Monday, November 15, 2021

Do Collagen Supplements Work?


If you've been checking out YouTube or TikTok, you might have noticed that people are recommending one take a collagen supplement to help replace what is lost to aging.  In case you didn't know, Collagen is a type of protein found in the skin, muscles, bones and tendons in the body.  In fact, it is the most abundant protein present in the human body.  Although there have been at least 16 types of collagen identified, most of them are classified as type I, II, or III.

Types I and III are found mostly in the skin and and bones while type II is located in your joints.  The collagen found in the skin is actually located in the middle layer or dermis.  Collagen makes up part of a networking system called fibroblasts which is where new cells are produced and it helps replace old dead skin cells with newer vibrant ones.

One of the marketed ways to improve collagen levels is to take a supplement.  This raises the question concerning the effectiveness of such supplements.  Do they really help your body restore your collagen levels to what they should be?  Let's check that out.

First thing to know is that most collagen in supplements comes from cows, pigs, and fish and contain types I , II, and III. These supplements might be in the form of hydrolyzed collagen where the protein is broken down into smaller pieces called amino acids, gelatin which is only partially broken down, and raw where the protein is not broken down at all.

There is some research that supports the idea that your body will absorb the hydrolyzed collagen best but the reality is that your body will break down all forms of collagen into amino acid which is absorbed by the body.  In fact, your body produces collagen naturally from the protein you put in your body. 

There is some early research supported by a couple of different studies which indicates that taking a collagen supplement in hydrolyzed form will reduce wrinkles, and improves skin hydration but it is too early to really know how they work on overall skin health. 

Furthermore, since most of the collagen found in the supplements comes from ground up chicken, pigs, cow, and fish parts, there is concern about its safety since the parts used tend to absorb contaminants and heavy metals.  In addition, concern has been expressed that some of these supplements might contain mad cow disease and in 2016, the FDA prohibited companies from using certain parts of the cow due to this concern. 

Some doctors feel that since supplements are not as well regulated as medications, it is better to create a homemade bone broth made out of chicken, fish, or beef bones to get collagen. If you are going to buy a supplement, look at companies use bones and skins from free range, cage free, and antibiotic free sources. Check the bottle for the NSP or USP labels because this means they are meeting the requirements of a third party overseer. In addition, check out web sites to see what the company is doing to make sure they are keeping heavy metals and contaminated ingredients out of their product.

If you decide to try a collagen supplement, understand that it could take up to 12 weeks to see any results and if you are a vegetarian or vegan, this is not a good option.  On Wednesday, we'll be looking at products that can help improve the amount of collagen in your skin without taking a supplement. 

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