Collagen Benefits: What Are Collagen’s Effects?

Collagen is more than just a commonly-heard word from healthcare and beauty professionals – it’s also a commonly-found protein in your body. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in humans. Regardless, many people still wonder what collagen does and what its benefits are. 

This protein plays multiple roles. At times, it gives our skin structure which makes it taut, firm, and attractive. At other times, it’s used to maintain the health of our muscles, joints, brain, heart, and many other organs and systems. If you’re here to learn more about collagen’s benefits, this is your article!

Key Ideas

  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Its main function is to act as the “glue” which holds skin, bones, tendons, and blood vessels together. It keeps these structures firm while also making them flexible.
  • Unfortunately, as time passes and we’re influenced by factors like sun, poor diet, obesity, or smoking, we suffer from reduced collagen. This lack of collagen accelerates aging. 
  • Nowadays, collagen has become widely popular as a dietary supplement and an ingredient in beauty products. However, not all collagen products are as effective as they claim to be. 

Collagen’s Benefits: What You Need to Know

Collagen makes up a third of the proteins in our bodies. Thanks to its role in connective tissue, this protein connects different structures while also giving them a bit more elasticity. We’ve summarised many of its properties and benefits for you:

Organ/System Benefit
Skin Reduces wrinkles

Clears blemishes and marks 

Prevents sun damage

Makes skin more firm and taut

Hair Provides amino acids to help create hair’s structure 
Joints Makes up joint cartilage

Prevents joint pain and swelling

Bones Gives bones their structure
Muscles Makes up muscle mass
Heart Strengthens the arteries used to transport blood
Brain Makes up structures which allow the nervous system to function 
Digestive System Maintains the gastrointestinal barrier

Can Collagen Rejuvenate My Skin?

Collagen is one of the most important proteins for your skin, and makes up as much as 80% of its structure (1, 2). In the skin, collagen creates a “mesh” or “net” which keeps everything in its proper place.

Collagen supplements have been researched for their potential anti-aging benefits. Several properties which may delay signs of aging have been found (3, 4, 5, 6):

  • Delaying onset of wrinkles and reducing existing wrinkles
  • Protecting skin from the sun’s rays
  • Increasing the skin’s firmness and thickness 
  • Reducing marks and blemishes 

Can Collagen Strengthen My Hair?

Collagen is chock-full of amino acids which are vital for producing keratin, the star protein when it comes to maintaining hair’s structure. For these reasons, researchers believe that taking collagen may strengthen hair (7, 8). However, further results are needed before we can be certain.

On a different note, collagen acts as an antioxidant (9). This means it combats the oxidative stress responsible for grey hairs (10, 11).

One of collagen’s benefits is providing your hair with structurally important amino acids. (Source: Mossholder: SxPISzSxJrQ/ Unsplash.com)

Can Collagen Protect My Joints?

Collagen makes up as much as 50% of the cartilage which covers your joints. It gives them strength and a bit of flexibility, helping us move more smoothly. This effect is often hindered by aging and excess weight. 

Researchers have tried using collagen supplements to improve joint health. They found that these supplements may reduce joint pain and inflammation in healthy people, athletes, and even people with arthrosis (a condition which damages joint cartilage) (12, 13, 14).

Does Collagen Strengthen Bones?

Collagen helps make up as much as a third of our bones (15). It’s crucial for bones to stay firm, rather than brittle and easily breakable. 

Some research has applied collagen supplements to bone health. Results suggest that they could increase bone density, a very important finding for the prevention and treatment of conditions like osteoporosis (16, 17, 18).

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Its main function is to act as the “glue” which holds skin, bones, tendons, and blood vessels together. It keeps these structures firm while also making them flexible.(Source: Unsplash: c59hEeerAaI/ Unsplash.com)

Can Collagen Improve My Physical Performance?

Up to 10% of muscles are made up of collagen. As such, collagen is considered an important protein for muscle mass creation and maintenance (19).

Collagen has been proposed as a possible method of improving athletic performance. Some studies tested this hypothesis by administering collagen supplements to both young and old people. Paired with an exercise routine, they saw significant muscle growth (20, 21).

