Collagen Supplements: Dosage, Benefits & Side Effects (Updated 2019)

Collagen is a key compound that not only holds our bodies together, but also provides many other important health benefits. In this article, we will examine everything collagen-related, including:

  • What is collagen?
  • What kinds of collagen supplements are available?
  • Which foods are rich in this compound?
  • How can you get more collagen in your diet?
  • Why is collagen important to your health?

Keep reading for the answers to these questions and many more.

Collagen Definition: What Is Collagen?

To keep things simple, think of collagen like the glue that holds your body together. Collagen is a protein responsible for producing the connective tissues in your body. Because of this, collagen is a very important compound. Its absence can lead to a variety of chronic and acute diseases, injuries, and other painful conditions that can impair normal living and reduce quality of life.

Additionally, this building block of bones, muscles, and other connective tissue in the body also reduces wrinkles; keeps the joints strong and flexible; increases skin elasticity;  improves skin hydration; helps produce strong hair follicles; and provides many more benefits, which we’ll explore in-depth below.

Finally, collagen supplements come in a variety of forms, including: gummies, powder, capsules, creams, coffee creamers, granules, gel, jelly, body lotion, beauty creams, chews, and other consumables that make collagen supplementation easy.

How Do Collagen Supplements Work?

Our bodies are composed of cells that have unique functions. Each of these functions keep the body running in the smoothest way possible. A key type of these cells is known as “fibroblasts.” Fibroblasts have a very important job: They produce the majority of collagen in the body.

But, in order to make that happen, these cells need full access to several amino acids, including proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. Collagen supplements work primarily by supplying your fibroblasts with enough amino acids so that they can continue collagen production regardless of internal amino acid reserves.

The most effective way to consume collagen supplements is though hydrolyzed collagen supplements. Just to be clear, hydrolyzed collagen and collagen peptides are synonymous; they are one and the same thing! So, be careful when some products advertise both terms on their packaging.

Hydrolyzed collagen supplements are made by breaking down collagen into powder. But, what does this mean and why is it so useful?

For one, hydrolyzed collagen has a low molecular weight — meaning that your system can easily digest, absorb, and distribute the amino acids throughout your body. This results in a significant increase in bioavailability levels, a scientific term that refers to how much a given substance can be used by the body without discarding it as “waste.”

Collagen Absorption

We know that collagen is an essential nutrient that benefits tissues throughout the body. However, given its relatively large molecule size, not all forms are absorbed equally. In order for your body to process and use the collagen you get through your diet, you should ideally take a form that is easy to digest and get where it’s supposed to go (bone, muscle, gut).

Thankfully, the way modern supplements of this kind are made (hydrolyzed collagen peptides) makes it easier for the molecule to be digested by most people. Plus, collagen supplements are broken down inside the gut into amino acids and peptides. In order for the body to use it (collagen), these amino acids and peptides need to be processed by the small intestine and released into the bloodstream.

A 2017 study on mice showed that consuming hydrolyzed collagen may lead to a major increase of this compound in the blood. [1] A 2018 study examined the effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation over the course of four weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers found a significant increase in hydroxyproline peptide levels in the bloodstream. Other studies have also replicated the methods and arrived at the same results. [2]

The conclusion would be that, yes, collagen supplements are indeed effective in providing the foundations for your body to produce more collagen (even after digestion).

Some people, however, are still skeptical, despite the evidence that collagen supplements positively correlate with increased levels of this compound in the blood. One of the major criticisms is “Why take collagen supplements in the first place? Isn’t the body producing it on a regular basis?”

The truth is that collagen production in the body peaks at 25 years of age, and then slowly declines as the individual ages. Unless you’re consuming bone broth and organ meat (more on collagen-rich foods later), chances are you’re probably suffering from not including enough collagen in your nutritional plan. The easiest way to counter this is to add a convenient supplement to your diet. For example, you could add collagen powder to smoothies, baked goodies, or even your favorite drinks. You can even combine collagen with some additional protein powder to get that extra kick and build more muscles along the way (but always consult with a physician before adding multiple supplements to your diet).

The most cost-effective method is to look for a flavorless collagen formula that blends easily, quickly, and without clumping.

In fact — just like any other supplement out there — there are some brands of collagen that fare significantly better than others. Thoroughly inspect the labels and discard any supplements with obvious fillers and other unhealthy practices.

Collagen Dosage

For best results, the following dosage of collagen supplementation is recommended:

  • Hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin are to be taken in higher doses of 10 grams per day. You can take this form either orally or in powder form blended into a smoothie or other beverage.
  • Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II) generally should be taken in smaller doses, anywhere between 20 – 40 milligrams daily.
  • For the other collagen forms (gummies, candy, face masks), make sure to check the label and consult with your health care practitioner before use.

