Take a look at any health food or supplement store, and you will find a multitude of collagen-based products. People look for collagen for all kinds of reasons, whether it is to help to maintain healthy skin and look younger or to support healthy joints.
Knowing what a nutrient or supplement does and seeing if there’s evidence that backs up its claims can be really helpful pieces of information when deciding on whether or not to add a popular supplement to your regimen.
So, what is collagen exactly?
Collagen is one of the most prevalent proteins of the body that serves many purposes.
Although your body naturally produces collagen, as you get older this production wanes.
What do low levels of collagen in the body look like?
According to Healthline, collagen is responsible for providing the skin with structure and keeping your bones healthy. Collagen also makes up the majority of the structure of soft tissues like tendons and ligaments.
Collagen has multiple responsibilities in the body. Lacking collagen in the skin can lead to increased signs of aging like wrinkles and lack of plumpness. Lack of collagen in connective tissues can lead to problems with joint pain and inflammation.
Additionally, low collagen levels can lead to:
• Problems with loss of bone mass
• Weakened muscles and less dense muscle tissue
• Weakened or fragile arteries in the heart
• Brittle hair and nails or slowed hair and nail growth
It is also suspected that collagen can have an effect on gut health, healthy brain functions, and even weight loss, but studies on these relationships with collagen in the body are lacking.
What have researchers found on collagen supplementation?
Collagen has actually been researched and studied to a great extent for certain health benefits, from studies on how it helps combat the signs of aging to studies on how collagen supplements may help with joint pain.
The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a study in 2014 on how collagen peptides show benefits for the physiology of the skin. Women who took a supplement for eight weeks saw marked improvement in skin dryness and a reduced appearance of wrinkles.
There have also been studies that prove collagen may be beneficial for the reduction of joint pain. One of the most noteworthy studies was done on 73 athletes who took collagen supplements for 24 weeks and saw an improvement in joint pain when walking or doing physical activities. In another study of adults over a 70-day course, collagen supplements helped reduce joint discomfort during physical activity as well.
Collagen is also proven to help diminish bone breakdown in postmenopausal women. One study involved giving a calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement to women, and the results showed a significant change in bone deterioration by the end of the trial. Some studies also show that collagen could also boost muscle mass.
When it comes to collagen supplementation, does type matter?
There are actually multiple types of collagen in the body, but supplements are broken down into three different categories.
Collagen supplements usually come in three different forms; type I, II, and III, and these three categories generally cover most of the different types of collagen present in the body.
Type I Collagen: The most abundant in the body, and can be found throughout different bodily systems, including the skin, hair, nails, and soft tissues.
Type II Collagen: Primarily found in cartilage and bones. Also found in parts of the eyes in the cartilage-based disks between vertebrae.
Type III Collagen: Found in various bodily systems, including the intestines, blood vessels, and the uterus. Category III collagen is the second most abundant type of collagen in the body.
Of the multiple forms of collagen, you can find them in an array of different supplement types. You can find collagen in capsule form, liquid form, and even powder form.
Here are some natural collagen-boosting foods…
Some foods are naturally capable of supporting collagen production in the body. Certain types of fish, like tuna and salmon, are filled with natural Omega-3 fatty acid, which helps to encourage collagen production and maintain existing collagen levels.
Red or deep orange vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, are also known to support healthy collagen levels because of the natural supplication of lycopene, a skin-protecting antioxidant that also boosts collagen production.
Deep green vegetables contain a boost of vitamin C, which helps to neutralize free radicals that can weaken existing collagen. Some foods help boost the production of collagen, such as soy, citrus fruits, and berries.
The main takeaway
Overall, collagen serves too many great purposes in the body to be ignored as a potentially helpful supplement. That being said, while many studies have been done on collagen supplements to help with aging issues and even joint pain, there is much more to be learned.
If you are at an age when you suspect collagen levels and production may be waning, it is best to speak with your doctor to find out what kind of collagen supplements would be best to integrate into your daily diet.