Can Collagen Help with Heart Health?

The walls of your veins and arteries require collagen. Along with other proteins like elastin, they allow your blood vessels to pump blood through  your body effectively (22).

Some researchers have suggested that collagen supplements could prevent arteries from hardening – a type of heart disease known as arteriosclerosis (23, 24).

Does Collagen Prevent Neurological Diseases? 

Collagen is found all over the brain! It also makes up part of the membranes which protect the brain (meninges), the blood vessels which pump blood to it, and the nerves which transmit its signals throughout the body (25).

Collagen supplements are believed to potentially prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (26). However, more experiments and studies are needed to test this theory.

Collagen helps make up structures which allow the nervous system to function. (Source: Weermeijer: 3KGF9R_0oHs/ Unsplash.com)

What Are Collagen’s Digestive Benefits?

Our intestinal tract has an important “barrier” to prevent germs and toxins inside the digestive tract from leaving and passing into the rest of the body. Collagen’s part in this is to provide thickness and structure to those “walls” – a crucial job for protecting your body.

Some research suggests that collagen may prevent illnesses which result from toxins passing out of the digestive system into the rest of the body (27, 28). Further research is needed before drawing firm conclusions, however. 

How Can I Maximise Collagen’s Benefits?

Now that you’re versed in what collagen can do for you, all that’s left is to learn how to attain those benefits. This section shows you how!

Foods Which Help Produce Collagen

Your body can produce its own collagen if it has enough of the appropriate ingredients. Do you know what those ingredients are? 

Nutrient Description Sources
Vitamin C Water-soluble vitamin required for the body to grow and function (29) Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruit) 
Broccoli
Red and green peppers
Green leafy vegetables
Potatoes
Zinc Trace element found inside cells, where it helps with cell growth and division (30) Red meat
Pork
Lamb
Fish
Copper Trace element involved in producing red blood cells and maintaining blood vessel, bone, and immune system health (31) Oysters and other shellfish Legumes
Nuts
Potatoes
Organ meat (for example, liver)
Magnesium Mineral involved in approximately 300 functions in the human body (32) Nuts
Peas
Soy
Brown rice
Milk

And can you get collagen directly from food? Of course! Gelatine and bone broth contain high levels of collagen. However, the body will break down that collagen into smaller amino acids used for many different processes in the body. They may reform into collagen, but not necessarily. 

The Three Collagen Enemies to Avoid

Better safe than sorry! Your body’s collagen is susceptible to external factors and unhealthy lifestyles. Three risk factors are most important:

  • Tobacco: Cigarette smoking is one of the worst threats to collagen. When you smoke, you damage your collagen fibres, making yourself more susceptible to aging and to heart problems (33, 34).
  • UV Rays: The sun’s ultraviolet rays are guilty of harming your body’s collagen production. This factor is responsible for up to 80% of aging in the skin (35).
  • Burnt Food: Burnt or overcooked foods (like very well-toasted bread or meat with blackened parts) could damage your collagen and elastin fibres (36).
The sun’s UV rays are guilty of harming your body’s collagen production. This factor is responsible for up to 80% of aging in the skin. (Source: Rice: Tf-qtxkNisk/ Unsplash.com)

How to Select the Best Collagen Supplement

When you choose a product which boasts collagen as the star ingredient, remember to consider factors like the collagen’s origin, the form it comes in, and any factors which improve how the body absorbs it.

Origin

Collagen supplements are derived from three main sources: marine, bovine, and porcine. Most consider marine collagen to be the most effectively absorbed. The other types, however, can be taken by those allergic to fish or shellfish. 

Form

If you want a practical product which travels well and has easily-counted doses, collagen pills and capsules are your best option. 

On the other hand, if you’d prefer not to swallow capsules and you want a supplement to mix into your favourite drinks, powdered collagen is your answer! 

