Did you know your body naturally makes collagen, but as we age, our bodies production of this vital nutrient declines, reducing the function and overall productivity of our body’s ability to rebuild and regenerate cells? This cell regeneration not only contributes to healthier joints and skin, but it also slows the visible signs of aging. Collagen is an important protein source for the body, so how can you increase your natural levels of collagen, while reaping all the benefits as you age?
What Is Collagen Protein?
Ever touched a baby’s cheek? It’s the softest skin you’ve ever felt on the cutest, tiniest little human. Ever touched your grandma’s cheek? No offense g-ma, but it definitely doesn’t feel the same. What gives? Collagen! Collagen is an extremely important, naturally produced protein fiber found abundantly in mammals aka humans. Nearly one-third of the body’s protein is collagen [R,R].
As we age, the natural production of collagen in humans slows, with signs of low collagen production in more than just saggy skin, wrinkles, and less-than baby soft skin. Without collagen, our bodies lose their structural integrity that supports tissue health, ligament strength, and bone health. The most significant function of collagen is structure, proving why this type of protein, collagen protein (CP), is so very important for the human body!
How Does Collagen Work?
The exact biological mechanisms aren’t yet known, but scientists say collagen’s wrinkle-fighting abilities could be because it breaks down into small chains of amino acids and peptides.3
When your body breaks down collagen in the digestive system, the fragments of amino acids and peptides are absorbed into the bloodstream. This then triggers the body’s natural production of collagen within the skin.
Collagen acts as a kind of springy scaffold for your skin – holding it together, giving it structure, and allowing it to bounce back after injury.4 It also has a hand in scalp health, helping hair grow strong and thick, and keeping nails from splitting and flaking.
Chemically speaking, collagen is made up of strong strands of amino acids which are bound tightly together in a rope-like chain.5 These strong chains are what give young, healthy skin its resilience and plumpness.
Babies, children, and teenagers produce collagen at a rapid rate as they grow. This is one reason their skin is so smooth and wrinkle-free. As we age, our bodies slowly produce less and less collagen, and the effects are reflected in signs like wrinkles, sagging skin, thinning hair, and weak, brittle nails.6
Do Humans Naturally Produce Collagen?
Humans do make a good amount of collagen naturally until we reach the late 20s and early 30s. This is when collagen production begins to decline. Furthering this natural decline in the body’s production of collagen are UV ray damage, smoke, dehydration, and otherwise, contributing to compromised structural integrity.
Where Does Collagen Protein Come From?
While humans do produce collagen naturally, we can increase collagen production by providing our body the nutrients it needs to encourage natural collagen production. Collagen also comes from increasing collagen-containing foods, such as bone broth, and we can consume a collagen protein powder supplement. Collagen powder supplements are the most direct way to replenish healthful levels of collagen in the body.
Can We Replace The Collagen We Lose As We Get Older?
But if you want to:
- Protect the structure of your skin
- Minimize the appearance of fine lines,
- Maintain the health of your hair and nails
Collagen supplements might be able to help.
Collagen supplements contain protein which has been broken down into shorter chains of amino acids, known as collagen peptides.
These peptides are thought to stimulate the natural collagen production in the body, leading to visible and tangible results over time.7
What’s in collagen supplements?
You get to choose how you take your collagen!
They’re available as collagen pills, collagen shots, liquid collagen, collagen powder, collagen serum, collagen cream, chewable collagen gummies…and even collagen powders that can be added to drinks.
Most collagen supplements will contain Type I collagen, Type II collagen, or a mix of both.
Type I is considered the best type for beauty, as it’s known to be naturally present in hair, skin, and nails.8 You’re most likely to find Type I collagen in supplements derived from beef (bovine collagen).
What are the benefits of taking collagen?
Could there be a way to help regain some of the lustre of youthful hair, skin, and nails as we get older?
Yes! Taking collagen supplements or upping the number of collagen-rich foods in our diet can help.
We’ve listed 10 of the main collagen benefits below:
1. Healthier skin
There is growing medical evidence that collagen may help fight the appearance of wrinkles.
A 2014 study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging found that 15% of those taking a liquid collagen beauty supplement with added vitamins and minerals had fewer facial lines and wrinkles after 60 days. 9
The study also revealed that 32% experienced improvements in photo-ageing – ageing caused by sun exposure – and for 39%, skin dryness decreased too.9
German researchers found a “statistically significant” improvement in skin elasticity and a positive influence on skin moisture and hydration levels in those who took hydrolysed collagen supplements.10
Another study in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found a 20% reduction in eye wrinkles after 8 weeks of taking collagen supplements.11
More recent research from 2019, published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, showed significant improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, and density after 12 weeks of taking oral collagen.4
2. Less Joint Pain
Cartilage (the tissue responsible for protecting our joints) is made up of collagen and therefore starts to decrease as we age.
This means we can potentially be more at risk of developing joint disorders like osteoarthritis, as we age.
