Collagen supplements have been a hot topic regarding skincare and joint relief, but do these exogenous (aka externally sourced) aids really work? Are they necessary for everyone to look and feel their best? Many think this is a recent discovery, but collagen supplement studies have actually been going on since the late 70s. Let’s take a look at the findings…
Our Tendons-y to Buy In.
Let’s start with the basics. Collagen is the most abundant protein produced in the body, making up 30% of our total protein mass. It is found in our skin (specifically the dermis), our tendons, bones, and muscles. Collagen contributes to skin elasticity and joint durability. This characteristic diminishes as we age, leaving the skin less supple with more wrinkles and the joints with less agility and the ability to repair themselves quickly. You can see why collagen supps would be alluring to battle these aging woes , right?
Stretching the Truth.
So, is the Health and Wellness industry stretching the truth when they claim that collagen supplements firm skin and lubricate joints? Maybe. Let me start by sharing that collagen is a supplement; therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate or test these products! With that said, it is up to the consumer and third-party testers to do our research about the sourcing, quality of the product, and companies providing these products to determine if they are up to our standards.
I summarized 2 different studies to showcase various forms of collagen supplements. Given that our skin is our biggest organ, it’s important to know how supplements and their forms may affect this system.
There are no current studies on collagen tablets and their effect on the skin or joints. Please note that collagen tablets are usually just collagen powder mixed with water, gelatin and other binders anyways. The best rule of thumb is to only buy tablets from third-party approved testers.
In this study conducted by The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, a group of 49 women aged 19-23 were administered 4 different collagen capsules derived from fish in the Polish Baltic Sea. 3 of the 4 capsules changed the participant’s skin pH. Usually, the skin’s pH rests between 4.5-6.5, so slightly acidic, but when the pH was altered from these collagen capsules, it temporarily became more acidic, ranging from 3.7-4.5. This is not okay! And to make matters worse, men displayed a change in their sebum (oil) pH as well.
Our bodies work so hard to maintain homeostasis in all of our organs and systems, so taking a supplement that can potentially alter this is alarming. The study highlighted that the processing methods are crucial in maintaining collagen pH and delivering it to humans at a neutral level, not moderately acidic. According to the researchers, “Collagen preparations must be used carefully as the result of their application depends on their composition, and they may contribute to an imbalance of hydro-lipid barrier homeostasis.” Do your research people!
This study is the sole reason I continue to invest in collagen powder, along with the fact that I enjoy the vanilla flavor and how it thickens up my latte foam. 😉
Anyways, this study was published by Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals. It measured women’s skin hydration and elasticity levels before and after consuming a collagen supplement drink for 12 weeks. This drink consisted of Vitamin E and C, hydrolyzed collagen, and hyaluronic acid. These women displayed a 78% increase in dermis density after undergoing this study, resulting in greater hydration retention, suppleness, and decreased wrinkle depth. That is extremely significant. If you want to give this regimen a go, I would recommend investing in a multivitamin, collagen powder, and hyaluronic acid capsules.
Connect the Joints.
As time passes, the spongy part of our cartilage started to break down. A systemic review confirmed that a daily dose of 8g of collagen increases certain amino acid production (glycine and proline), while 12g helps relieve osteoporosis and osteoarthritis pain.
In addition, a few studies have also connected collagen supplement consumption with muscle building and heart health.
Types of Collagen
Type I: Foundational building block of skin, making up 80% of the dermis (deepest) layer.
Type II: This type of collagen aids in joint pain relief because it makes up 50% of cartilage.
Type III: This type is great for hair, skin, and nails. As we age, type III is replaced by type I.
Collagen Supplement Shopping Guide. What to Look For…
- Third-party certified
- Animal-sourced, label displays type of animal and part it came from
- Quality of the animal, label displays grass-fed, pasture-raised for poultry and bovine/ non-GMO or wild-caught for marine life
- No added sugars
- Make sure the supplement says “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides” to receive a complete amino acid profile with optimal bioavailability
Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have allergies, or are on medications, you should consult with your physician before taking.
Side effects may include mild nausea, diarrhea, and rash development.
Many collagen products are not vegan or vegetarian friendly. However, some companies make specialty products to accommodate this population and those on a paleo or kept diet. Here is a great read on vegan-friendly engineered collagen that was written by RDN., Katherine Marengo.
Break it Down, But Build it Up!
Here’s the breakdown. Since collagen constitutes a large portion of our protein mass already, it is not necessary to supplement. However, if you are looking to improve your skin’s appearance, dermis strength, and/or joint health, then it might be worth looking into while shopping intentionally and cautiously. Follow the Collagen Shopping Guidelines to invest in the best product possible.