Maximised Absorption

Your body can more easily and effectively absorb collagen in two main ways:

  • Hydrolysation: Hydrolysed collagen breaks down into smaller amino acids which can easily pass through the intestinal barrier. Your bloodstream then transports them wherever they’re needed.
  • Liposomes: One of the best ways to ensure collagen is protected and absorbed by the body is to surround it in a protective layer. This layer is referred to as a liposome.

Don’t forget to check with your doctor before making decisions about which collagen supplements to take. Never use collagen supplements as a replacement for medical treatment, unless advised by your doctor.

Our Conclusions

Collagen is an amazing beauty secret – but past that, it’s also fundamental for life.  That’s thanks to its benefits for multiple organs and body parts, providing structure and optimising their function.

Collagen supplements have been shown to be a great resource for both health and beauty, and their popularity in recent years continues to grow. However, you should only choose a collagen product once you’ve armed yourself with information. 

Aren’t collagen’s benefits incredible? You probably know people who would benefit from learning about it. Don’t forget to share this guide – plus, leave us a comment. We value your thoughts and responses.

References (36)

1. Ricard-Blum S. The Collagen Family. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology. 2010;3(1).
Source

2. Oxlund H, Andreassen TT. The roles of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin in the mechanical properties of connective tissues. Journal of Anatomy. 1980.
Source

3. Choi FD, Juhasz M, Mesinkovsk N. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2019.
Source

4. Laing S, Bielfeldt S, Ehrenberg C, Wilhelm K-P. A Dermonutrient Containing Special Collagen Peptides Improves Skin Structure and Function: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Triple-Blind Trial Using Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy on the Cosmetic Effects and Tolerance of a Drinkable Collagen Supplement. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2020;23(2):147–52.
Source

5. Sibilla S, Borumand M. Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2014;1747.
Source

6. Jeong-Kee K y cols Beneficial Effect of Collagen Peptide Supplement on Anti-aging Against Photodamage. Korean Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2009
Source

7. Molecular Cell Biology 4th edition. W H Freeman & Co; 2000.
Source

8. Yang F-C, Zhang Y, Rheinstädter MC. The structure of people’s hair. PeerJ. 2014;2.
Source

9. Wang B, Wang Y-M, Chi C-F, Luo H-Y, Deng S-G, Ma J-Y. Isolation and Characterization of Collagen and Antioxidant Collagen Peptides from Scales of Croceine Croaker (Pseudosciaena crocea). Marine Drugs. 2013;11(11):4641–61.
Source

10. Trüeb RM. The impact of oxidative stress on hair. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2015; 37:25–30.
Source

11. Seiberg M. Age-induced hair greying - the multiple effects of oxidative stress. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2013;35(6):532–8.
Source

12. Bruyère O, Zegels B, Leonori L, Rabenda V, Janssen A, Bourges C, et al. Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: A 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2012;20(3):124–30.
Source

13. Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2008;24(5):1485–96
Source

14. Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2006;22(11):2221–32.
Source

15. Lawrence J. Building Stronger Bones [Internet]. WebMD. WebMD; 2011.
Source

16. Porfírio E, Fanaro GB. Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia. 2016;19(1):153–64.
Source

17. Guillerminet F, Beaupied H, Fabien-Soulé V, Tomé D, Benhamou C-L, Roux C, et al. Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone metabolism and biomechanical parameters in ovariectomized mice: An in vitro and in vivo study. Bone. 2010;46(3):827–34.
Source

18. Kim H, Kim M-G, Leem K-H. Osteogenic Activity of Collagen Peptide via ERK/MAPK Pathway Mediated Boosting of Collagen Synthesis and Its Therapeutic Efficacy in Osteoporotic Bone by Back-Scattered Electron Imaging and Microarchitecture Analysis. Molecules. 2013;18(12):15474–89.
Source

19. Sikorski ZE. Chemical and functional properties of food proteins. Lancaster: Technomic; 2002.
Source

20. Oertzen-Hagemann V, Kirmse M, Eggers B, Pfeiffer K, Marcus K, Marées MD, et al. Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1072.
Source

21. Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237–45.
Source

22. Tyagi. Blood flow interplays with elastin: collagen and MMP: TIMP ratios to maintain healthy vascular structure and function. Vascular Health and Risk Management. 2010;215.
Source