Note: Most popular collagen supplements (including peptides) are usually derived from animal tissues or fish (also known as marine collagen). If you’re practicing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, look for products labeled as “plant-based collagen builder” or an equivalent label (they tend to differ between brands).

These plant-based collagen supplements should have the same amino acid balance as their animal counterparts, even though they are not derived from animal sources.

Collagen-Rich Foods

Is it possible to increase production or naturally stimulate the body to produce more collagen? The answer is a resounding yes.

Age isn’t the only factor that determines the production of this compound, especially in younger people who are very physically active on a day-to-day basis . Lifestyle choices also have an undeniable impact.

For example, unhealthy life choices — including poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and lack of exercise — are all major factors that decrease collagen production.

We can change these habits by eating a balanced diet with all of the necessary vitamins and minerals required to complete collagen synthesis in the body.

Before we list all of the collagen-stimulating foods, one major note: These foods do not contain collagen. Rather, they contain other ingredients that help stimulate collagen production by allowing collagen synthesis to occur. These foods greatly differ from collagen-rich foods that actually contain this molecule in their structure (found mostly in animal foods such as ligaments, bones, skin, cartilage, and other connective tissue in mammals.)

So, without further ado, these are some of the best foods to eat to naturally increase collagen production in your body:

Collagen Foods

Berries

Vitamin C is one of the compounds that immensely helps with a process called “pre-collagen production.” Plus, it also serves as a powerful antioxidant to battle oxidative stress that often leads to free radical damage (one of the precursors to tumors and cancer). [3]

So, fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are rich sources of antioxidants that indirectly lead to greater collagen production in a convenient and cost-effective way.

Kiwi

Kiwis are also a great source of vitamin C. Vitamin C works together with the amino acids proline and glycine to make hydroxyproline,  another amino acid responsible for the triple helical structure of the collagen molecule. [4]

Almonds

Almonds contain a hefty dose of vitamin E, a powerful micronutrient with antioxidant abilities. This vitamin plays a major role in neutralizing free radicals in order to prevent any potential damage to healthy collagen cells. Plus, vitamin E works together with vitamin C to stimulate collagen formation in the body.

In addition, almonds are also a rich source of copper, a trace mineral that our bodies need copper to finalize collagen synthesis in a healthy manner. [5]

Carrots

Carrots are abundant in vitamin A — a micronutrient essential for restoring, repairing, and rejuvenating collagen in the skin.

For those with an aversion to carrots, you can always find great alternatives such as apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and other vitamin A-rich foods. Any food with a natural orange color (except, ironically, oranges!) will help you meet your daily vitamin A needs.

Avocados

Avocados are great because, besides vitamin E, they also contain sufficient protein to satiate even the most fervent of eaters. They taste great. They can be tossed in all kinds of salads — vegetarian or otherwise — and they are usually available to buy throughout the whole year.

Garlic

Garlic contains an ample amount of sulfur, a trace mineral known to improve collagen synthesis. In addition, sulfur also prevents collagen fiber breakdown, making it a great choice for preserving healthy bones, skin, and joints. [6]

Dark Green Vegetables

Dark green veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense foods. They are rich sources of vitamins A, C, and E, all of which are vital to the production and formation of collagen in the body.

Additionally, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and green beans, all contain chlorophyll. Besides being the main reason for the green color of plants, chlorophyll also has been shown to increase procollagen in the skin. Procollagen is yet another precursor for collagen synthesis, which makes it an important ingredient for anyone looking to increase their collagen production in a natural way.

Oysters

Oysters are abundant with zinc, another essential trace mineral required for bone formation and collagen production. In fact, zinc has been shown to slow down the rate of collagen cell breakdown in granulation tissue. This process enables wounds to heal faster, all thanks to collagen working its magic. [7]

Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain lycopene, another amino acid that protects the skin from sunlight exposure. Excessive exposure to sunlight leads to collagen fiber damage in the skin, which triggers the aging process sooner than otherwise. Eating ample amounts of tomatoes can help preserve the skin, protect against wrinkles, and even act as a prophylactic solution against skin cancer. [8]

Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds and nuts are usually very high in zinc. This is especially true for pumpkin seeds and cashews. For people not particularly fond of eating these nuts raw, you can always toss them into your favorite dish for a quick collagen-boost.

But, what foods already contain collagen?

Collagen In Bone Broth

In addition to tendons, ligaments, and bone, collagen can be found in:

  • Animal hides
  • Fish scales
  • Fish skin

We’re going to get more scientific to explain how to find out whether or not bone broth is a good collagen source and why.

