Are Collagen Supplements Safe?

Collagen is an important structural component of the body's connective tissues. Collagen supplements in oral, topical and injectable forms have various reported benefits. These supplements are widely available, but it's a good idea to check on the potential benefits and associated safety risks and to consult your doctor before making a purchase.

Injectable collagen has dramatic effects on wrinkles. (Image: jes2ufoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Properties of Collagen

Collagen is a highly abundant compound found in the connective tissues of animals, such as the skin, cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments. The collagen molecule is composed of a triple coil of peptide strands and is a crucial molecule for the structure and function of all connective tissues of the body. Collagen is synthesized by the body from amino acids you consume in your diet but is also present in animal-derived foods or nutritional supplements.

Types of Collagen Supplements

Various collagen supplements are available on the market for various applications. Oral collagen supplements are readily available in pill form over-the-counter to help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Topical ointments or creams containing collagen are also available, although the benefits of these have been disputed due to inability of the molecule to penetrate intact skin. Collagen injections are another common method of delivery. They can help reduce wrinkles but must be administered by a medical professional.

Benefits of Collagen Supplements

The benefits of the array of available collagen supplements are questionable. Since collagen is produced naturally by the body from food, it is very uncommon to have a deficiency. The use of oral collagen supplements to help ease conditions such as osteoarthritis has not been proven effective. In addition, the use of topical creams containing collagen is likely to have no effect on plumping the skin or reducing wrinkles. However, injectable collagen does have a dramatic effect on the reduction of wrinkles.

Safety of Collagen Supplements

The most obvious safety concern of oral collagen is that it is considered an over-the-counter supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the supplements' safety and efficacy cannot be verified. Creams and ointments containing collagen are also safe, but they must be used on healthy skin with no abrasions to prevent infection or skin damage. Collagen injections are regulated and are generally considered safe since they are administered by medical professionals. However, some people may have sensitivities to the injection or develop a reaction to the molecule if they have certain immune disorders.

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