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What Does Collagen Do?

Collagen supplements are a hot topic among the health and wellness industry as of recently, as collagen is touted for its powerful healing effects. 


From making skin and hair more youthful, to improving workout performance, and nourishing the gut lining, collagen’s list of health claims is quite long. 


However, it’s important to understand that although there are seemingly some health benefits to taking collagen, not every claim is backed by strong scientific evidence. 


In this article you will gain an understanding of what collagen is and what it can do for our health, as well as how to best incorporate it into your routine. 


What is collagen?



Collagen is the main structural protein found throughout the human body. It makes up bones, skin, muscles, and our connective tissue.


There are four types of collagen, but the most common type is Type I, which makes up most of our body’s collagen. 


It not only helps provide structure, but it helps us move, bend, and stretch. It can also make our skin glowier, hair shinier, and nails stronger. 


Collagen is composed of amino acids including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. 


What are some of collagen’s health benefits?



Collagen is active in many places in the body, and may be important in supporting the health of our skin, joints, guts, bones, muscles, heart, and more. In this next section, collagen’s role will be explained for various areas of the body:


  • Skin health: One of the most well-known uses of collagen is wrinkle prevention and reduction. Collagen can help skin to stay firm, hydrated, and smooth (1, 2).
  • Joint health: There is some evidence to suggest that athletes who supplement with collagen have reduced joint pain and therefore an improved performance. Not to mention, collagen can help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis (3, 4). 
  • Gut health: Collagen supplements may improve the health of the lining of the intestines. Not to mention, collagen is one of the main proteins that is found in the intestinal tract (5, 6).
  • Bone loss: Collagen is found in our bones as well, providing a cross-linking pattern, giving way to our bones’ durability and strength. What’s more, collagen supplements may prevent or prolong the onset of osteoporosis  (7, 8, 9).
  • Muscle mass: Collagen supplements may increase muscle mass, too. However, it’s not totally clear on whether it’s the collagen specifically or just protein supplementation in general that leads to muscle gains (10).


Can collagen help with weight loss?



While there is no concrete evidence to suggest that collagen supplements can help people to lose weight, it is well understood that consuming adequate protein as part of a balanced diet is important for healthy weight loss and weight management.  


Collagen is a complete protein, and supplements (or collagen-rich foods) are therefore a totally acceptable source of protein for someone looking for ways to meet their needs.


Protein helps us feel full, which leads to reduced intake, helping to support a healthy weight. Protein is also an important nutrient to build lean body mass, which plays a role in increasing our metabolic rate. 


However, taking collagen supplements alone likely will not lead to weight loss (11). 


Meeting protein needs whether through food or supplements should accompany a balanced, whole-foods diet and regular physical activity to best support healthy weight loss, if that is your goal. 


How to naturally promote collagen production in the body?



There are several things that we can do to improve our collagen status. Certain nutrients can boost our collagen intake such as vitamin C and high-quality protein. 


In order to make collagen, our body requires vitamin C. Therefore, ensuring we get enough vitamin C in our diets is important to optimize our collagen production. 


Some foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, and spinach, for example. 


What’s more, our body requires high-quality protein to make collagen. Yes, that’s right, we need protein to make protein. Our body breaks down protein, and uses the amino acids to make new proteins, such as collagen. 


High quality proteins are found in meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, beans, and tofu, for example.  


What habits damage collagen in the body?


On the other hand, there are habits we should aim to reduce for our overall health and collagen status.  


Poor dietary and lifestyle habits can impede our body’s natural collagen production. High intakes of added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods can impair not only our overall health, but you guessed it – our collagen production as well. 


It’s best to aim to reduce our intake of these foods as much as possible. Instead, satisfy a sweet tooth with fresh fruit, and eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.


It’s also important to note that as we age, our body produces less collagen – and of lesser quality, too (12). 


Therefore, to improve the body’s collagen status, supplements may be helpful, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle. 


How to include collagen in your diet?



Collagen supplements are super easy to add to foods and drinks. 


Plus, the powder doesn’t change the texture or taste of whatever you add it to, unlike many other supplements on the market. 


It can be easily blended into smoothies, soups and stews, oatmeal, coffee, and even baked goods. 


However, as with many things, consistency is key. Many people begin to see results after a few weeks or so of taking a daily collagen peptides supplement. Taking about 10-20 grams of collagen powder daily is an appropriate amount for most individuals. 


Collagen appears to be safe to consume, with no noted side effect. After all, it is a natural protein that our body does in fact already make. 


It’s important to mention that collagen is also found in foods such as bone broth, chicken, fish, and eggs. However, some people are not consuming adequate collagen on a daily basis which is why a supplement can help ensure you are meeting your needs. 


Bottom line


Collagen is the main protein found in the body. It plays a role in various aspects of our health. 


While we can get collagen from a balanced diet, supplements can provide an added boost. 


Interestingly, consuming certain nutrients and following healthy habits can improve our body’s collagen status.