Collagen supports more than just beautiful hair, skin and nails. Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body.
It’s the main component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles.
Collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together. It makes up about one-third of the protein in your body.
Our bodies gradually make less collagen as we age, but collagen production drops most quickly due to excess sun exposure, smoking, excess alcohol, and lack of sleep and exercise. With aging, collagen in the deep skin layers changes from a tightly organized network of fibers to an unorganized maze. Environmental exposures can damage collagen fibers reducing their thickness and strength, leading to wrinkles on the skin’s surface.
Collagen has many important functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones.
Collagen peptides added to your diet may serve to replace what your body begins to lack as you age, and support your overall health.
Foods that contain collagen
Foods that contain gelatin, such as bone broth, provide collagen. Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen after it’s cooked.
Collagen is found in the connective tissues of animals. Thus, foods such as chicken skin, pork skin, beef, and fish are sources of collagen.
Vitamin C is crucial for collagen synthesis, so you should also be sure to eat foods rich in this vitamin, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and bell peppers.
Digestive enzymes break down the collagen in food into individual amino acids and peptides. However, the collagen in supplements has already been broken down, or hydrolyzed, which is why it’s thought to be absorbed more efficiently than collagen from foods.
Some people have a hard time digesting protein from chicken or beef. Collagen supplements are hydrolyzed, meaning the collagen is broken down, a process that makes it easier for your body to digest. Collagen supplements may potentially be a more comfortable way to get protein into your diet. The process of hydrolyzing also allows collagen peptides to dissolve in water, which makes it relatively simple to use them in everyday foods (like water or smoothies).
Foods to boost collagen production
- Several high-protein foods are believed to nurture collagen production because they contain the amino acids that make collagen – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These include fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes, and soy.
- Collagen production also requires nutrients like zinc that is found in shellfish, legumes, meats, nuts, seeds, and whole grains; and vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
Health benefits of collagen supplements
Collagen supplementation provides a variety of health benefits.
1. May improve skin health
Collagen is a major component of your skin.
It plays a role in strengthening skin, as well as in elasticity and hydration. As you age, your body produces less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles.
However, several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness.
These supplements may work by stimulating your body to produce collagen on its own. Additionally, collagen supplements may promote the production of other proteins that help structure your skin, including elastin and fibrillin.
2. May relieve joint pain
Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints.
As the amount of collagen in your body decreases with age, your risk of degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases.
Some studies suggest that collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce overall joint pain.
3. May prevent bone loss
Your bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and strength. Bone mineral density decreases as you age, especially after menopause.
Just as the collagen in your body deteriorates with age, so does bone mass. This may lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone density and a higher risk of bone fractures.
Studies note that collagen supplements may stimulate bone formation while slowing down bone loss that leads to osteoporosis.
4. May boost muscle mass
Researchers have suggested that supplemental collagen may promote the synthesis of muscle proteins such as creatine, as well as stimulate muscle growth after exercise.
However, unlike whey protein, collagen is low in essential amino acids, especially leucine, which play a key role in muscle building.
5. May promote heart health
Collagen provides structure to your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries may become less flexible and elastic
Collagen supplements may have other health benefits, but these haven’t been studied extensively.
- Hair and nails. Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness. Additionally, it may help your hair and nails grow longer.
- Gut health. Some health practitioners assert that collagen supplements can treat leaky gut syndrome, also called intestinal permeability.
- Brain health. No studies have examined the role of collagen supplements in brain health, but some people claim that they improve mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Weight loss. Proponents believe that collagen supplements may promote weight loss and faster metabolism.