As a quick review, collagen is primarily made of three amino acids: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. These three amino acids give the compound its unique properties.

Additionally, collagen is made of three long chains of over 1,000 different amino acids twisted into a helix form. This helix form is the main reason why collagen is so strong and why it has the strength to act as a connective molecule that literally “binds” our bodies together.

However, collagen is a relatively large molecule, making it a very difficult compound to digest and one that cannot easily cross the intestinal wall. Because of this, in its un-hydrolyzed form, collagen is not considered a very effective supplement.

Collagen Peptides

It can be easy to confuse collagen peptides with other collagen forms.

To understand the difference between collagen versus collagen peptides, it is crucial to understand that collagen peptides and bone broth are produced by breaking down the original collagen molecules.

The two (peptides and bone broth) are comprised of the same amino acids as collagen. Plus, collagen peptides are more readily absorbed by the body; they have a higher bioavailability than the regular collagen molecule. This is because the peptide form features shorter chains of amino acids than both regular collagen and bone broth. Because they’re shorter, they have an easier time crossing the gut and entering into the bloodstream.

After being absorbed in the bloodstream, collagen peptides travel throughout the body. Then, cells in connective tissues use the peptides to transform them into full collagen molecules to repair and rebuild the skin. The cells can also use collagen peptides as a form of energy.

Collagen Hydrolysate

It’s important to note that collagen peptides and collagen hydrolysate (also known as hydrolyzed collagen) are two names for the same thing: collagen peptides = collagen hydrolysate = hydrolyzed collagen.

The full-length collagen molecule is broken down into collagen peptides via a chemical process known as hydrolysis. Therefore, collagen peptides are also often called hydrolyzed peptides.

Gelatin

Gelatin is actually collagen that’s undergone incomplete hydrolysis, a process that turns it into gel. These incompletely hydrolyzed (partially hydrolyzed) amino acid chains in gelatin retain lots of water, which causes the gelling. Due to its thickening property, gelatin is often used in stews and desserts as a thickening agent. It is also great for producing healthy jelly, gummies, and other half-solid collagen-assisted food forms (we’ll delve into collagen forms in-depth later).

Finally, collagen gel can be easily mixed into any kind of beverage without changing the texture, taste, or flavor.  

Bone Broth

Both gelatin and bone broth are made in a similar fashion: Gelatin is produced by mixing collagen in water and slowly heating it to a boil. Bone broth is made by slowly cooking bones (sometimes cartilage as well). The collagen from animal bones, ligaments, and other connective tissue is then slowly dissolved in the broth.

But, bone broth does not feature the same bioavailability as seen in collagen peptides. Adding a scoop of collagen peptides to bone broth, however, should reinforce the mix with an additional connective power to boost its benefits beyond its original chemical structure.

So what’s the conclusion? Are collagen peptides better than original collagen? Well, as it turns out, yes. Collagen peptides are generally considered higher quality supplements. They’re more versatile (you can add them to food, drinks, and other recipes), and feature a higher bioavailability as opposed to the other collagen forms.

On the other hand, gelatin is great for those looking to make healthy jelly or collagen gummies. Both forms (peptides and gelatin) have the ability to repair damage throughout the the body.

Collagen Types

There are around 16 collagen types (including 28 sub-types). Most of them fall somewhere under these three main types:

  • Type I
  • Type II
  • Type III

Type I equals about 90 percent of human collagen. All three collagen types share the same overall goal: to produce and maintain your body’s main connective tissues. They have their own unique benefits that vary depending on the specific collagen type.

Collagen Type I

This type of collagen is mostly found in bone broth. It is also the richest and most robust type out of all three types. It’s found in tendons, which provide connections from muscles to bone. Without it, the ligaments would literally fall off the bone. It’s also found in bone, skin, ligaments, organs, and teeth.

When considering its gram-to-gram ratio, it’s stronger than steel. [9] It plays a major role in healing wounds, as well as in bolstering bone formation as well.

Collagen Type II

Type II collagen mostly can be found in turkey and chicken bone broth. It is also the primary collagen in cartilage, having the additional task of protecting the immune system and providing digestive support in the body.

Additionally, type II collagen is very important in repairing leaky gut (sealing the gut lining).

Collagen Type III

The third and final type of collagen is mostly found in beef bone broth. It’s found in the connective tissues of hollow organs such as the intestines, lungs, uterus, and blood vessels. Type III collagen is also what gives the skin its elasticity, resilience, and firmness.

This type is one of the major building blocks of the body’s blood vessels and tissues found in the cardiovascular system (muscle, nerve, endothelium, etc.).

Now you know about the different types and sources of collagen, but what’s the best way to consume collagen?

