Collagen is one of the most important proteins in the body, and as such is one of the most abundant. It's in your skin, hair, nails and teeth, so there are numerous benefits of taking collagen pills as a supplement. Collagen also forms to create the connective tissue that holds everything together — in other words, it's the glue that keeps everything in your body in place.
Even though the body naturally produces collagen every day, production does slow over time. This is where collagen supplements come in. As with any protein supplement, by fortifying the amount in the body, the overall benefits of that protein can be increased or improved.
Read more: Collagen Supplement Benefits
Collagen Benefits for Skin
A November 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients found that collagen that was orally administered not only increased the amount of collagen in the body, but also the quality of the collagen itself. It demonstrated an anti-aging effect upon the skin, reducing wrinkles through its quantitative and qualitative effects on the body's overall collagen.
A further study, published in October 2014 in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, found that oral supplementation of collagen not only reduced wrinkles but also counteracted dryness of the skin, a common sign of aging.
Collagen benefits for skin are not purely aesthetic either. A September 2018 study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that in a test group of 120 subjects, those who took collagen supplements noticed a 43 percent reduction in joint pain and a 39 percent improvement in joint mobility. This is thanks to collagen being fundamental in maintaining the connectivity between muscles.
Read more: Collagen Functions
Collagen Benefits For Hair
Hair is made up of a variety of proteins, most notably keratin, but also collagen. As one of the key proteins relating to the structure of hair, it is instrumental in strengthening it. It can be used to treat hair that has been heat damaged by enhancing its overall appearance through improving hair's suppleness and sheen, but it also can be used to enhance hair thickness.
An October 2015 study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that a lack of collagen hindered hair regrowth and, therefore, an increased amount of collagen encouraged hair to regrow at a more rapid rate. The study also found that a large amount of collagen was deposited in hair follicles, demonstrating a clear link between the protein and hair production.
Collagen and Hair Thinning
The decrease in the production of collagen due to aging has also been linked to thinning hair. A 2016 study carried out by Tokyo Medical and Dental University found that as the body ages and as collagen production decreases, hair follicles begin a process of turning themselves into skin so no further hair can grow.
This can be countered by maintaining a positive level of collagen in the body despite the aging process. Oral collagen supplements not only increase the amount of collagen in the body, but can also increase the quality of that collagen too, therefore preventing excessive hair thinning.
Collagen and Muscle Growth
Collagen is one of the most abundantly found proteins in the body, and the Cleveland Clinic explains that it's found in muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels and skin, so it's pretty important.
This also means that supplementing the amount of collagen going into the body can help strengthen muscles and even promote their regrowth, which is beneficial whether you're looking to improve your physique or your health.
An October 2015 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that subjects who consumed collagen supplements demonstrated increased strength and muscle composition, particularly following exertion through resistance training.
Collagen: Powder or Capsule?
Collagen supplements come in a variety of forms, but the two most notable and readily available are collagen powder and collagen capsules. There are several factors to consider before deciding which is best for you.
Hydrolyzed collagen (also known as collagen peptide) is the most commonly featured in medical studies into the effectiveness of collagen supplements. The Cleveland Clinic describes collagen peptide as a powder that ordinarily has no flavor and dissolves easily into beverages or smoothies, making it easy to consume and largely unnoticeable.
Collagen capsules are not too different, only they are usually supplemented with other vitamins and minerals to form the tablet or capsule. They're usually used simply as an alternative based on personal preference, but possess the same benefits as the powder.
There are also collagen supplements in the form of face creams, but it is unclear how truly effective these are in achieving the same success their powder or capsule counterparts demonstrate.
Read more: Natural Sources of Collagen
Collagen and Weight Loss
There are no definite clinical studies, as of yet, that prove collagen supplements play a direct role in helping people lose weight, but there are several factors that certainly aid the process.
Thanks to its role in muscle growth, supplementary collagen means the body requires more energy than it ordinarily would, and this acts to burn calories. In addition, the increased energy will also accelerate the body's metabolic rate to improve the digestive system and encourage weight loss.
In an October 2016 study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, collagen supplementation was shown to act as an appetite suppressor due to its ability to quench hunger, which is beneficial for those who wish to lose weight.
Detox With Collagen
Detoxification of the body on occasion through specific diets can help remove particular toxins from the body and keep the organs working effectively.
A popular detox related to collagen supplementation is known as the three-day bone broth diet, in which you're supposed to consume nothing but bone broth for three consecutive days. However, Harvard Health Publishing reviewed the effectiveness of bone broth and found no correlation between consuming it and the alleviation of issues relating to joint pain or bone strength, or indeed in the overall amount of collagen in the body.
Be careful when implementing detoxes into your routine — though they can help with quick weight loss, a continuous balanced diet is always the healthiest way to eat. If you're considering a detox, it's best to contact your healthcare professional for advice.
Are Collagen Supplements Safe?
On the whole: Yes, collagen supplements are safe. They have been extensively studied, and no severe adverse effects have been noted, though as with any supplement, there are potential side effects you should take into consideration.
Versus Arthritis, an American organization dedicated to finding ways to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, notes that the potential negative effects of collagen supplements include:
- A feeling of heaviness in the stomach
- Mild diarrhea
If you experience any of these symptoms after taking collagen supplements, stop taking them and contact your health care professional.
- National Library of Medicine: "Daily Consumption of the Collagen Supplement Pure Gold Collagen Reduces Visible Signs of Aging"
- National Library of Medicine: "Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides From Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice"
- National Library of Medicine: "Daily Oral Supplementation With Collagen Peptides Combined With Vitamins and Other Bioactive Compounds Improves Skin Elasticity and Has a Beneficial Effect on Joint and General Wellbeing"
- National Library of Medicine: "The Structure of People's Hair"
- National Library of Medicine: "Lack of Collagen VI Promotes Wound-Induced Hair Growth"
- Science Mag: "One Reason Your Hair Is Thinning? Some of It Turns Into Skin"
- National Library of Medicine: "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"
- National Library of Medicine: "Collagen Supplements Search"
- Amino Acid Studies: "Fight Hair Loss With Amino Acids"
- National Library of Medicine: "Amelioration of Estrogen Deficiency-Induced Obesity by Collagen Hydrolysate"