Collagen supplements are seemingly everywhere nowadays. We see them on TV, at the big box stores, in pharmacies, and even in the health-food section of the grocery store.
Initially used as joint protection for athletes, collagen has since taken off as an anti-ageing solution with a wide range of benefits. In this article, we will take a brief look at what collagen is and how it works in the body, then discuss five different ways that supplementing with a collagen complex can improve function.
Why is Collagen Essential to Our Bodies?
Collagen is an abundant protein that is produced naturally in the body and is found in many of the foods we eat.
Collagen makes up a full third of the protein present in the body and supports the structure of bones, ligaments, cartilage, and skin.
Collagen production begins to diminish as we age, leading to the deterioration of the skin in the form of lines and wrinkles, brittle and yellowing nails, hair loss, and aches and pains in the joints.
Collagen supplements can be sourced from animal hides and bones, but a more popular (and ecologically sound) choice is marine collagen, which is sourced from sustainably harvested fish.
Since the 1990s, supplements with a collagen complex have been used by athletes to improve joint health and boost performance.
As we get older, cartilage (the tissue that cushions the joints) becomes thinner and wears down. Because our body doesn’t continue its production as efficiently, this can lead to osteoarthritis or just overall creaks and aches in the joints.
Studies have found a significant reduction in pain for participants who take a collagen supplement. Researchers theorize that supplemental collagen may accumulate in the joints and stimulate tissues to release collagen. This leads to better support in the joints, reduction in inflammation, and less joint pain overall.
In more recent years, studies have been conducted to examine the efficacy of collagen for other anti-ageing effects, including enhancing the elasticity of the skin, nail health, and hair growth.
A Systematic Review conducted in 2019 found that using a collagen supplement was “promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin ageing. Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density.”
Hence an explosion of supplements containing a collagen complex has flooded the marketplace, touting results that include plump, youthful skin.
Be aware that quality counts. You want to be sure that you have a quality, marine collagen source that is easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Vibrant and Healthy Hair and Nails
Your body requires antioxidants to promote healthy hair, as free radicals can damage hair follicles.
There have been several test-tube studies that have shown marine collagen can fight four different free radicals, and that it may be more potent than the antioxidants found in tea.
Also, because collagen improves the elasticity of the skin, it may decrease thinning and reduced hair growth that is a common part of the ageing process.
Nails too, in a preliminary study have shown an improved strength with collagen supplementation. 12% of participants noticed increased growth, while 64% saw clinical improvement in brittle nails, and 80% agreed that they saw an improvement in nail appearance. While more studies are needed, initial results and anecdotal evidence are very promising indeed.
Possible Benefits for Bones, Muscle, and Heart
Some initial studies have shown that collagen supplementation has a positive impact on our bones, muscles, and heart.
In bones, collagen has been observed to help inhibit bone deterioration that can lead to osteoporosis, while participants saw an increase in bone density.
For muscles, studies have shown that collagen promotes muscle synthesis, and boosts muscle mass for people who demonstrate age-related muscle loss.
Collagen is also what provides structure to blood vessels. As collagen production goes down with age, the walls of arteries can stiffen and become frail. A study performed showed a significant reduction in artery stiffness in the test group, in addition to a 6% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.
Further studies are needed in these areas but are forecasting well.
Anecdotal evidence shows many people who take collagen supplements are less hungry throughout the day. As a protein, collagen may help keep a full feeling and thus be less tempted to overeat.
Where to buy good quality collagen supplements
Collagen supplements are available to buy online and on the high street. To buy the best quality make sure the supplements don’t have additional fillers or additives. Also, only buy from a brand who are transparent about their sourcing and processes, for example, Hey Nutrition.
Hey Nutrition has a high-quality collagen complex that can provide a wide range of health benefits. They use sustainably sourced marine collagen to create a synergistic blend that lends radiance and elasticity to the skin, boosts nail and hair health, and includes other quality active ingredients to boost overall health and immunity.
Hexsel D, Zague V, Schunck M, Siega C, Camozzato FO, Oesser S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Dec;16(4):520-526. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12393. Epub 2017 Aug 8. PMID: 28786550.
Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz ML, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9-16. PMID: 30681787.
Heather Lavine is a mother of three and an avid blogger. Based in the UK, she enjoys getting outdoors and being active with her kids in her free time.