Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, is part of the connective tissue for bones, muscles, blood cells, cartilage, arteries and organs. As you age, the production of collagen decreases, leading to a slew of potential side effects. Drinking beverages containing collagen powder, made from animal or fish materials, may be beneficial by helping offset some of that collagen loss.
Collagen is comprised of long chain proteins, and when you consume collagen powder (or collagen containing foods) your digestive system breaks down the proteins into amino acids.The amino acids are then absorbed and used as building blocks that support collagen production throughout the body and help heal the body from within. Collagen powders are a particularly rich source of the amino acid glycine, which supports metabolic functions and detoxification. To ensure optimum digestion and absorption of amino acids, consume collagen powder on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before a meal.
Collagen plays an important role in the building and support of joints, and it may help reduce the discomfort associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in the 2013 edition of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined the effects of collagen supplementation on 55 healthy participants with joint pain caused by physical activity. The participants were given either a placebo or UC-I, which is a patented form of un-denatured type II collagen, daily. At the end of the four-month study, the participants given the collagen supplement had increased knee joint mobility, less joint pain caused by physical activity, and they were better able to exert themselves pain-free for longer periods of time. More research needs to be done, but the researchers concluded that type ll collagen shows promise for the alleviation of exercise induced joint pain.
Collagen is sometimes referred to as the skin’s glue, as it helps give skin strength, plumpness, smoothness and elasticity. Over 27 types of collagen have been identified, and the natural loss of collagen type l that occurs with aging and sun exposure is largely responsible for skin aging and wrinkles. Taking a collagen supplement may help enhance collagen production and strengthen the skin's dermis (the second layer of skin where the collagen is found). A collagen powder drink may also help the skin retain moisture and appear more plump. Although anecdotal evidence supports these claims, studies have shown conflicting results and some researchers state that the digestive enzymes in the stomach break down the collagen and prevent it from reaching the skin.
Additional Benefits and Considerations
Preliminary research suggests that collagen supplements may help thicken hair, improve nail disorders, help boost the immune system, balance blood sugar, regulate sleep, assist with wound healing and reduce inflammation, however, more clinical evidence is required to support these claims. Of all the types of collagen that have been identified, type l and type ll have the most research backing their benefits, so look for a collagen drink that contains these types. Vitamin C works in synergy with collagen, so you may also want a drink that has vitamin C added, or take it with vitamin C rich foods. Although collagen powder supplements are generally considered safe, they can cause gastrointestinal upset. Consult with your health care provider before drinking them.