Every so often, there comes a new health fad surrounding supplements. However, whether it's vitamin B-12 for energy or St. John's Wort for depression, the fad is only as good as the science behind it. When it comes to collagen powder, there is some science to back up its benefits — but not for every ailment that its advocates tout.
What is Collagen?
Collagen appears in abundance in the human body, making up part of your bones, muscles, tendons, organs, ligaments, skin, blood vessels and a whole host of other connective tissues. It makes up about 30 percent of all the protein in your body, as well as between 75 percent and 80 percent of your skin. Your body creates collagen by combining amino acids, the building blocks of protein, some of which you can get through diet and some of which your body makes on its own.
As you age, the amount of collagen in your body naturally decreases. When this occurs, you could experience stiff tendons or ligaments, joint pain, decreased muscle mass or facial wrinkles. For decades, people have gone to dermatologists to get injections of collagen in their lips or face to plump the kisser or soften lines. However, nowadays, more folks are choosing to ingest collagen in an effort to improve their body from the inside out—but the research behind the trend is still in early stages.
Improved Skin Elasticity
Collagen has long been used to boost the firmness of facial skin, but it used to be in the form of injections. A study published in 2014 in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology looked at whether taking collagen peptides orally could benefit the skin. The researchers found that participants who took collagen for four weeks experienced significant improvement in skin elasticity, compared with those who took a placebo.
Better Muscle Strength
Collagen tends to be linked to skincare, but it's an essential component of your muscles, too. A 2015 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that collagen peptide supplementation, combined with resistance training, improved body composition by decreasing fat mass and increasing and muscle strength in older men, compared with those who did resistance training but took a placebo.
How to Use Collagen Powder
Generally speaking, collagen peptides — also known as hydrolyzed collagen — is flavorless and easily dissolves in any sort of liquid. Therefore, you can add collagen to beverages such as smoothies, shakes, juice, milk, coffee, tea or even water. You could also add it to liquid food, such as sauces or soups.
Keep in mind, supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as closely as food. In other words, the FDA doesn't ensure that supplements are safe before they're marketed, nor do any claims on a supplement have to be proven to the FDA's satisfaction. It's up to you and, if you choose, a health care provider to determine if a supplement is safe and right for you.
Natural Sources of Collagen
There are plenty of powdered collagen supplements from which to choose, but don't rule out the impact that improving your diet can have, too. When you increase your consumption of protein-rich foods, your body has more amino acids available for collagen synthesis. Additionally, synthesis requires certain micronutrients, including vitamin C, zinc and copper. Consider adding these foods to your diet:
- Fish and shellfish
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens
One of the most common ways to enjoy natural collagen is via bone broth, a type of stock that's made from the bone of beef, chicken or fish. You can buy it in the grocery store or make it yourself by simmering the bones in water, either on the stove or in a slow cooker, for one to two days. The cooking process draws the collagen out of the bones and into the liquid that you drink.
- Skin Pharmacology and Physiology: Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study
- The British Journal of Nutrition: Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial
- Cleveland Clinic: The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen
- University of Utah Health: The Truth About Collagen Supplements.
- Cleveland Clinic: Skin
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA 101: Dietary Supplements
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Dietary Supplements