in the morning and at night, or stick to the same products for both. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what works for you.Start with your light, watery products. Cleanser should be first, then if you choose to, apply an exfoliant. Following up with a face toner helps set the stage for the rest of your products.If you oily, acne-ridden skin, you want to apply any special acne treatments after the toner and before any other products. Then comes serums.Last are the creams. First, you apply eye cream. Then, you follow up with moisturizer. Finally, you cap it all off with sunscreen.There are other products you can use outside of your normal routine. For example, face masks are great when it comes to heavy-duty skincare, but you should be careful not to overindulge in them.FAQsAre there benefits to collagen moisturizer?There’s not a lot of scientific evidence backing up the topical use of collagen. Collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin. These creams are rich and hydrating as moisturizers, so they can increase skin hydration.That’s not to say you shouldn’t moisturize. A natural face moisturizer goes a long way toward keeping your skin looking radiant and feeling great. But as far as increasing the amount of collagen in your skin, you’re better off going for ingestible supplements or a collagen-rich diet.If you’re looking for a cream or serum to apply topically, vitamin C, niacinamide, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, or retinoids are safer bets.Does anything damage collagen in my body?Several things can damage collagen in your body. UV rays are a biggie because excess sun exposure unspools collagen fibers, leading to photoaging. Wearing a special sunscreen for your face helps protect its collagen.Eating too much sugar is also a major no-no if you want to preserve your natural collagen. Sugar tangles collagen fibers, reducing your skin’s elasticity.Can other nutrients increase collagen production?Yes. There are actually quite a few nutrients you can eat to boost your body’s collagen manufacturing process. Vitamin C, proline, copper, zinc, and glycine all help your body make more of its own collagen. You can find vitamin C in citruses, strawberries, tomatoes, and many other fruits.Proline comes in dairy products, eggs, asparagus, mushrooms, and cabbage. Pork and chicken skins have lots of glycine. Copper-rich foods include organ meats, cocoa, lentils, cashews, and sesame seeds. Red meat, poultry, and shellfish all have high levels of zinc.Are there side effects of collagen supplements?Since collagen occurs naturally in everyone’s body, the chances of you having an allergy or sensitivity to it are pretty slim. However, collagen supplements can have a few mild side-effects, like a bad taste in the mouth or minor GI upsets like indigestion or heartburn.One important thing to remember is if you have food allergies, you need to check the ingredients list of your collagen supplements. A lot of collagens are made of common allergens like shellfish, fish, or eggs. If you’re at risk of anaphylactic shock or other allergic reactions, you need to be aware of all supplement ingredients before you take them.Can collagen help me lose weight?Maybe. The jury’s still out. On the one hand, collagen can help promote satiety by providing a protein source that can signal to the body it doesn’t need to eat for a while. Since collagen helps build muscle mass, it may also help boost your metabolism, since muscle consumes more calories than fat.However, since there haven’t been many studies dealing specifically with collagen as a weight-control method, there’s no way to say with certainty that collagen is the answer to your weight-loss problems.What’s the difference between collagen and collagen peptides?Collagen in its raw form isn’t easily broken down and consumed by the body because its molecules are large. Collagen peptides help fix this problem because they’re basically the pre-broken down version of collagen.Hydrolysis, the process of turning collagen molecules into collagen peptides, reduces collagen proteins to a size more easily absorbed by the body. Hydrolyzed collagen supplements are a great option if you want to help your body absorb more of the collagen in its bloodstream.Bottom LineCollagen is one of the most vital elements to good health—so vital, in fact, that we couldn’t exist without it. As we get older, it’s important to ensure we ingest enough collagen to make up for what we lose through the natural aging process.One thing to remember is these supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. So you need to make sure to choose a quality product from a company that has no problem being transparent about where they source their collagen and what else is in the supplement.Choose a collagen supplement with as few extra ingredients as possible. Talk to your doctor to see which supplement they recommend. Also check to see if a credible third party, like USP, UL, or NSF, has tested the product. A certification from one of these groups can help you rest easy in the knowledge you’ve chosen a safe and high-quality product.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.