Reviewed by Helen Kollias, PhD
What’s collagen? | Collagen vs. gelatin | Joint ache | Pores and skin well being | Hair development | Protein content material | Intestine well being | Being pregnant and postpartum | Do you have to take collagen?
Each morning, 1000’s of individuals dump some white powder into their espresso or tea.
That white powder is collagen, and it’s (nonetheless) having a second.
Many individuals (perhaps your self or your purchasers included) use it due to the claims that it could enhance pores and skin, hair, joint, bone, and intestine well being. And likewise that it’s the “cleanest” and “most absorbable” protein supply. (Not less than, that’s what the collagen complement firms say.)
However do collagen dietary supplements truly work?
On this article, we’ll discover out.
Collagen is a vital structural protein within the physique present in our pores and skin, bones, muscle tissues, tendons, and ligaments.
As we age, we produce much less collagen. (Hello, wrinkles and creaky joints.)
Whereas there are not less than 16 several types of collagen, varieties I, II, and III make up 80 to 90 % of the collagen in our our bodies.1
The place does collagen come from?
Collagen dietary supplements are normally derived from bovine conceal (bovine collagen) or fish (marine collagen). These typically are available a flavorless powder that dissolves in liquid. They will additionally are available tablet and liquid kind.
Collagen might be present in meals too. Bone broth, sure cuts of meat and poultry, and fish (particularly the pores and skin) are all good sources.
Some manufacturers promote vegan or vegetarian collagen choices, however these merchandise don’t include collagen. As an alternative, they include vitamins which will promote collagen manufacturing, resembling vitamin C.
Hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, and gelatin: What’s the distinction?!
Nicely, the primary comparability is simple: Hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides are literally the identical factor.
“Hydrolyzed” simply refers back to the processing—utilizing warmth, enzymes, or acid to interrupt aside protein chains into shorter chains, or peptides.
The declare is that hydrolyzed protein, or shorter peptides, are simpler to soak up than longer-chain proteins. Nonetheless, analysis doesn’t help that concept, significantly within the case of collagen. 2
Gelatin is the cooked type of collagen. It’s liquid at excessive temperatures and gels at low temperatures. (Suppose: Jell-O, which incorporates gelatin.)
Nutritionally, collagen and gelatin are primarily the identical. The principle distinction? Gelatin is a complete lot cheaper. (Extra on that later.) And in reality, a lot of the analysis used to help collagen’s potential advantages—resembling collagen regeneration in muscle tissues and tendons3,4—is definitely analysis on gelatin.
The actual advantages of collagen dietary supplements
Right here’s a rundown of what we learn about collagen dietary supplements.
Collagen for joint ache
Of all of the buzzed-about advantages of taking collagen, this is likely one of the most well-studied. (Hey, we need to play tennis with out knee ache!)
Some analysis means that sort II collagen might probably help joint well being when taken with vitamin C.3 The vitamin C half is essential, for the reason that physique wants vitamin C with a purpose to make collagen.
That mentioned, critiques and meta-analyses have failed to search out collagen supplementation advantages individuals with joint circumstances like osteoarthritis and tendinopathy, the breakdown of the tendons.5,6
One widespread argument is that since collagen is mostly produced from bone and cartilage, it ought to include every part we have to restore these components of our physique. Nonetheless, many of the amino acids in collagen are ones we are able to make on our personal (like glycine, proline, and alanine) or ones that we are able to’t use very nicely in our physique (like hydroxyproline).7
Backside line: Some analysis exhibits collagen could assist with joint considerations when taken with vitamin C, however the proof general is weak.
Your physique doesn’t care about promoting.
Many collagen dietary supplements are marketed for particular considerations, like wrinkles or joint ache.
And it will make sense that if you happen to’re missing collagen in your pores and skin or joints, you could possibly simply complement with collagen to deal with it, proper?
Nonetheless, consuming extra collagen doesn’t essentially equal extra collagen wherever you need it.
As an alternative, your physique determines the place the amino acids from collagen (or any protein supply) you ingest will go.
That means, amino acids are extra doubtless for use to construct enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters—or construct/keep lean tissue—than they’re to easy out your crow’s toes.
So, simply because that collagen model says it’s for pores and skin or sore knees doesn’t imply your physique will use it for that goal.
Collagen for pores and skin well being
Collagen is what makes our pores and skin plump and elastic. That’s why collagen and collagen-enhancing substances are widespread in skincare merchandise. Equally, collagen dietary supplements promise to extend pores and skin elasticity and fight wrinkles “from the within out.”
Whereas collagen has the potential to enhance pores and skin, the proof isn’t definitive.
Taking collagen could stimulate hyaluronic acid manufacturing within the pores and skin, which retains pores and skin moisturized and plump.8,9 And one evaluation did discover that collagen dietary supplements elevated pores and skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density.10
However collagen dietary supplements do nothing to scale back collagenase, an enzyme all of us produce that degrades our collagen shops over time. So, constructive results from taking collagen dietary supplements can solely be maintained if you happen to proceed taking these dietary supplements indefinitely.
Additional, lots of the research on collagen for pores and skin well being (in addition to different areas of well being) have been funded and run by the businesses who’ve created the merchandise. Business-funded research aren’t all the time biased, however it’s a danger.
Last item: There are extra dependable methods to reinforce collagen manufacturing and keep collagen shops in your pores and skin:
- Utilizing skincare merchandise with vitamin C 11, retinol/retinoid acid12,13, glycolic acid, and/or hyaluronic acid14
- Carrying sunscreen15
Backside line: Extra analysis is required, however collagen dietary supplements could assist (minimally) with pores and skin well being.
Collagen for hair development
Collagen incorporates a number of the amino acids wanted to provide keratin, a protein present in hair.