Collagen Forms

We’ve already established that collagen peptides are the most beneficial for the body, mostly because of their higher bioavailability than the other collagen forms. However, peptides can be taken in a huge variety of sub-forms, some of the most popular which we’ll discuss below.

Collagen Drinks

A collagen drink, or liquid collagen, is a consumable product that often comes in 250 to 950 ml bottles.  In this form, the supplement is usually mixed with water for better bioavailability and to help with digestion. Plus, it often comes in a variety of flavors to make it tastier and easier to consume.

Collagen drinks will save you time dissolving collagen powders yourself.

Collagen Powder

Collagen peptides are found in a very fine supplement powder. Collagen powder is a loose powder that is usually mixed with water.

Assessing the quality of the powder through purity, color, and taste is important. Not all collagen powders are made equal, so there can be some trial and error involved until you find the one best suited for your nutritional needs.

Collagen Tablets

Collagen tablets, capsules, or ampoules are an easy pill form to get your daily dose of collagen.

Generally speaking, one collagen capsule can provide up to 1,000 milligrams of collagen. To reach the recommended daily serving of 10 grams of collagen, you will need to take anywhere between seven to 10 tablets daily.

Collagen Candies & Gummies

For those who get tired of taking 10 capsules every day, there are some collagen alternatives that more-or-less provide the same benefits, but not without a major downside. For example, collagen candy, gummies, jelly, and some other alternatives are usually filled with artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients that easily outweigh the benefits. Be sure to read the labels carefully before consuming these forms of collagen.

Collagen Cream

Collagen creams are topically applied to improve elasticity, add firmness, and rejuvenate, replenish, and moisturize the skin. Some creams and lotions are only meant to be applied to the face. Read the label thoroughly to determine if the collagen cream is the right choice for your needs.

Collagen Body Lotion

The main difference between creams and collagen body lotions is viscosity, meaning how thick it is. Body lotions usually have a lower viscosity than creams.

Plus, lotions usually can be applied all over the body, while creams tend to be more specifically designed for the face.

Collagen Bars

Collagen bars are just that — edible bars with collagen in them. You can also add additional ingredients to increase the benefits provided by these bars: things like whey protein, dried figs, dates (dried or fresh), peanut butter, and more for a healthy breakfast or an on-the-go quick snack.

In fact, armed with some creativity and a desire to become healthier, you can even make your own collagen bars. Here’s a quick collagen bar recipe:

  • 1 cup of coconut butter
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or grass-fed ghee
  • ½ cup of hydrolyzed collagen peptides (preferably grass-fed)
  • Sweetener (stevia), lemon juice, cocoa powder, or turmeric to taste

How to make: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until the mixture of uniform consistency. Taste the mix, and add additional vanilla or sweetener to taste. Line a medium-size dish with parchment and lay the collagen bar base on top. Smooth mixture into one piece to make slicing easier. Freeze until firm (45 minutes to 1 hour). Slice into bars and serve, or take with you for a quick snack. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

This mixture contains roughly the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 208
  • Carbs: 8.6 g (sugar: 2.3 g; dietary fiber: 3 g; sugar alcohols: 1.5 g)
  • Fat: 15.5 g
  • Protein: 9 g
  • Sodium: 35 mg
  • Cholesterol: 11 mg
  • Potassium: 120 mg
  • Calcium: 1 mg
  • Iron: 5 mg

Probably the best thing about these collagen bars is that they’re very easy to customize. You can add or remove an ingredient based on previous allergies (no nuts), taste, and flavor as well. If you want to get really crazy with it, you can also include whole chunks of dark chocolate (70+ percent cocoa), cinnamon, cacao butter, or even sea salt!

Collagen Coffee Creamers

Collagen coffee creamers are a somewhat new addition to join the collagen bandwagon, but are they as beneficial as, say, collagen peptides?

The answer is: It depends on the creamer.

Some collagen coffee creamers are enriched with additional protein (usually protein from grass-fed, cruelty-free raised cows) and some healthy fats, but with the exclusion of artificial sweeteners, dairy, refined sugars, and gluten.

Of course, if the collagen product is claiming to include all of those benefits listed above, then why not toss a few drops into your morning coffee? But then again, you could also get the same benefits from a quality drinkable hydrolyzed collagen product, without having to add any additional collagen into your coffee.

Collagen Face Mask

Even with the best collagen peptide supplements, results will usually take time. It may take anywhere between a few days to several weeks or even months to notice results, depending on the potency and quality of the product. Collagen face masks may offer a faster alternative to peptides.

But what exactly is a collagen face mask?