23. Igase M, Kohara K, Okada Y, Ochi M, Igase K, Inoue N, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised clinical study of the effect of pork collagen peptide supplementation on atherosclerosis in healthy older individuals. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2018;82(5):893–5.
Source

24. Tomosugi N, Yamamoto S, Takeuchi M, Yonekura H, Ishigaki Y, Numata N, et al. Effect of Collagen Tripeptide on Atherosclerosis in Healthy Humans. Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis. 2017;24(5):530–8.
Source

25. Kucharz EJ. Collagen in the Nervous System. The Collagens: Biochemistry and Pathophysiology. 1992;261–3.
Source

26. Humpel C, Ucar B. Collagen for brain repair: therapeutic perspectives. Neural Regeneration Research. 2018;13(4):595.
Source

27. Graham MF, Drucker DE, Diegelmann RF, Elson CO. Collagen synthesis by human intestinal smooth muscle cells in culture. Gastroenterology. 1987;92(2):400–5.
Source

28. Chen Q, Chen O, Martins IM, Hou H, Zhao X, Blumberg JB, et al. Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Food & Function. 2017;8(3):1144–51.
Source

29. Personal de MedlinePlus. Vitamina C: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Source

30. Personal de MedlinePlus. Zinc en la dieta: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Source

31. Personal de MedlinePlus. Cobre en la dieta: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Source

32. Personal de MedlinePlus. Magnesio en la dieta: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Source

33. Jorgensen L., Kallehave F., Christensen E., Siana E., Gottrup F. Less Collagen Production in Smokers. National Library of Medicine. 1998
Source

34. Personal de Mayoclinic. Smoking: Does it cause wrinkles? [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
Source

35. Schwartz E, Cruickshank FA, Christensen CC, Perlish JS, Lebwohl M. Collagen Alterations In Chronically Sun-Damaged Human Skin. Photochemistry and Photobiology. 1993;58(6):841–4.
Source