However at present, there’s no proof that taking collagen will make your hair develop sooner, thicker, or stimulate hair regrowth.
Backside line: Don’t depend on collagen to make your hair develop.
Collagen as a protein complement
Regardless of the claims of being “superior” and “extremely absorbable,” collagen is just not a great protein supply. The truth is, till fairly not too long ago, it was thought of a “junk” protein that wasn’t used for a lot of something.
There are a few explanation why.
Purpose #1: Collagen is an incomplete protein.
Which means it doesn’t include all 9 important amino acids (EAAs).7,16 (Collagen is lacking tryptophan, as proven within the graphic under.) Your physique can’t make EAAs, so it should get them from meals.
Incomplete proteins have a spot in a nutritious diet, however to get essentially the most bang in your buck, collagen is solely not definitely worth the money as a result of its standing as a low-quality protein.
Purpose #2: Collagen is low in different EAAs.
Due to this, even when tryptophan is added, collagen nonetheless scores low by way of high quality in comparison with different proteins like whey, casein, or soy.
(To grasp protein high quality and why it issues, learn our information to picking the very best protein powder for you.)
Additionally, if you wish to improve exercise restoration, muscle achieve, or muscle retention, collagen isn’t your greatest wager.17 Muscle protein synthesis requires the amino acid leucine, and collagen has little or no of it.18 (Study extra about leucine in our article on BCAAs.)
Backside line: Collagen is just not the very best quality protein complement.
Collagen for intestine well being
Collagen is wealthy in amino acids glycine and proline, and has some glutamine. Some say these amino acids have the potential to assist heal the intestine lining and promote digestive well being, significantly in individuals with “leaky intestine.”
Nonetheless, whereas intestinal permeability is related to sure digestive illnesses, it doesn’t have direct signs.
Whereas there’s some analysis exhibiting glutamine and glycine could also be useful for intestinal well being, strong proof is missing.19
(To be taught extra about how you can enhance intestine well being, take a look at this complete useful resource on probiotics.)
Backside line: It’s unlikely that taking collagen improves intestine well being.
Collagen in being pregnant and postnatal restoration
Collagen is excessive in glycine, which is taken into account a non-essential amino acid (your physique could make it).
However new analysis exhibits it’s conditionally important—which means you may must get some from meals—within the later phases of being pregnant (~35+ weeks). This is because of elevated dietary demand to kind a child’s collagen shops.20
This has led some prenatal diet specialists to recommend supplementing with collagen throughout being pregnant, particularly within the later phases.
Whereas this isn’t a unhealthy thought, it’s not vital if you happen to’re getting enough full proteins by way of your food regimen. (Protein wants in late being pregnant are 1.52 grams/kg of physique weight per day.21) Entire-food proteins like meat, fish, protein powders, and dairy include greater than sufficient glycine to satisfy your wants.
(The one exception is vegans, who could not get sufficient glycine in late being pregnant from entire meals. However collagen isn’t a vegan choice anyway.)
On a associated word, some girls swear supplementing with collagen helped them heal and recuperate post-pregnancy. There’s no proof exhibiting supplementing with collagen is best than consuming a food regimen with sufficient protein. Nonetheless, collagen is protected for brand spanking new mothers, so if that is an method that pursuits you, have at it!
Backside line: Collagen could also be useful for ladies who’re pregnant or postpartum, however it’s no higher than consuming a nutritious diet with sufficient protein.
Do you have to take collagen dietary supplements?
In the end, that’s as much as you.
Right here’s a fast recap of the potential advantages and their high quality of proof:
Listed below are another elements to think about when making your determination.
Complement high quality varies.
There are some considerations about heavy metallic contamination with collagen. So, search for third-party examined choices to make sure purity and high quality. (Learn the “purity and high quality” part of our article on protein powders for specifics.)
Gelatin is a protected, low cost different.
Not solely is gelatin less expensive, it could be safer. That’s as a result of, in most international locations, laws for meals manufacturing are a lot stricter than laws for complement manufacturing.
And keep in mind, key analysis used to help collagen supplementation was truly achieved with gelatin.
Get sufficient dietary protein and vitamin C.
It’s in all probability not value spending cash on collagen if you happen to’re not already doing these two issues.
Intention for a minimal protein consumption of about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of physique weight per day (0.36 grams per pound). That mentioned, many individuals can profit from extra:
- Adults over 65: 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (0.55 to 0.91 grams per pound)
- Athletes and lively individuals: 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (0.55 to 1.0 grams per pound)
- Individuals who need to change their weight or physique composition: 1.6 to three.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (0.75 to 1.5 grams per pound)
When it comes to vitamin C, grownup females want 75mg a day, whereas grownup males want 90mg. It’s protected to complement as much as 2,000 mg a day.22
FYI, analysis on collagen and vitamin C used 48 mg of supplemental vitamin C, so that you don’t must megadose to stimulate collagen. Additionally, solo vitamin C has been proven to extend collagen synthesis.23 Neat!
Extra collagen isn’t essentially higher.
Train, sleep, water—it’s potential to get an excessive amount of of something.
Contemplating that collagen’s advantages are minimal, taking further doesn’t make sense. (In the event you select to take collagen or gelatin, 10-15 grams per day is probably going ample, which is the amount studied in most joint and tendon analysis.)
As a result of collagen is a low-quality protein, it shouldn’t change different types of protein in your food regimen. That’s after we might cross over from “can’t damage, may assist” territory into the “presumably dangerous” zone.
At present, we don’t have analysis evaluating collagen to increased high quality sources of protein, resembling meat and whey, which might assist us discover out if collagen actually is “particular.”
Click on right here to view the data sources referenced on this article.
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