What Does Collagen Actually Do?

Collagen is becoming a popular supplement, with many believing that it reduces aging, improves muscle mass and aids weight loss. So let’s see if these beliefs are supported by evidence and science! 

Collagen is a protein that gives skin elasticity, as well as keeping bones strong. With age, our bodies production of collagen decreases – which is why skin becomes wrinkled and bones get weaker. It is available in some foods, however many people take it as a supplement to further increase the amount they take in. 

The main reason people take it is because it’s widely believed to minimise the effects of ageing by improving skin elasticity, preventing wrinkles, and adding moisture to the skin. There is some evidence to back up these beliefs. 

For example, one study found that after 8 weeks, a group of women taking collagen supplements had more elasticity and moisture in their skin than a group who were given a placebo. 

Another study found that women who took 1 gram of chicken-derived collagen per day for 12 weeks had over 70% less dryness, 12% less visible wrinkles, 6% higher collagen levels and better blood flow to the skin.

Apparently collagen supplements can stimulate the body to produce collagen on its own, and that’s why it’s said to have such an impact on the skin.

Another claim is that collagen strengthens bones and joints. 

Research into this has produced mixed results, but some studies have shown that collagen supplements could help with inflammation, and may reduce arthritis pain and sports-related joint pain. 

Other studies have found that collagen can help to lower blood levels of proteins that promote breakdown of bones. 

These studies are promising, but more are needed to confirm the role of collagen supplements in bone health. 

 

The third claim I mentioned is that collagen aids weight loss. While some studies have been conducted, more are needed to really show if this claim is true.

One study of 22 people of mixed weights found that taking gelatin (derived from collagen) increased the satiety hormone. Another study of 24 people had similar results. According to a study sponsored by a collagen manufacturer, taking one tablespoon of hydrolyzed collagen daily helped reduce the weight of 50 overweight people. 

Other possible benefits are increasing muscle mass and improving wound healing. One study of elderly men with sarcopenia (when muscles decrease because of ageing), found that those who took 15 grams of collagen a day in addition to weightlifting three times a week for 3 months gained more muscle and lost more fat than those who only lifted weights. 

Another group of 89 long-term care residents with pressure ulcers were given collagen supplements for 8 weeks found that their wounds healed twice as fast.

It’s worth noting that collagen works much better when paired with Vitamin C, since the body needs Vitamin C to produce collagen. 

The best way to boost your collagen levels is to get it from your food – foods such as berries, eggs, chicken, bone broth, red cabbage, carrots, fish, citrus fruits, garlic, leafy greens, beans, cashew nuts, tomatoes and peppers are all said to boost the body’s collagen production. 

Of course, as mentioned above it’s become popular to take supplements of collagen, which could also be worth a try.