A collagen face mask is a cloth mask or  sheet enriched with hydrolyzed collagen peptides. They can help provide more than a dozen benefits for your skin. We’ll take a more in-depth look at these benefits later, but for now, they are as follows:

  • Deliver type I collagen straight to the dermis layer) of the skin
  • Hydrate skin
  • Improve dry, dull, and cracked skin
  • Help smooth, tone, and firm wrinkles
  • Promote healing

As you can see, hydrolyzed collagen face masks promote healthy, firm, and elastic skin.

Collagen Granules

Collagen granules are mostly used as a more cost-effective method in treating chronic wounds than other, more widespread treatments. Examples of chronic wounds are vascular and pressure ulcers. Acute wounds include surgical wounds and slight traumas. [10]

Collagen Injections

Collagen injections are used as an agent to provide a plumper, smoother, and more youthful-looking appearance to the skin. Additionally, injections are also used to fill thin lips.

A special collagen solution is injected under the affected area, after which it helps to promote natural collagen growth.

Notably, there are many types of collagen injection products on the market. The two most popular are human collagen injections and bovine collagen injections.

Bovine collagen is made out of cow skin and is a more cost-effective alternative than human collagen. But it is also associated with a higher percentage of allergies. Individuals who opt in for this treatment are preemptively tested for any pre-existing allergies to avoid an allergic reaction. Plus, some may prefer bovine collagen to human collagen because the former is actually thought to be more slowly absorbed by the body.

The second option, human collagen, causes little to no allergic reaction, but it is more costly to produce.

Synthetic collagen is another option. Synthetic collagen is made in a lab by combining both human and bovine collagen, along with some additional chemicals that make the product more stable upon subcutaneous injection. In comparison, both human and bovine collagen are biodegradable and don’t stay in the skin for long after administering.

Collagen Lip Gloss

Collagen lip gloss often contain other ingredients besides collagen (coconut oil, mustard sprout extract, peppermint extract – even cinnamon!) that make your lips tingle. Some of these products may even make the lips appear plump and pouty.

Currently, the science behind collagen lip gloss (including collagen lipstick) and its health benefits remains inconclusive.

Collagen Chews

Collagen chews can include multiple forms such as gummy bears for grownups, candy, bars, and other chewables in solid form. We’ve briefly covered some of these forms in the section “Collagen Candies & Gummies.”

Collagen Jelly

Essentially, collagen jelly is the same as collagen gelatin, but with a slight and a very important difference: people often use the two terms to describe the same thing; however, gelatin is in fact the main ingredient in jelly. It’s the ingredient that gives jelly that jiggly texture.

Often, collagen jelly comes in these three forms:

  • Collagen jelly sticks
  • Collagen jelly packs
  • Collagen jelly drinks

For more on collagen gelatin, refer to the section “Collagen Peptides” above.

Collagen Juice

There are some high quality collagen juices available, but the good thing about this form is that you can make your own collagen juice. Here’s a collagen juice recipe to try:

Ingredients (2 servings):

  • 1 bunch of chopped celery
  • 1 cup of chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup of chopped parsley
  • 3–4 lemons/limes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 chopped cucumbers
  • 1 scoop of high quality collagen peptide powder

How to make: Add the celery, mint leaves, parsley, cucumbers, and lemons/limes to a juicer or blender and juice until it becomes a unified liquid. Collect the juice. Add the juice and collagen peptide powder to a blender and blend for 30 seconds to distribute evenly. Serve chilled.

This mixture contains roughly the following ingredients per one serving:

  • Calories: 115
  • Carbohydrates: 25 g
  • Protein: 18 g
  • Fat: 1.3 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Sodium: 187 mg
  • Calcium: 250 mg
  • Potassium: 1,260 mg
  • Iron: 9 mg

Enjoy!

Collagen Benefits

Here are some of the top collagen benefits:

Collagen for Skin

Collagen makes up about 80 percent of the skin. It is also found in the middle layer of the skin, the dermis. In fact, collagen works in conjunction with another protein called elastin to strengthen the skin. Basically, it helps skin elasticity — hence the name elastin.

Additionally, collagen production slows down as individuals tend to get older, and it can happen sooner than expected.

From age 25 onward, individuals start losing approximately 1 percent of collagen each year. Under the microscope, you can notice collagen network fragmentation (something which, as explained in one of the studies above, was slowed down thanks to oral collagen peptide supplementation) in the middle layer of the skin. This is the most prominent sign of skin aging.

Additionally, other factors are also working against your skin health. For example, things like ultraviolet light (UV) and smoking activate enzymes responsible for breaking down collagen fibers.

Collagen supplementation (just make sure you’re working with hydrolyzed collagen peptides) is a proven way to boost your collagen production and increase your collagen stores.

And research has proven just that.

In a 2008 study, researchers examined the effects of collagen hydrolysate on athletes who had trouble with activity-related joint pain. [11]

Seventy-two male and 75 female participants were randomly put into one of two groups. The first group took 25 ml of a liquid mix that contained 10 grams of CH-Alpha (collagen hydrolysate). The second group was assigned to a placebo supplementation, which consisted of 25 ml of a liquid mix with xanthan.

The subjects in the collagen group saw significant improvements in all monitored parameters compared to the placebo group.

The scientists concluded that collagen hydrolysate is a very effective agent in treating joint health and possibly reducing the risks of joint-deterioration in high-risk subjects such as both professional and semi-professional athletes.

Due to the limited parameters examined in the study, more research is needed to confirm the findings in this study.

Collagen for Acne

As we’ve seen, collagen can be described as a necessary component in wound healing. Because of this, collagen is also a very effective agent in treating acne wounds.

Here’s how it works.

Acne inflames the skin. Plus, each clogged pore, pimple, or hair follicle increases the chances of bacteria overgrowth as well. It is these bacteria that cause all the trouble (redness, irritation, swelling) and urge the affected person to touch and scratch the skin.

These areas need to be left alone to heal. But do you know what else is also very effective in treating acne?

Collagen.

First off, supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen helps to improve and speed up the production of collagen in the body. This alone helps to suppress the biological decline of collagen production that is often experienced in the late 20s.

Additionally, when the skin gets damaged by an acne breakout, collagen plays a major role in closing up scars and forming new skin in the affected area.

What about that inflammation we talked about? Well, it turns out glycine (reminder: one of the amino acids found in the collagen molecule) is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

Collagen for Eczema

Eczema is a health condition where a certain area of the skin gets inflamed, which leads to a rash. Eczema is a more serious condition than acne, since it can lead to wounds all over the body. This can take putting on clothes from an everyday activity to one of the most painful experiences of the day.

Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that collagen supplementation is directly correlated to treating eczema; however, we’ve already seen that hydrolyzed collagen can play a crucial role in the healing up of acne wounds.

An eczema breakout is very similar to any other type of breakout on the skin.

Seeing how hydrolyzed collagen has a major positive impact on acne-caused wounds, the same mechanisms that apply there are certainly in play with eczema wounds as well.

Therefore, eczema sufferers may want to consider adding collagen peptides into their nutritional plan, but not before consulting with their health care practitioner.

Collagen for Hair

Contrary to popular belief, hair loss is an issue that affects both women and men. In fact, women actually make up about 40 percent of total hair loss sufferers, which can be devastating for women of all ages. Losing some or a large part of the hair can hurt anyone’s self-esteem.

Thankfully, collagen supplements are a great way to help combat hair loss and achieve  glowing, thicker, and fuller hair.

Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss

We should note the difference between hair shedding and hair loss. First off, it’s normal to shed anywhere between 50 to 100 single hair strands a day. If you notice that you’re shedding more hairs than that (on the hairbrush, pillow, or around the house), then you might be suffering from a condition known as telogen effluvium, which leads to excessive shedding of hair.

Telogen effluvium (excessive hair shedding) can be caused by any of the following factors:

  1. Pregnancy and giving birth
  2. High levels of stress
  3. Losing weight rapidly
  4. Surgery
  5. Recovering from a severe illness (such as one accompanied by a fever)

In most of these cases, however, the hair starts to grow back — usually after just a few months, if not weeks, once the initial stressor is gone. Within a year, the hair grows back and achieves its original thickness.

This type of hair shedding is different from hair loss, which happens when your hair ceases to grow. Hair loss can be caused by any of the following factors:

  • Medications, some therapies, and other forms of treatment
  • Unsuitable and/or low quality/untested hair products
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Harsh hairstyle (exerting an extreme pull on the hair, such as pony tails or corn rows)
  • Poor diet

Hair loss will not go away if you don’t address the underlying issue.

The Connection Between Collagen and Hair Loss

A 2016 study from Japan showed that lower collagen levels near hair follicle stem cells positively correlated with hair loss. [12] Scientists were able to observe this process in 18-month-old mice, which is the exact age at which they start to shed their hair. Older mice are known to have thinner hair follicles than younger mice. The study demonstrated that hair loss was less noticeable in older mice that continued to produce collagen (or produced collagen more than their younger counterparts).

Further, mice that lack type XVII collagen are also known to shed stem cells like dandruff. This process leads to thinner and lesser hair due to hair follicle shrinking, and consequently, hair loss.

Now researchers believe that the same hair mechanism is true for human hair follicles in relation to collagen production as well.

In another study, a Japanese team of researchers examined the human scalp and found that the hair follicles of 50-year-old healthy subjects were smaller than the hair follicles of both 30 and 40-year old subjects. [13] Additionally, they also found that a regular scalp massage is also beneficial to improve hair thickness, so using a collagen lotion is definitely something for individuals affected by either hair shedding or hair loss to consider.

Additional Collagen Benefits for Hair Loss

Collagen is a well-known agent for helping to restore a youthful appearance, but its benefits extend well beyond this. As we’ve seen, collagen is a naturally occurring protein that is crucial for healthy hair, skin, and nails. In fact, collagen can be considered the essential ingredient of the hair.

Secondly, hair is mostly built from a compound called keratin protein, which is most adequately made by the body when there is sufficient amount of all the proper amino acids circulating in the bloodstream. This supply of amino acids can be achieved by taking a high-quality collagen peptide supplement because peptides are smaller than the regular collagen molecule, which makes them more easily absorbed via the small intestine.

Finally, these amino acids are used by the hair follicles to manufacture more keratin protein.

Collagen for Blood Circulation

Collagen also improves blood circulation in the body. Consequently, improving blood flow to the scalp can have numerous benefits in regards to scalp and hair health. Plus, the hair follicles will also receive all the required nutrients in one go, which may help your hair growing faster.

These supplements may also help those individuals affected by loose, dry, and coarse hair. Including a collagen supplement in your diet can be very beneficial to combat brittle and dry hair, since collagen is known to increase the moisture levels in hair and can help treat split ends.

As an added bonus, collagen peptides can also help to decrease the prevalence of gray hairs.

Collagen for Joints and Arthritis

The evidence for collagen in helping to ease arthritis pain and improve joint health is mixed and inconclusive. The main idea behind hydrolyzed collagen treating arthritis, or more precisely, osteoarthritis, is that the body will use the amino acids from this collagen form to repair joints and connective tissue, and thus repair the damage in a given amount of time.

But the problem is it’s not that simple.

From a nutritional perspective, the body cannot distinguish between the different collagen types. So foods like a piece of grilled chicken, black beans, and hydrolyzed collagen peptides are, to an extent, all treated like protein, which is later broken down into amino acids.

And there’s a catch.

Although amino acids are considered an equivalent source, there is a difference in the way different amino acids are processed upon entering the body. This is mostly thanks to hydrolyzed collagen, since the smaller molecules are more easily absorbed than the original collagen molecule, which is larger.

However, the experts still agree that hydrolyzed collagen supplementation provides a significant boost in the specific amino acids abundant in collagen (important for joint health).

Although more research is needed, some studies support the findings that collagen does indeed provide joint pain relief in affected subjects.

One such study [14] published in the Nutrition Journal assigned 191 arthritis-affected people into three groups:

  • Group one — These subjects received a placebo pill.
  • Group two — These subjects received UC-II (undenatured type II collagen).
  • Group three — These subjects received chondroitin sulfate supplements.

The results were promising: The undenatured type II collagen showed significant improvements in relation to pain and stiffness relief, as well as demonstrated better joint function than both other groups over the course of 180 days.

Other studies examined the effectiveness of UC-II in treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA), to a mixed outcome.

A 2009 double-blind study included more than 500 RA-affected individuals who went through an undenatured collagen supplementation program. [15] Several markers were examined, including pain, tender joint count, morning stiffness, and swollen joint count. The majority of subjects experienced significant improvements in all areas compared to the control group, but were slightly beaten by methotrexate.

The research team concluded that undenatured type II collagen is viable and safe in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Collagen for Leaky Gut

Gelatin and bone broth have long been used to aid with digestive ailments, but now science can finally back up these claims. In fact, the unique chemical structure of collagen, paired with its powerful amino acid profile, allows this molecule to help with digestion, gut inflammation, stomach ulcers, abnormal acid secretion, acid reflux, and more.

This is mainly owed to the fact that collagen is an essential ingredient with which the intestinal lining essentially cannot do without. To that extent, here are some of the most prominent benefits of collagen for maintaining proper gut health:

Stomach Acid Secretion

Collagen regulates gastric juice secretion by maintaining a good acid balance in the gut. Additionally, the protein also prevents an excessive amount of gastric juices from forming, which often leads to stomach ulcers, heartburn, acid reflux, and other gut problems caused by the surrounding environment becoming too acidic.

Digestion

Collagen is considered a hydrophilic molecule — essentially meaning that it attracts acidic molecules and water, both of which aid the digestive process when found in proper amounts. Here’s how it works:

Upon ingestion, collagen “collects” water and stomach acid as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. This process helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates and other proteins found in the intestines. Plus, the extra water in the intestine makes an environment where food moves more smoothly than otherwise, therefore decreasing the risks of acid reflux.

