Collagen is the most common protein found in the body. It’s present in tendons, fat, and ligaments, among other places. It helps the pieces of our bodies to fit together and is crucial to the strength of our bone structure. When collagen levels are healthy, cells that contain collagen take on a strong and youthful appearance.
Elastin is another kind of protein in the body. Elastin is found in places in the body that contract, such as arteries and lungs. This is because of elastin’s outstanding characteristic: the ability to snap back into place and maintain its original shape. Elastin and collagen are both proteins found in skin. They work together to give skin its texture and shape. Skin with healthy levels of both collagen and elastin isn’t just more youthful; it’s stronger.
In layman’s terms, collagen is the glue that holds your entire body together. That’s not just an expression — this protein powerhouse literally forms the connective tissue for almost all of the structures in your body, from your bones to your skin.
It’s an important building block for whole-body health — which explains why people are stirring collagen supplements into their coffee to get an added protein boost. Collagen reduces wrinkles, keeps your joints strong and flexible, supports strong bones, and increases skin hydration.
Here’s why it’s important…your body naturally produces collagen every day. But over time, that production slows down. “There is an enzyme in our skin called collagenase, which breaks down collagen,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.” “After the age of 25, we break down more collagen than we make, so that’s why we start to see fine lines and wrinkles.”
You can add more collagen to your diet by regularly consuming foods like bone broth and organ meats. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, collagen supplements are an ultra-convenient way to reap the benefits of this powerful protein.
But do collagen supplements really work? Here’s a summary of what the research says. There is some evidence to back these claims up. For example, in a study in the Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, several women drank a mixture containing various vitamins, minerals, hydrolyzed collagen, and hyaluronic acid. The study showed that compared with those in the control group, the women who drank this mixture reduced the depth of their wrinkles significantly. The participants’ skin hydration and elasticity also improved significantly.
Another similar study in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology looked at the effects of collagen supplements on women’s skin.
In this study, the women took either a collagen supplement or placebo for 8 weeks. After those 8 weeks, the women who took the supplement had higher elasticity and moisture levels. There are also claims that collagen may help prevent skin conditions such as acne. However, such claims do not yet have scientific evidence to support them.
Improved Joint Health
As a person ages, their joints start to break down. In particular, the spongy cartilage of the joints starts to wear away. There is some evidence to suggest that collagen supplements can help with restoring or preventing the deterioration of the cartilage in the joints.
One review of the research into collagen supplementation found that using hydrolyzed collagen supplements helps promote joint health and potentially restore some bone density in people with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. The review also showed that it helped reduce joint pain.
Increased Muscle Mass
There is some evidence to suggest that using collagen supplements may help increase muscle mass. A small study of 53 men revealed the positive effects of taking collagen supplements when exercising. The participants study took 15 grams (g) of collagen or a placebo pill per day. The participants engaged in regular exercise for 12 weeks. At the end of this period, those who took the collagen supplements showed an increase in muscle mass and strength that was significantly more pronounced than in those taking the placebo pill.
The researchers theorized that collagen helped stimulate the production of the proteins responsible for muscle growth. Though this study is promising, more research is necessary to fully determine the positive effects that collagen may have on muscle growth.
Prevents Bone Loss
Collagen makes up a significant amount of bone structure and helps keep the bones strong. As a person ages and collagen production slows, bones can become weaker as the person loses the collagen necessary to keep the bones strong and supported. This can lead to the development of conditions such as osteoporosis.
There is some evidence to suggest that taking collagen supplements may help prevent the deterioration of bone density and strength. For example, one small study had women take either calcium or calcium and collagen supplements for 1 year. The researchers found that the women taking the calcium and the collagen had lower levels of a protein responsible for breaking down bones in their blood.
Additional research is necessary to fully prove the effects that collagen has on promoting strong bones, however.
Supports Heart Health
Taking collagen supplements may also help support a healthy cardiovascular system. In a small study of 30 participants, half took 16 g of collagen tripeptide for 6 months. This group saw a significant reduction in artery stiffness and a reduction in their low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Reducing the stiffness of arteries can help promote heart health. However, more research is necessary to prove the effects of collagen in supporting heart health.
Other Potential Benefits
There are also claims that collagen may provide additional health benefits. However, these claims do not have backing by scientific research. Some other potential things that collagen may help with include:
⦁ maintaining a healthy gut
⦁ maintaining a healthy weight
⦁ reducing anxiety
⦁ improving mood
⦁ promoting healthy nail and hair growth
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