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