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Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

Written by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD 

Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Taking high-quality collagen supplements may offer a number of benefits for your skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, joints, and heart, and the evidence behind them continues to grow.

Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements have become increasingly popular. Fortunately, this trend is actually backed by a growing body of studies.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the potential benefits of collagen supplements.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein naturally found in your body, particularly in your connective tissues.

Some of its main responsibilities are providing structure for your skin and strengthening your bones.

As such, collagen is concentrated in parts of your body that are necessary for constant physical movement, including your skin, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

What Are Collagen Supplements?

While collagen is often derived from cartilage in inedible portions of animals, such as the chicken sternum, it’s also been made into supplements for convenient and more targeted use.

Most collagen supplements are hydrolyzed, which means they have been broken down to allow for better use and absorption in your body.

Collagen supplements are most frequently made using the connective tissues from beef or pork and sometimes fish.

Taking collagen supplements offers some potential health benefits, and many people report success with its addition to their health regimen.

Some of the top benefits of collagen supplements are detailed below:

1. May Alleviate Joint Pain

Joint discomfort is a common complaint among aging individuals as well as highly active people.

Much of this results from the deterioration of collagen around your joints, which cushions and protects them.

Additionally, conditions like osteoarthritis are more common with age and can cause chronic joint pain and inflammation.

Collagen supplements have been shown to help reduce joint pain for some people, including those experiencing osteoarthritis.

They may have an anti-inflammatory effect helpful for pain management.

In a 2012 randomized controlled trial, 80 adults were given 2 grams of collagen daily for one week.

These participants reported significant improvement in joint pain symptoms and increased ability to be physically active compared to the control group.

And in a 2008 study among 73 athletes, taking 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks resulted in significant joint pain reduction compared to the control group.

2. May Improve Skin Health and Appearance

Although collagen occurs naturally in your body, its production decreases with age.

Because it’s a major component of your skin, this age-related reduction in collagen can become evidence in your outward appearance.

Many people experience related skin changes, including wrinkles and skin dryness, as they get older.

To help combat these changes, some people turn to supplemental collagen for their skin health.

A growing body of research suggests that doing so can be beneficial in improving the integrity of your skin matrix.

In fact, taking collagen supplements may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, improve skin hydration, and increase elasticity.

In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals,18 women aged 45–64 years, who were not using other supplements, were given a collagen-containing beverage daily for 12 weeks.

These women experienced a significant reduction in the depth of their wrinkles and increased skin hydration compared to the control group.

Another randomized controlled trial found that women who took 2.5–5 grams of collagen for eight weeks saw significantly improved skin elasticity and less dryness than women who did not take collagen.

While part of the success of supplements is likely because you’re increasing the amount of overall collagen available, they also help your body increase its own collagen production.

Collagen may also boost the production of other structural proteins in your skin, like elastin and fibrin, which may improve appearance as well.

3. May Increase Hair and Nail Strength

In addition to your skin, collagen is also a major structural component of your hair and nails.

Decreased collagen production with age can also lead to these becoming thinner, more brittle, and dry.

A 2017 clinical trial published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology supplemented 25 participants with 2.5 grams of collagen peptides daily for 24 weeks and examined effects on nails.

Researchers found that collagen improved nail brittleness, increased nail growth, and significantly reduced nail breakage.

While research is not yet robust for collagen and hair, there are several reasons why collagen may be helpful here as well.

For instance, collagen contains amino acids that make up keratin, a protein that your body uses to make hair.

Additionally, collagen may help improve the integrity of skin cells that decrease with age and may contribute to thinning hair.

4. May Support Heart Health

Some researchers believe that supplemental collagen could help reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Collagen is partly responsible for the arterial structure, and if it’s lacking, this could lead to weakened arteries and potential increased susceptibility to atherosclerosis.

In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis, 31 adults were given 16 grams of collagen daily for six months.

They saw a significant improvement in artery stiffness, as well as a 6% increase in HDL, the “good” cholesterol, which is protective of heart health.

5. May Increase Muscle Mass

While less concentrated than in your skin, collagen is also found in your muscles and plays a role in strength and functioning.

Some research suggests that taking collagen may stimulate creatine production, a muscle protein, and promote muscle building post-exercise.

In a 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 53 elderly men with sarcopenia, a common age-related muscle loss, were given 15 grams of collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks in conjunction with an exercise program.

Researchers found that this group experienced a significantly higher increase in muscle mass and strength than the group who also exercised but did not take collagen.

6. May Support Bone Strength

Collagen is a major component of your bones and a factor in bone strength.

Bone mass can naturally decrease with age and result in conditions like osteoporosis or porous and fragile bones.

In a 2015 randomized controlled trial, women who took a calcium supplement combined with 5 grams of collagen for 12 months had fewer proteins in their blood that contribute to bone loss than women who took calcium on its own.

Other research has found that collagen supplementation can increase bone mineral density, which reduces the risk for weakened bones and osteoporosis.

Safety and Potential Side Effects

Collagen appears to be generally low-risk. A 2019 literature review of collagen supplements for skin stated that there are no reported adverse effects from its use.

Still, every supplement comes with the potential for side effects, and you may respond differently to taking collagen than someone else. 

While I couldn’t find any interactions or side effects from collagen supplements in research studies, various lay sources state that some people may experience mild digestive symptoms, like diarrhea or heaviness, from taking them.

Because collagen supplements may be derived from fish or seafood, they shouldn’t be used if you have an allergy to these. An allergic reaction may result in skin rash or irritation.

And according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, taking collagen derived specifically from shark cartilage may cause high blood calcium levels.

It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor prior to taking collagen supplements, especially if you’re experiencing health symptoms that could benefit from a medical evaluation. 

The Bottom Line

Research continues to emerge on the potential health benefits of taking collagen for your skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, joints, and even your heart.

Collagen supplements may not prove beneficial for everyone, but the potential is there, and they don’t appear to come with major risks for adverse side effects.

The best part about collagen supplements is how easy they are to add to your daily routine.

They are usually found as a tasteless and odorless powder that can be added to your morning coffee and dissolve completely.

This allows you to get all of the potential benefits discussed above in a quick and easy way.

Always speak with your doctor before taking collagen or adding any other new supplement to your health routine.

A Word from Our RD

Collagen appears to be a generally low-risk supplement for most people, with the potential to benefit several areas of health. 

If you decide to use a collagen supplement, it’s best to speak with your doctor first.

Additionally, I always recommend purchasing supplements that have been third-party tested to verify ingredients, quality, and safety. 

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