What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the main protein responsible for the structure and firmness of the skin. Collagen is found in tendons, connective tissue, ligaments, blood vessels, muscles, teeth, bones, and of course the skin.
Collagen usually forms what is known as fibrils. Fibrils are bundles of collagen fibers that give the skin and body structure, shape, and tensile strength. Collagen composes 30% of the body’s total protein and acts a little like glue, holding the body together and allowing for movement and strength.
There are 28 different types of collagen in the body, however, there are three main types that make up 90% of the total collagen in the body. These three types of collagen are called collagen I, II, and III. Types I and II are generally present in the skin and bones. Type III is more commonly found in joints.
While our bodies naturally produce collagen supplements have become a popular way to potentially increase or supplement the body’s natural production of collagen. But, do they actually work?
What Types Of Collagen Supplements Are There?
Collagen supplements are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the health and wellness industry. Most of these collagen supplements are sourced from animal-based sources such as pigs, cows, and fish. However, some brands have started to use genetically modified bacteria such as P. pastoris to produce vegan collagen. This process uses human genes that code for collagen and places them inside the genetic code of the bacteria. The bacteria then produce the building blocks of human collagen.
The main forms of collagen supplements that are available come in powders, tablets, capsules, soups, and liquids.
These supplements usually contain a mixture of all the types of the three main types of collagen, types I, II, and III.
There are three main forms of collagen that are used in these supplements. The first is hydrolyzed collagen. Some studies have suggested that hydrolyzed collagen is the most efficiently absorbed form of collagen. This may be because the collagen has been broken down into small protein fragments or amino acids. This may make them slightly easier for the body to use and absorb.
The second form of collagen that is used is gelatin. In gelatin, collagen has been partially broken down into amino acids, so you will have some of the benefits of easy absorption and use, like the hydrolyzed collagen.
The third form is raw collagen. Raw collagen means that it hasn’t been treated in any specific way. In raw collagen formulations, the collagen protein is fully intact, so the body needs to do the work, breaking it down into amino acids.
All forms of collagen are broken down into amino acids when the supplements are digested. This allows the amino acids or building blocks to be absorbed by the body and then used to build collagen and other proteins in the body. Amino acids aren’t specific to collagen production and actually are used to build all proteins.
Unfortunately, you don’t get to chose how your body uses these extracted amino acids in the body. This is why some people are skeptical that collagen supplementation has much of an effect on collagen production in the body.
Do Collagen Supplements Actually Improve Your Skin?
Collagen is found in a multitude of places around the body, so it is important to know that collagen supplementation won’t be able to be targeted just to the skin. However, there is some research that suggests that collagen supplementation may help improve the appearance of your skin.
Type I and II collagen are the major types of collagen found in the skin. In the skin, collagen is responsible for giving the skin structure and firmness. Unfortunately, as we age our body slows down its production of collagen, about 1% every year from your 20s. Given that collagen is responsible for giving the skin structure, a loss of collagen production is often linked with the signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, and a loss of firmness.
Some research has suggested that collagen supplementation may be useful for reducing the appearance of aging. It is important to note that these studies are only early research, more needs to be done to determine just how effective collagen supplementation may be. However, these early studies show promising results.
One study published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology used hydrolyzed collagen products taken daily for 8 weeks in 114 45-65-year-old women. This study found that there was a significant decrease in the appearance of eye wrinkles, a reduction of 20%.
They also saw increases in the amounts of procollagen type 1 and elastin when compared with the placebo. Procollagen type 1 and elastin are precursor or helper compounds to collagen.
This study also noted that there were some long-term benefits that were seen after the 8-week supplementation had ceased.
Another study looked at the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen in 72 35-year-old women. This study was a longer study, evaluating collagen supplementation across 12 weeks. This study suggested that there was a 27% decrease in wrinkle depth and an increase in skin hydration by 28%. This study used a combination collagen supplement that included a number of other ingredients that are thought to support collagen production such as vitamin C, zinc, biotin, and biotin.
Similar to the previous study, there were long-term benefits to the skin when the patients were seen for their follow-up appointment.
There are a number of other studies that suggest similar results when using hydrolyzed collagen supplementation over a 6-12 week period. This suggests that collagen supplementation may help to support collagen production in the skin. However, most of the research has focused on hydrolyzed collagen. There is less research conducted on the benefits of gelatin or raw collagen types.
Do Collagen Supplements Actually Improve Your Joints, Bones, And Muscles?
Similar to the results seen in the studies on the skin, collagen may also improve the health of your bones, joints, and muscles. Unlike the skin studies, many of the studies that look at bone, muscle, and joint health have been animal studies, only a few have looked at the benefits specific to humans.
Having said that, there is mounting evidence to support the idea that hydrolyzed collagen may help to improve the health, strength, and resilience of joints, bones, and muscles, as well as skin.
How Much Collagen Should You Take?
Depending on what benefits you are hoping to gain, the amount of collagen may vary.
For skin, 2.5mg of hydrolyzed collagen for 8-12 weeks is the most well-studied dose.
However, it is always best to consult with your doctor as to whether collagen supplementation is best for your situation.
Is Collagen Vegan?
Collagen supplements generally are not vegan ingredients as they are usually produced from animal products such as fish, cows, or pigs.
However, there are some vegan alternatives out there that use bacteria to produce a vegan alternative. It is useful to note that the research that has been compiled in this article has mainly focused on animal-based sources of collagen. This is because it is the most well-studied type.
What Other Benefits May Collagen Supplementation Provide?
Collagen is also thought to help aid the growth of hair and nails, weight loss, and improve the health of the gut. These benefits are less well-studied and more research is needed to determine collagen’s use in these areas.
Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Collagen?
Collagen supplements are considered to be safe for most people. There are some side effects that some people may experience such as nausea or upset stomach, if you experience this, discontinue the collagen supplementation and speak with your doctor.
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