Collagen Supplements 101: Vibrant Skin, Joint Health & More!

Collagen supplementation and bone broth is all the rage right now, and for good reason! I’ve taken collagen supplements on and off for a few years now, mainly because I want vibrant, healthy skin…I mean what girl doesn’t?


So let me tell you a little about collagen, it’s benefits, how to increase it in your diet, some great supplement brand examples, and more. So here we go!


What is Collagen?

Collagen is a connective tissue and the most abundant protein in your body[i]. It has multiple functions, such as providing structure to much of your body to helping your blood clot. It is most commonly found in bones, tendons, ligaments and the skin.


As we age, our body produces less and lower quality collagen[ii].


Why Collagen Is Beneficial to Body


Promotes skin elasticity for beautiful, vibrant skin!

Collagen helps maintain structure and elasticity in our skin. As we age, we start to lose this elasticity and develop fine lines, wrinkles, and less hydrated skin. Studies are showing that supplemental collagen intake can increase the levels of collagen in the skin[iii]. Improvement in elasticity can occur in as short a time as four to eight weeks [iv],[v]!


May relieve join pain.

There are multiple studies showing that collagen supplementation may help relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis and joint pain. As we age, the cartilage around our joints deteriorates. Collagen helps to maintain the integrity of cartilage and protects our joints.


For example, a 2009 study looked at a supplementation of type II collagen (there are 28 different types of collagen) in osteoarthritis patients. Arthritis symptoms were found to have decreased by 40% and the severity of symptoms dropped 33%[vi]. Benefits have been found showing the similar results in numerous other studies[vii],[viii].


Can help build/maintain muscle mass.

Collagen is the main structural tissue in skeletal muscle and composes 1-10% of dry muscle mass[ix].  Collagen contains glycine, an amino acid that helps produce creatine. Creatine helps your muscles produce energy during high intensity or heavy lifting exercises.


A 2015 study looked at collagen supplementation paired with strength training in elderly men.  The men taking the collagen supplement gained significantly more strength and muscle mass than the placebo group[x]. More research should be done on this topic, but it shows promising benefits.


Some other possible benefits:

Promotes heart health. Collagen provides structure to the arteries, and one study showed that six month supplementation correlated with reduced artery stiffness and increased levels of the “good” cholesterol in the body[xi].


It may improve nail strength and growth[xii].


Could help improve digestion and digestive related issues, such as IBS, leaky gut syndrome, etc[xiii]. The theory is that it helps build up the tissue of the gut wall and promotes digestive health.


Collagen is often promoted to help with hair health, but I couldn't find any research on this subject so it is TBD...


How to Add Collagen Into Your Diet

Collagen is found in the connective tissue of animals. You may have heard of bone broth as a source of collagen, but there isn’t much out there as far as research looking into whether collagen is absorbed well from food.


Supplements are your best bet for ingesting a form of collagen that is easily absorbed. Most of the studies I have cited used hydrolyzed collagen (or collagen hydrolysate). Hydrolyzed collagen has been broken down into smaller peptides, so it is more easily absorbed by the body.


These powdered collagen peptides can also be added to smoothies, hot beverages like coffee, or baked goods. Collagen supplements alone taste pretty gross, so my go to is throwing it into a smoothie where you can’t taste it. Sometimes I will just plug my nose and shoot it straight...pretty ghetto but it works!

Sorry to all you vegans out there, as there is no vegan collagen source.


How to Choose a Supplement Brand

Choosing a supplement brand can be super confusing…I work in the health and fitness industry and there is still so much confusing information out there for ME to sort through. Hopefully these tips will help.


When looking for collagen supplements, be sure to purchase “collagen peptides” or “hydrolyzed collagen,” which has already been broken down and is more easily absorbed.


If you struggle with arthritis or osteoporosis, make sure your supplement includes type II collagen, as that is what most research on the topic used for supplementation, but any type of collagen should still be beneficial.


Look for brands that have simple, animal sourced collagen with no added ingredients (unless you want something flavored). Make sure it doesn’t have super high sugar content. Here are some brands that I like:

Vital Protein Collagen Peptides: One ingredient – collagen peptides. Can’t go wrong keeping it simple.

Dr. Axe Multi-Collagen Protein (All in One): Has collagen from multiple animal sources, source of type II and comes in a BPA free container.


Fish Collagen – Said to be the most bioavailable form of collagen for our bodies because of its lower molecular weight and size. Although I couldn’t find any research to back this up, it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The experts seem to think so! Again, one, simple ingredient.


Vital Proteins also has a variety of flavored collagen and coffee creamers. I haven't tried them yet but they could be a good option for you if you want something with a little more flavor.


I hope this has been helpful in breaking down the new collagen craze and its proven benefits! Please let me know if you have any questions below and I would love if you shared the below graphic to pinterest. Thanks and love you all! :)


Resources

[i] Lodish, Harvey. “Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/.

[ii] Varani, James, et al. “Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1606623/.

[iii] Asserin, J, et al. “The Effect of Oral Collagen Peptide Supplementation on Skin Moisture and the Dermal Collagen Network: Evidence from an Ex Vivo Model and Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362110.

[iv] Proksch, E, et al. “Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Aug. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208.

[v] Proksch, E., et al. “Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis.” Karger Publishers, Karger Publishers, 24 Dec. 2013, www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/355523.

[vi] Crowley, David C., et al. “Safety and Efficacy of Undenatured Type II Collagen in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee: a Clinical Trial.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2764342/.

[vii] Trentham, DE, et al. “Effects of Oral Administration of Type II Collagen on Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 24 Sept. 1993, science.sciencemag.org/content/261/5129/1727.long.

[viii] Bello, A E, and S Oesser. “Collagen Hydrolysate for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Disorders: a Review of the Literature.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17076983.

[ix] Gillies, Allison R., and Richard L. Lieber. Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Sept. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3177172/.

[x] Zdzieblik, Denise, et al. “Collagen Peptide Supplementation in Combination with Resistance Training Improves Body Composition and Increases Muscle Strength in Elderly Sarcopenic Men: a Randomised Controlled Trial.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Oct. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594048/.

[xi] Tomosugi, Naohisa, et al. “Effect of Collagen Tripeptide on Atherosclerosis in Healthy Humans.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 May 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429168/.

[xii] Hexsel, D, et al. “Oral Supplementation with Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Improves Nail Growth and Reduces Symptoms of Brittle Nails.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28786550.

[xiii] Koutroubakis, I E, et al. “Serum Laminin and Collagen IV in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14600124.