In the last few years, there has been much focus in the health and fitness industry around collagen and collagen supplementation in our diets. After the whey protein craze, it seems like all eyes have shifted to collagen. However, as I always inform my clients, we must know the benefits and risks before putting things in our bodies. This article gives you a brief overview of this vital protein.
Collagen accounts for about one-third of the body’s protein composition. It’s one of the primary building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth. You can think of it as the “glue” that holds all these things together.
Your body makes procollagen by combining two amino acids — glycine and proline. This process uses vitamin C. Your body needs high-quality protein that contains the amino acids necessary to make new proteins. Since the food and supplement industry has caught onto the benefits of collagen, it has created various products, including collagen peptides, which can be easily incorporated into foods. The peptide form doesn’t gel, so you can mix it into smoothies, soups, or baked goods without affecting their texture.
Two types of supplements are gaining popularity — hydrolyzed collagen (collagen hydrolysate) and gelatin. Gelatin is created when collagen is cooked. There aren’t many studies on collagen supplements, but those that exist show promise for benefits in the following areas:
- Muscle mass. A 2019 study in recreationally active men showed that a combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training increased muscle mass and strength more than a placebo.
- Arthritis. A 2017 animal study looked at the effects of giving collagen supplements to mice with post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). The results indicated that supplementation might play a protective role in the disease’s development and progression.
- Skin elasticity. Women who took a supplement showed improvements in skin appearance and elasticity in a 2019 study. Collagen is also used in topical treatments to improve the appearance of skin by minimizing lines and wrinkles.
Collagen supplements may be beneficial in other ways. Some preliminary studies show that they may improve skin quality, muscle function and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis. The primary difference between collagen protein and other proteins is the amino acid profile. All protein contains amino acids that our bodies use to rebuild and restore. However, collagen is unique in that it has higher levels of three essential amino acids: proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine—all of which play an indispensable role in helping to revitalize your skin, hair, nails, and joints.
Additionally, it’s great for gut and bone health. It can be beneficial to incorporate more collagen into your diet, but it is always smart to ensure you have spoken with your doctor to ensure supplementation is right for you. However, this may be one food craze that will be here to stay considering all of the beautiful benefits collagen seems to have for all of us.