Collagen supplements and peptides are all the rage in the health and beauty world, and they have plenty of research-backed benefits.
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Collagen is a protein — the most plentiful protein in your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and its production decreases as you age. Collagen in your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels, skin, intestinal lining and other connective tissues.
Collagen aids in healing and repairing damaged bones and cartilage. Collagen also helps to maintain the resistance, elasticity and mobility of joints and connective tissue.
You can take collagen supplements to improve your collagen levels, and most products consist of hydrolyzed collagen (which has been broken down for better absorption). But these come with a few possible side effects.
Collagen Supplement Side Effects
1. Bad Taste in the Mouth
Some oral collagen supplements can leave a bad taste in the mouth, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Collagen supplements made from marine or cow sources usually have a taste and odor that is not very pleasant to most people.
Choosing a high-quality collagen supplement and mixing it into a flavored beverage can help reduce the unfavorable taste.
2. High Calcium Levels
High calcium levels, or hypercalcemia, may occur as a possible side effect of shark cartilage collagen supplements specifically, according to the NLM.
According to the Mayo Clinic, too much calcium in the body can cause constipation, bone pain, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythms among other side effects.
Taking calcium supplements together with shark collagen should be done with caution, only under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian.
3. Allergic Reaction
People allergic to fish may have an allergic reaction to marine-based collagen, per an October 2020 report in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
A case study published October 2016 in Allergology International found that fish collagen caused an allergic reaction in a 30-year old woman with a known marine allergy even when the supplement was produced using high-heat methods.
Signs of an allergic reaction, according to the Mayo Clinic, may include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
If you have a known shellfish allergy or other marine allergies, it's important to avoid these supplements, as an allergic reaction could be life-threatening.
The Best Collagen Supplements to Buy
These products are approved by ConsumerLab, an independent organization that tests health and nutrition products.
How to Take Collagen Supplements Safely
Always follow the manufacturer's recommended dosing on your collagen supplement.
Oral collagen doses ranging from 2.5 grams to 10 grams per day for up to 24 weeks were found to be generally safe with no adverse effects according to a January 2019 review in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology.
If you're considering adding a collagen supplement to your routine, the safest choice is to check with your doctor first. This is especially true if you have any current medical conditions, take medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Can Too Much Collagen Be Harmful?
Because there's no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for collagen established by the Institute of Medicine, it's impossible to say how much collagen you could take before experiencing harmful effects.
Most research has found no adverse effects when taking between 2.5 to 10 grams of collagen daily.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Shark Cartilage"
- Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research: "Beneficial Effects of Collagen Hydrolysate: A Review of Recent Developments"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen"
- Nutrients: "A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hypercalcemia"
- Allergology International: "Allergy to fish collagen: Thermostability of collagen and IgE reactivity of patients' sera with extracts of 11 species of bony and cartilaginous fish"
- Mayo Clinic: "Food Allergy Symptoms and Causes"
- Journal of Drugs and Dermatology: "Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications"
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: "Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails"
- Nutrients: "The Influence of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides on Knee Joint Discomfort in Young Physically Active Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial"