Health

8 Potential Benefits of Collagen

While collagen is generally safe, you should always talk to your healthcare team before adding a supplement to your diet. Side effects may also occur: According to ConsumerLab.com, collagen supplements may cause a rash or, in rarer cases, liver problems.

Aside from that, a universal downside to collagen supplements is that they add an extra expense to your grocery bill. Prices can range from about $25 for a jar of the powdered form to $50 or more for a bottle of 90 capsules.

The studies on oral collagen supplements are mixed, with some showing potential benefits, while others conclude they are no better than placebos. The biggest challenge, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is that the existing body of research on collagen supplements lacks high-quality studies involving humans — and the studies on humans that do exist are either very small or have potential conflicts of interest.

If you’re going to invest in taking collagen supplements, it’s important to know the bevy of possible benefits collagen supplements can provide. Read on.

1. Supplements Help Replace What’s Naturally Lost Through Aging

Collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together, says Angelone. It makes up about 30 percent of the protein in your body, per the Cleveland Clinic. Thing is, she says, your body produces less collagen starting in your thirties and forties. Collagen peptides added to your diet may serve to replace what your body begins to lack as you age, and support your overall health.

2. Collagen Is an Easy-to-Digest Source of Protein

Your body works hard to digest protein from sources like chicken or beef, and some people may find that they deal with digestive symptoms like burping or stomach pain after a meal, explains Lachman. But 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, she says. 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).

3. Collagen Helps Smooth Wrinkles and Boost Elasticity in Skin

Skin health is the most well-researched benefit of taking collagen, says Lachman. In one review, researchers analyzed 11 randomized, placebo-controlled studies of more than 800 patients who took up to 10 grams (g) per day of collagen with the goal of improving skin health. The results? The supplements were shown to improve skin elasticity, help it better hold onto moisture, and rev the density of collagen fibers within skin. “Ten grams per day is a small scoop,” says Lachman — and it could be a small step in preserving a youthful appearance.

RELATED: 20 Ways to Preserve — and Boost — Collagen in Your Face

4. Collagen May Help Lessen Joint Aches and Pains

Joint pain can make it difficult to exercise, which can knock you off your fitness goals. Taking a collagen supplement may help you get back on track. “There is some evidence that collagen can be great for supporting connective tissues and improving joint pain after exercise,” says Angelone. For instance, one study found that athletes with knee pain who took 5 g of collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks had less joint pain during exercise compared with a placebo group. Oral collagen may support cartilage repair and may also have an anti-inflammatory effect.

5. Oral Supplements May Promote Gut Health

In inflammatory digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel disease (IBD), there is a “gut healing” theory about collagen. “Some research finds that collagen levels are decreased in patients with these conditions. By taking collagen, you would help correct a deficiency,” says Lachman.

Research found that among IBD patients, there was an imbalance between the formation and breakdown of collagen fibers, and this was connected to inflammation. A study also showed that IBD patients have decreased serum levels of type 4 collagen. Collagen is a part of connective tissue, which makes up your colon and GI tract, so by bringing your levels up, there may be a supportive environment for your body to heal. This is an emerging idea, Lachman says, but it may be one benefit to trying a supplement or dietary approach to increase collagen intake.

RELATED: 10 Foods to Help Beat Rheumatoid Arthritis Inflammation

6. Collagen May Buoy Your Heart Health

Stirring collagen into your coffee may be good for your ticker, too. A small, uncontrolled, open-label study looked at 32 participants who took a collagen tripeptide twice a day. After six months, markers of atherosclerosis (buildup in artery walls), including measures of cholesterol and arterial stiffness, had improved. (When atherosclerosis affects the arteries that lead to your heart, it’s known as coronary artery disease, which is the deadliest form of heart disease, per the Mayo Clinic.) Researchers think that the collagen may help fortify blood vessel walls to reduce the risk of artery disease.

7. Peptides Can Keep Bones Healthy

Bone mineral density decreases as you age, especially after menopause, according to the Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial on 102 post-menopausal women, participants who took collagen peptides for one year increased their bone mineral density compared with the control group. Researchers postulated that this was because the collagen stimulated bone formation while slowing down bone loss.

RELATED: 3 Natural Ways to Build Bones and Prevent Osteoporosis

8. Collagen May Be Useful in Joint Disease

There are different types of collagen, according to an article published in Molecules. Type 1 (found in beef) is beneficial when it comes to your skin, while type 2 (found in chicken) is potentially more helpful when it comes to arthritic joint pain, Lachman explains. Joints are composed of cartilage, which is largely made up of collagen. A study found that patients with knee osteoarthritis who took acetaminophen along with type 2 collagen reduced joint pain during walking and had quality of life superior to those on the medication alone. That said, research is mixed and hasn’t come to a firm conclusion. Lachman says your best bet is to purchase a supplement that contains various sources of animal collagen for the widest range of benefits.

9. Collagen Won’t Help You Lose Weight

Eating enough protein is important to a healthy diet. The nutrient is needed to support your body in building muscle — lean tissue that is more metabolically active than fat (meaning it leads to faster metabolism, according to the Mayo Clinic). But you’ll want to put collagen in perspective here: It can’t be the only change you make to your diet and lifestyle habits. “Adding a collagen powder to a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and excess calories won’t help you lose weight,” says Lachman.

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