Recent studies have linked taking collagen supplements with reduced symptoms of arthritis. In yet another study of the impact of collagen on arthritis, the researchers found that four out of five osteoarthritis patients who took a daily dose of type 2 collagen saw their pain drop by an average of 26 percent.
It is in light of such revelations that has seen to the health and wellness community take a vested interest in collagen supplementation. Does it work? And how effective is it?
This article aims to discuss all you need to know about collagen supplementation.
What is Collagen?
In pseudoscience, collagen is often referred to as the glue that holds the body together, and there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Collagen is a complex and powerful protein that is responsible for forming the connective tissue that holds all your structures together, from your skin to your bones.
As such, it is an essential building block for holistic health. This protein boosts bone and joint strength and flexibility, reduces wrinkles and enhances skin hydration.
The body naturally manufactures collagen every day. However, over time, that production reduces significantly. Our skin produces an enzyme known as collagenase, whose role is to break down collagen. After the age of 25, the rate of collagen breakdown surpasses that of its production, with the first visible signs of this effect being the development of fine lines and wrinkles.
Therefore, to maintain strong bones and supple skin, you will need to take in extra collagen. This can be derived from foods such as organ meats and bone broth. Nonetheless, since you have to take collagen every day, it can be difficult to sustain a collagen-rich diet every day. This is where a collagen supplement comes in.
What is Collagen Supplementation?
This is the intake of collagen that has been derived from other sources. Collagen supplements come in the form of a powder that has been specially hydrolyzed from the bones, skin, hooves, tendons and ligaments of animals. The term ‘hydrolyzed’ refers to the process of breaking down complex amino acids into smaller units. This process is what allows collagen powder to dissolve in liquids.
As such, collagen powder supplements have become quite popular as they can be added to virtually any drink, from a hot coffee to a cold smoothie. And as it is derived from protein, it comes with protein benefits as well.
How Does a Collagen Supplement Work?
Cells in your body are responsible for every process that occurs within it. When it comes to collagen production, fibroblasts cells take up the mantle. However, in order for fibroblasts to execute this process, they need access to the glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline amino acids.
A collagen supplement works by providing fibroblasts with those essential amino acids, as your body naturally stops producing them.
As mentioned earlier, a collagen supplement is usually hydrolyzed. This breaks down the collagen into a light powder of low molecular weight, which can be easily digested and absorbed, thus distributing amino acids throughout your body. These amino acids are bioavailable, which means that the body can readily use them in any process that they are required in, including collagen production.
Benefits of Collagen Supplementation
- Improving Skin Health
Collagen is one of the most vital skin components. It strengthens the skin, as well as providing elasticity and hydration. However, the natural aging process causes the body’s natural production of collagen to wane, thus resulting in the formation of wrinkles and drier skin.
However, studies are showing that consuming supplements containing collagen can help slow down the rate at which the skin ages by reducing dryness and wrinkles.
In one study, a control group of women who ingested a supplement containing between 2.5 and 5 grams of collagen for eight weeks showed less dry skin in addition to more suppleness as compared to those who did not supplement.
In another, women who consumed a drink that has been supplemented with collagen for 12 consecutive weeks displayed more hydrated skins as well as significantly reduced wrinkle depth as compared to those who didn’t.
Moreover, collagen supplementation has also been found to boost the production of other skin-friendly proteins such as fibrillin and elastin. A number of people who use collagen supplementation have claimed that they have also been able to control acne using these supplements. Scientific research regarding the role of collagen in managing skin conditions is still underway.
- Relieving Joint Pain
Collagen is also essential in maintaining the structural integrity of your cartilage – the rubber-like tissue that cushions your joints.
As such, as natural collagen production diminishes with age, that integrity becomes compromised thus predisposing an individual to the risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis.
Fortunately, studies have revealed that supplementing with collagen can help alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis to help ease joint paint.
In one study, a group of 73 athletes were provided with 10 grams of collagen on a daily basis for 24 weeks. They all reported of significantly reduced joint pain, while the group that didn’t supplement did not feel any changes.
Scientists are theorizing that supplemental collagen likely accumulates in cartilages thus stimulating your tissues to also make their own collagen. These claims are backed by evidences of reduced inflammation and joint pain among supplemental collagen users.
If you are looking to use collagen supplementation for its pain-relieving properties, it is recommended that you start with a dosage of eight to 12 grams daily.
Preventing Bone Loss
A significant portion of our bones is collagen. It is necessary in bones as it gives them structure and strength. As such, as natural collagen decreases, your bone mass follows suit. This is what often leads to conditions such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is characterized by bones with low density that are prone to getting fractures.
Studies, fortunately, are showing that consuming supplemental collagen can help in inhibiting the bone deterioration that usually leads to osteoporosis.
In a particular study, one group of women was given a calcium supplement that contained 5 grams of collagen while another was given the same calcium supplement, but with no collagen. This was done daily for a period of 12 months.
When the study was concluded, it was discovered that the first group of women has significantly lower levels of bone-deteriorating proteins in their blood than the second group.
In another study, strikingly similar results were also found. In this study, a group of 66 women were given 5 grams if collagen daily for a period of 12 months. By the end of the study, the women displayed an increased bone mineral density, while those who didn’t use the supplement did not experience such changes.
Bone mineral density is a metric used to measure the amount of minerals, such as calcium, in bones. A low bone mineral density indicates weak bones and is usually associated with osteoporosis development.
Boosting Muscle Mass
It is estimated that between one and 10 percent of muscle tissue consists of collagen. Collagen is essential in muscles as it provides with the structure they need to not only be strong, but to also function properly.
Studies indicate the supplemental collagen is especially useful for helping boost muscle mass among people with sarcopenia. Sarcopenia refers to the muscle mass loss that accompanies aging.
One study saw to 27 feeble men taking 15 grams of collagen on a daily basis in addition to embarking on an exercise program for 12 weeks. Another group also embarked on the physical exercise regimen, but without supplementation. By the end of the study, the first group had significantly more muscle mass and strength than the second group.
The current stance by researchers regarding those findings is that collagen might play a crucial role in the synthesis of muscle protein such as creatine.
Promoting Heart Health
Scientists also believe that supplemental collagen can help in reducing the risk of developing heart-related conditions. This theory is derived from the fact that collagen provided structure to the arteries – the blood vessels that transport oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. As such, if collagen is in little supply, your arteries risk becoming weak and fragile.
This can result in a condition known as atherosclerosis, which is a disease characterized by narrowed arteries. Atherosclerosis has been known to trigger strokes and heart attacks.
In a study, a group of 31 adults were given 16 grams of collagen on a daily basis for six months. By the end of that period, that all had experienced significant changes in the stiffness in their arteries.
Types of Supplemental Collagen
While a typical collagen supplement contains all the elements needed for holistic wellbeing, you can choose specific types based on your needs. They include:
- Type 1. Helps support healthy skin
- Type 2. Helps promote joint health
- Type 3. Promotes skin elasticity
- Type 5. Helps promote placenta growth in women
- Type 10. Helps promote bone health and development.
Supplements, in their very definition, are used to add on what the body naturally produces, but is no longer able to insufficient amounts. While we can’t stop aging, we can control the effects of the process. This is where supplemental collagen comes in. It helps improve virtually all processes in your body, to help boost overall health. Try it out and let us know what you think.