36. Shoubing Z., and Enkui D., Fighting against Skin Aging. Cell Transplant. 2018. p 729–738.
Source

Scientific Article
Ricard-Blum S. The Collagen Family. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology. 2010;3(1).
Go to source
In Vitro Study
Oxlund H, Andreassen TT. The roles of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin in the mechanical properties of connective tissues. Journal of Anatomy. 1980.
Go to source
Systematic Review
Choi FD, Juhasz M, Mesinkovsk N. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2019.
Go to source
Human Study
Laing S, Bielfeldt S, Ehrenberg C, Wilhelm K-P. A Dermonutrient Containing Special Collagen Peptides Improves Skin Structure and Function: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Triple-Blind Trial Using Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy on the Cosmetic Effects and Tolerance of a Drinkable Collagen Supplement. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2020;23(2):147–52.
Go to source
Human Study
Sibilla S, Borumand M. Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2014;1747.
Go to source
Human Study
Jeong-Kee K y cols Beneficial Effect of Collagen Peptide Supplement on Anti-aging Against Photodamage. Korean Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2009
Go to source
Textbook
Molecular Cell Biology 4th edition. W H Freeman & Co; 2000.
Go to source
In Vitro Study
Yang F-C, Zhang Y, Rheinstädter MC. The structure of people’s hair. PeerJ. 2014;2.
Go to source
In Vitro Study
Wang B, Wang Y-M, Chi C-F, Luo H-Y, Deng S-G, Ma J-Y. Isolation and Characterization of Collagen and Antioxidant Collagen Peptides from Scales of Croceine Croaker (Pseudosciaena crocea). Marine Drugs. 2013;11(11):4641–61.
Go to source
Scientific Article
Trüeb RM. The impact of oxidative stress on hair. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2015; 37:25–30.
Go to source
Scientific Article
Seiberg M. Age-induced hair greying - the multiple effects of oxidative stress. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2013;35(6):532–8.
Go to source
Human Study
Bruyère O, Zegels B, Leonori L, Rabenda V, Janssen A, Bourges C, et al. Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: A 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2012;20(3):124–30.
Go to source
Human Study
Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2008;24(5):1485–96
Go to source
Scientific Article
Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2006;22(11):2221–32.
Go to source
Official Website
Lawrence J. Building Stronger Bones [Internet]. WebMD. WebMD; 2011.
Go to source
Systematic Review
Porfírio E, Fanaro GB. Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia. 2016;19(1):153–64.
Go to source
In Vitro and In Vivo Study
Guillerminet F, Beaupied H, Fabien-Soulé V, Tomé D, Benhamou C-L, Roux C, et al. Hydrolyzed collagen improves bone metabolism and biomechanical parameters in ovariectomized mice: An in vitro and in vivo study. Bone. 2010;46(3):827–34.
Go to source
Study on Rats
Kim H, Kim M-G, Leem K-H. Osteogenic Activity of Collagen Peptide via ERK/MAPK Pathway Mediated Boosting of Collagen Synthesis and Its Therapeutic Efficacy in Osteoporotic Bone by Back-Scattered Electron Imaging and Microarchitecture Analysis. Molecules. 2013;18(12):15474–89.
Go to source
Textbook
Sikorski ZE. Chemical and functional properties of food proteins. Lancaster: Technomic; 2002.
Go to source
Human Study
Oertzen-Hagemann V, Kirmse M, Eggers B, Pfeiffer K, Marcus K, Marées MD, et al. Effects of 12 Weeks of Hypertrophy Resistance Exercise Training Combined with Collagen Peptide Supplementation on the Skeletal Muscle Proteome in Recreationally Active Men. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1072.
Go to source
Human Study
Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237–45.
Go to source
Scientific Article
Tyagi. Blood flow interplays with elastin: collagen and MMP: TIMP ratios to maintain healthy vascular structure and function. Vascular Health and Risk Management. 2010;215.
Go to source
Human Study
Igase M, Kohara K, Okada Y, Ochi M, Igase K, Inoue N, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised clinical study of the effect of pork collagen peptide supplementation on atherosclerosis in healthy older individuals. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2018;82(5):893–5.
Go to source
Human Study
Tomosugi N, Yamamoto S, Takeuchi M, Yonekura H, Ishigaki Y, Numata N, et al. Effect of Collagen Tripeptide on Atherosclerosis in Healthy Humans. Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis. 2017;24(5):530–8.
Go to source
Scientific Article
Kucharz EJ. Collagen in the Nervous System. The Collagens: Biochemistry and Pathophysiology. 1992;261–3.
Go to source
Scientific Article
Humpel C, Ucar B. Collagen for brain repair: therapeutic perspectives. Neural Regeneration Research. 2018;13(4):595.
Go to source
In Vitro Study
Graham MF, Drucker DE, Diegelmann RF, Elson CO. Collagen synthesis by human intestinal smooth muscle cells in culture. Gastroenterology. 1987;92(2):400–5.
Go to source
In Vitro Study
Chen Q, Chen O, Martins IM, Hou H, Zhao X, Blumberg JB, et al. Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Food & Function. 2017;8(3):1144–51.
Go to source
Official Website
Personal de MedlinePlus. Vitamina C: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Go to source
Official Website
Personal de MedlinePlus. Zinc en la dieta: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Go to source
Official Website
Personal de MedlinePlus. Cobre en la dieta: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Go to source
Official Website
Personal de MedlinePlus. Magnesio en la dieta: MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica [Internet]. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2020.
Go to source
Human Study
Jorgensen L., Kallehave F., Christensen E., Siana E., Gottrup F. Less Collagen Production in Smokers. National Library of Medicine. 1998
Go to source
Official Website
Personal de Mayoclinic. Smoking: Does it cause wrinkles? [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
Go to source
Human Study
Schwartz E, Cruickshank FA, Christensen CC, Perlish JS, Lebwohl M. Collagen Alterations In Chronically Sun-Damaged Human Skin. Photochemistry and Photobiology. 1993;58(6):841–4.
Go to source
Scientific Article
Shoubing Z., and Enkui D., Fighting against Skin Aging. Cell Transplant. 2018. p 729–738.
Go to source
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