Stomach Ulcers

Collagen peptides are comprised of two important amino acids (among others):

  • Glycine
  • Proline

These two amino acids may potentially help repair a damaged stomach lining and prevent stress-induced stomach ulcers via their positive effect on the central nervous system. In fact, studies have confirmed some of these theories and have identified glycine as an effective agent in combating harmful gastric secretions in the lining of the stomach. [16]

Intestinal and Stomach Lining

Collagen synthesis is an important part of healing a damaged intestinal lining. When inflammation or damage occurs in the stomach lining, the body receives signals to make new smooth muscle cells in order to “patch up” the affected area. The interesting part, however, is that collagen production in the intestinal wall is greater when these muscle cells are produced during healing. [17]

Leaky Gut

Yet another compound found in collagen is the amino acid glutamine. Glutamine is one of the key amino acids for preventing, healing, and decreasing the risks of leaky gut syndrome. Additionally, glutamine also has been linked to preventing inflammation and oxidative stress caused during the opening of tight junctions in the intestinal lining. In fact, an animal study determined that L-glutamate supplementation may help improve the structure of the intestinal walls. [18]

There is a clear link between inflammatory bowel disease and lowered serum collagen levels. Supplementing with collagen peptides may help to solve this problem in a matter of months. [19]

Now that we know the benefits of collagen, let’s see how to improve collagen production with other micronutrient supplementation.

How to Improve Collagen Production and Effectiveness with Non-Collagen Supplementation

Did you know that compounds like vitamin C, keratin, biotin, and other supplements can help improve the effectiveness of collagen and help increase collagen production in the body?

Collagen and Vitamin C

OK, so we know that collagen peptide intake increases collagen levels in the body. The important thing to note, however, is that collagen cannot form without one key micronutrient: vitamin C. Or, in other words, low vitamin C levels in the body directly correlate with decreased levels of collagen (and collagen production).

This is one of the main reasons why many proven brands include vitamin C in their collagen supplements (usually the ones that come in capsule form).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a crucial vitamin that the body cannot produce on its own. Rather, it must be obtained through diet.

However, there’s a catch: You need a significant amount of vitamin C to help form collagen in an effective manner. [20]

Plus, the body has to make collagen continuously — even without a major injury to the connective tissue, joints, or the skin. This process depletes vitamin C reserves. Because of this, it’s important to get plenty of vitamin C in your diet, either through foods or by taking a vitamin C supplement.

Vitamin C is also very important to the healthy functioning of the heart.

Anemia (either low iron levels, or low hemoglobin in the blood, or both) is often alleviated by a temporary vitamin C supplementation. And, not only that, the vitamin also has been found to lower cortisol (popularly known as the “stress hormone”) levels, boost the adrenals, and improve sleep as well.

Other benefits of vitamin C include:

  • Helps absorbs iodine, a substance that is thought to be harmful for the body
  • Improves blood sugar levels in combination with a low-glycemic diet
  • Improves skin health, slows down skin aging, and in some cases even works to rebuild muscles after long sessions of physical exertion

To help boost your vitamin C intake, try including some of these foods in your diet: apples, citrus fruits, carrots, cauliflower, fresh red pepper, Japanese apple, and beef liver.

Collagen And Biotin

Biotin is just another name for vitamin B7, a compound used to improve hair, skin, and nail health. Some natural sources of vitamin B7 include sweet potatoes, nuts, swiss chard, halibut, whole grains, egg yolks, and more.

Together, collagen and biotin work as very effective agents in improving hair health, as well as supporting your general health.

Collagen and Keratin

The final entry in this list is keratin — a protein responsible for hair and nail health, which is also a potent antioxidant. Together, collagen and keratin make for an interesting duo that improves the thickness, look, and volume of the hair, all the while keeping tabs on free radicals and preventing these harmful substances from doing any further damage.

These two compounds work in conjunction and are best when taken together in a single formula.

Conclusion

Collagen is key not only to building healthy connections, but it is also an integral part of many health processes.

Key Points:

  • Collagen is a relatively large molecule, making it a very difficult compound to digest and one that cannot easily cross the intestinal wall.
  • Collagen production in the body peaks at 25 years of age and then slowly declines as the individual ages.
  • The most effective way to consume collagen supplements is though hydrolyzed collagen supplements.
  • Collagen supplements are available in a variety of forms.
  • You can also improve collagen production by eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of vitamin C-rich foods.

Studies:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707681/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594048/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584911003194
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15837519
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6110524
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5834330
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7466582
  8. https://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/anti-aging/what-is-photoaging
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14502896
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912707
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740347/
  14. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-016-0130-8
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2764342/
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9344231
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3792777
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25368996
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14600124
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18505499

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