Collagen has been having a moment lately among the health nuts in the wellness world. The fad has been making people buy collagen supplements and powders in hopes of “preventing wrinkles” and “improving hair, skin, and nails”. But is the $50 or more pretty and trendy container of collagen (that is not regulated by the FDA) really worth your money? Research is needed to really prove that there are health benefits.
First of all, what is collagen? Collagen is a protein-rich connective tissue that pretty much holds the body together. It is the most abundant protein all throughout the human body. In powdered form, animal collagen has been hydrolyzed so it is just broken down into individual peptides (or amino acids). People have been using this collagen powder to stir into hot or cold liquids such as coffee, smoothies, or soup. The hype is that people believe intaking this collagen into the body will make it be absorbed directly into their tissues, and provide youthful-looking skin.
The idea to use collagen from an animal to improve one’s own body and complexion has also traditionally been seen in China. Tracing as far back as the first century BCE, the practice of ingesting donkey skin for the collagen-boosting effects was a common beauty-ritual. It was even a must for the beauty of Empress Dowager Cixi, who ruled as regent from 1861 to 1908. Today, the people of China still have collagen-rich diets from bone broth, animal bones, chicken feet, and the skin on chicken. But does Collagen really work?
While there has been some small, short-term studies done that say collagen can improve wrinkles1, skin2, and nails3, these studies are not good enough. Among the mixed results of the studies on collagen, none that claim collagen is beneficial are actually large enough or long-term to know if collagen for sure works.
Companies are overcharging people for collagen supplements that have claims not regulated by the FDA. Don’t be a fool and get taken advantage of by great marketing! While collagen could potentially be the magic ingredient for the healthy skin and nails that we all want, more research needs to be done to really prove this is possible.
What To Do Instead
Use natural foods to help support skin health. Optimize your body’s own collagen-making ability by just eating enough protein4. Eat an adequate amount of meat, poultry, and fish to get a natural and unprocessed form of collagen in your diet. Protein from dairy, or plant proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, and grains are also great forms of protein with essential amino acids. Along with protein, you also need to get enough vitamin C. Found in fruits, citrus, and vegetables, vitamin C is important for collagen formation. Also note that there are ways to prevent collagen loss in your body. Things that damage collagen are high sugar consumption5, smoking6, sun damage7, and just overall aging (which there is nothing you can do to prevent!). Avoiding these things as well as just having a healthful diet can protect your natural production of collagen and reduce visible aging- no pricey powders or supplements needed!
- Li, B. (2017). Beneficial Effects of Collagen Hydrolysate: A Review on Recent Developments. Biomedical Journal of Scientific & Technical Research, 1(2). doi:10.26717/bjstr.2017.01.000217
- Yazaki, M., Ito, Y., Yamada, M., Goulas, S., Teramoto, S., Nakaya, M., . . . Yamaguchi, K. (2017). Oral Ingestion of Collagen Hydrolysate Leads to the Transportation of Highly Concentrated Gly-Pro-Hyp and Its Hydrolyzed Form of Pro-Hyp into the Bloodstream and Skin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 65(11), 2315-2322. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.6b05679
- Hexsel, D., Zague, V., Schunck, M., Siega, C., Camozzato, F. O., & Oesser, S. (2017). Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 16(4), 520-526. doi:10.1111/jocd.12393
- Perspective | Collagen supplements show early promise for skin and joints, but don't stock up yet. (2018, March 26). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/collagen-supplements-show-early-promise-for-skin-nails-and-joints/2018/03/23/1cd480e2-27d6-11e8-bc72-077aa4dab9ef_story.html?utm_term=.ee9a82ba0295
- Ulrich, P., & Cerami, A. (n.d.). Protein glycation, diabetes, and aging. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11237208
- Smoking: Does it cause wrinkles? (2017, September 30). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/expert-answers/smoking/faq-20058153