Research has found that collagen supplements can stimulate tissues in the body to make more cartilage.12
In addition to this, a study conducted by the Current Medical Research and Opinion found that the 73 athletes who consumed 10g of collagen every day for 24 weeks experienced a lower level of joint pain during both walking and at rest compared to the group that did not take it.13
3. More Muscle Mass
Collagen is thought to help increase muscle mass and strength. Around 1 to 10% of muscle tissue within the human body is made up of collagen, which helps keep muscles strong and working as they should.4
And according to research from the British Journal of Nutrition, collagen supplements can potentially contribute to muscle growth and encourage the creation of muscle proteins, such as creatine.14
You might find collagen supplements useful if you’re looking to build muscle mass. However, they should not be used as a substitute for dietary protein (like meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and soya). A balanced, nutritious diet will give you more energy and should always come first!
4. A Healthier Heart
It’s thought that collagen supplements reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.
A study by the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis (2017) found that collagen contributes to and maintains the structure of our arteries.
Arteries are responsible for pumping blood from our heart and around our body, and not having enough collagen could mean our arteries become weaker over time.15
5. Strong Bones
Our bones are mainly made up of collagen, which gives them structure and helps keep them strong.
The older we get, the less collagen we have in our body, so the less bone mass we have.
Seminars in Arthritis & Rheumatism compiled research that showed taking collagen supplements may help maintain a healthy bone mass compared to taking collagen before and after.16
The use of collagen has also been shown to be beneficial in cases of joint pain and weakness, and it’s believed that collagen supplements can also play a role in managing the symptoms of arthritis.
It has also been found to support healthy bone mineral density in older women, just one of the many collagen benefits for women.17
6. Better Digestion
According to certain research, collagen contains the amino acid glycine, which can potentially promote normal and healthy digestion.18
7. Stronger, Healthier Hair and Nails
The benefits of collagen for hair and nails are less well-known but equally as impressive.
One 2014 American study showed the potential for significant benefits of oral collagen on hair and nails. An oral supplement that included collagen (along with hyaluronic acid, peptides, and lipids) was given daily to 54 women aged 26 to 68.
The results showed statistically significant improvement in nail cracking and nail brittleness by nearly 80%, as well as with hair dullness, hair dryness, and nail softness after 8 weeks.19
A longer trial conducted over 60 weeks revealed that, after only 9 months, 100% of participants saw an improvement in hair dryness, hair dullness, and nail peeling compared to taking collagen before and after.19
The authors concluded that “beauty nutritional supplementation with peptides and lipids – the building blocks necessary for healthy skin, hair, and nails – as well as hyaluronic acid and collagen… provides rapid, measurably significant, and long-lasting results.”
8. A Healthier Gut
Heard about how collagen benefits your gut health?
Back in 2017, a study was published by Food & Function that found collagen peptides to inhibit the breakdown of the lining in the intestines.20 In addition, Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology researched this topic in 2012.
It found that gelatine tannate supplements naturally contain collagen to promote anti-inflammatory responses in the gut.21
9. Weight Loss
While there’s still limited research to back it up, it’s been speculated that collagen could help with weight loss because it can potentially speed up people’s metabolism.
Additionally, a specific type of collagen from a Skate fish has been found to reduce body fat in humans, according to a 2019 study published in the Marine Drugs journal.22
10. Reduce Recovery Time
Collagen helps fortify connective tissue, which supports your active muscles -meaning that injury recovery time can be reduced.
An article in the Amino Acids journal (2021) backs this idea up, concluding that a daily dose of 5-15g of collagen each day improved joint pain and functionality and that muscle recovery showed a modest but significant improvement.23
Where Does Collagen Protein Come From?
Beef Collagen / Bovine Collagen
The hydrolyzed bovine hide collagen contains the most common type of collagen and it’s sourced from the happiest cows in the USA! Bovine Collagen mainly contains Type I & Type III Collagen which are the most commonly utilized types in the human body.
Bird collagen carries a wealthy amount of Type II collagen sourced from bones, cartilage, eggshells and tissues.
Marine Collagen / Fish Collagen
The scales and bones from fish provide a robust amount of collagen and high levels of hydroxyproline which works within the human body to stimulate skin cell regeneration [R]. Some studies claim that because of the small molecular structure of collagen from fish that it’s easier to digest and more readily absorbed in the human body [R]. But this doesn’t make marine collagen more superior than other types of collagen and does require further research.
How To Get More Collagen Protein
The easy answer – supplement with it. We’re not just saying this, either.
While our first recommendation is always food, when it comes to getting more collagen in your diet, it can be extremely hard. Collagen protein supplements are clinically proven to be the best way to provide the human body with collagen. Additionally, collagen peptides from powder supplements are more bioavailable within the human body. What does that mean for you? It means that your body has a better chance of actually absorbing the supplement rather than excreting it.
Since collagen protein powder supplements are sourced from animals, the body can easily recognize and utilize the nutrient contributing to an improvement in your skin, ligaments, and tendon’s elasticity, hydration, and youthful resiliency [R].
Collagen is a great way to increase your overall health while delivering a constant source of protein throughout the day. It’s important to know that choosing a collagen supplement is just as important as taking one.