Do you want to maintain a healthy complexion throughout your life? What about healthy bones and connective tissues? Collagen hydrolysate is a vital protein that can help you do that, and it makes up 70% of our skin’s composition. The word itself is Greek for “glue,” offering a clue as to how it holds our body together. Plus, collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It helps support joint comfort and mobility so we can stay active. A lot of people call collagen the “scaffolding” of the body, and some types of collagen are even stronger than steel! Collagen is one of many nutrients that not only contributes to our good health, but it makes us look good, too!
While there are more than 16 types of collagen, nearly 90% of collagen in the body comes from types I, II, and III. Type I is present in scar tissue, bones, skin, and tendons, while Type II is present in cartilage. Type III makes up skin, muscles, blood vessels and connective tissues. Type V is similar to Type I and is present in the placenta.
Collagen has been known to benefit many areas of the body, from improving gut lining to repairing leaky gut, to boosting skin and joint health. One of the best-known collagen benefits is its impact on healthy and vibrant skin, encouraging elasticity and preventing sagging. When collagen production declines, fine lines, wrinkles, and loose skin occur.
Collagen is also an important part of muscles. As a building block of muscle tissue, collagen contains a concentrated amount of glycine. This amino acid is involved in the synthesis of creatine. Creatine fuels muscles to get through challenging workouts.
Collagen is essential to joint health and function, because it maintains the structural cartilage which supports joints. It also promotes joint lubrication by replenishing the synovial fluid, rebuilds cartilage, and protects tendons during exercise. When collagen decreases, it inhibits joint protection, making people more prone to injury.
Arthritis is the leading cause of joint pain, so many people turn to collagen for help. In clinical studies that span more than thirty years, the evidence suggests that collagen is helpful for joint pain.
A 24-week study conducted on athletes at Penn State University explored the use of hydrolyzed collagen supplements. This easily digestible form of collagen helped the athletes experience less joint pain. Other studies have made similar connections between joint pain and collagen, including with osteoarthritis. In 2017, a study published in the UK found evidence suggesting collagen is effective for osteoarthritis care.
Unfortunately, collagen begins to decline early in life. Here’s a quick rundown:
Age 20: One percent less collagen is made in the skin each year. This results in thinner skin. Age 30: Collagen production declines in the body. Age 40: Collagen is no longer produced by the body. Age 50: Collagen in our skin will decline as much as 40%.
Collagen is a necessary building block for healthy skin. It maintains firmness and the renewal of skin cells. When collagen production diminishes, we lose skin elasticity that contributes to sagging skin, thin skin, and wrinkles. Collagen supplements and collagen-rich foods can help to maintain the appearance of smooth and healthy skin. Grass-fed beef, bone broth, wild fish, and poultry are good sources of amino acids that help encourage collagen production.
A 2014 study reported that 46 of 69 random women, ages 35 to 55 years old, took a collagen supplement while the rest of the group used a placebo. Within just four weeks, the women taking collagen had improved skin elasticity.
Bone health impacts millions of older adults. According to Penn Medicine, bones are mostly made of collagen. Without enough collagen, bones are at risk of breaking. Penn also recommends taking collagen to improve bone density and overall bone strength.
A comprehensive review of 197 studies was published in BMC Medicine in 2016. Covering more than 30 years of studies, they showed significant evidence supports the notion that collagen stimulates bone healing. An even more recent study, published in January 2018, concluded that collagen helped increase bone mineral density (BMD) in post-menopausal women struggling with age-related BMD loss.
Sun damage, alcohol and excess sugar all contribute to collagen breakdown in our hair - on top of natural age-related collagen breakdown. Hair loss can also be caused by hormonal imbalances and certain medications. Collagen can assist with fighting this breakdown and encourage the healthy regrowth of hair. The amino acids in collagen may also help build keratin. Some evidence suggests that as an antioxidant, collagen helps neutralize free radicals to fight damage to hair follicles.
One of the biggest factors of weight struggles is overeating or feeling hungry due to a lack of proper nutrients. Collagen protein can promote that full feeling we all crave, leading people to overeat less regularly. Therefore, by making us feel sated and satisfied, collagen may help us lose weight.
In one study, 24 adults were tested on feeling satiated after eating meals with two types of protein. The group eating the first breakfast consisted of 24 healthy adults who tested the satiety effects of various protein supplements. This group, whose meals included collagen, was 40% more satisfied than the second group, who did not eat any food containing collagen.
Leaky gut syndrome occurs when particles leak through the protective lining of the intestines and into the bloodstream. There are some links that show a connection between gut health problems and lower collagen levels in the body; however, research on the connection between collagen and digestive health is currently very limited.
Collagen begins to decline in the body in your thirties; however, when people should start taking collagen depends entirely on their individual health needs. If you are concerned about when to start taking collagen supplements, it is best to speak to a healthcare practitioner about how collagen might fit into your routine.
Collagen supports muscle gain due to its concentrated amounts of glycine, which supports the development of creatine. Collagen itself does not cause weight gain, but larger muscles may cause muscle weight gain, especially if they are holding a lot of water. Collagen supplements have very minimal calories – which is not enough to cause weight gain per the daily recommended serving.
The amount of collagen you take per day will depend on many factors. This includes your age, health challenges, lifestyle, and what benefits you are trying to gain from collagen consumption. Most people take between 10 and 15 grams daily to support overall health and wellness, including smooth skin, strong nails, and healthy hair. Speaking with your personal healthcare practitioner to get collagen levels tested is a great way to determine how many grams you may need per day.
Collagen benefits men just as much as it benefits women. Many men suffer from hair loss and thinning hair. Men are also prone to sagging skin and wrinkles. Men can also enjoy the joint health benefits from collagen to stay active and mobile for years to come. Therefore, by taking collagen, their skin will look great and their joints will feel healthy, whether they’re out biking, or walking, or surfing, or playing football in the yard.