5 Benefits of Collagen and Why It Matters

person adding collagen powder to their morning coffee

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You have probably heard about collagen's positive role in maintaining your skin's elasticity and hydration—a few of the many benefits if offers. In fact, your body has 28 different types of collagen, with 90% being either Type I, II, III, or IV, according to Jordan Hill, MCD, RD, CSSD Top Nutrition Coaching Registered Dietitian & Matching Specialist. And as the main protein in your body, collagen represents 30% of all proteins.

"Collagen is the building block molecule that provides structural support to the skin, bone, tendons, and organs, and is the main component of connective tissue," explains says Mariano Busso, MD a board-certified dermatologist based in Beverly Hills and Miami. "The skin in particular becomes thinner as a loss in collagen loss contributes to saggy skin."

Aging naturally brings about the tell-tale signs that your body's supply of collagen has dropped. Although inevitable, there are factors that can speed this process up, such as a non-balanced diet and deficiencies in micronutrients. But your skin is not all that benefits as collagen can reduce joint pain and gastrointestinal issues, slow muscle recovery, bone density degradation, and accelerated aging, says Hill.

Research is continuing to identify specific benefits of collagen in your body, whether from diet or supplementation. Read on to find out more.

May Reduce Stiffness

According to Dr. Busso, the older you get the less "greasy" your joints are, but collagen can help counteract this. He compares collagen to a lubricant as it pertains to your joints in the same way that oil helps with reducing friction from corrosion.

When collagen ages in your body, it undergoes chemical changes in that the molecular structure of the collagen peptide becomes more rigid. This results in reduced mobility and flexibility in the muscles and joints, as well as the hardening of the arteries, explains Dr. Busso.

One study found that the use of collagen peptides over a nine-day period helped in accelerating the recovery of muscle function and reducing muscle soreness after demanding physical exercise.

May Improve Skin Elasticity 

Collagen must be reduced to amino acids for gut absorption and synthesisation, says Dr. Busso, with food one of the best options. In general, certain foods can nourish your skin, but especially those rich in proteins like meat, chicken eggs, bone broth, and fish.

Vitamin C also is essential in collagen production so food rich in vitamin C contributes to collagen synthesis, like citrus and berries, add Dr. Busso.

"Since you are always shedding skin, collagen helps regenerate and regrow newer and healthier skin, which can also help to retain moisture and avoid developing rough dry patchy skin," he says.

May Increase Bone Density

Bone loss begins at around the age of 30, particularly in women, and drops at a rate of 0.5% per year, and a further by 2% or more after menopause, according to Hill.

"By age 65, a woman's bone loss will decreases by 1% per year, meaning you're at greater risk for osteoporosis, bone fractures, and bone breaks," says. For men, bone loss rates are equivalent to a women’s by age 65.

However, collagen in the form of collagen peptide supplements (available in powder and pill forms) can increase bone mineral density and decrease the rate of bone degradation, as proven in a 2018 trial conducted in Germany, says Hill.

The research involving 131 postmenopausal women with reduced bone mineral density found that the group taking oral collagen peptides over the course of a year improved the bone mineral density (BMD) in their spine by 3% and 6.7% in their femoral neck, as compared to the placebo group which experienced a decline in BMD in both the spine and femoral neck.

May Reduce Joint Pain

A systemic review of various trials found that collagen in the form of collagen hydrolysate supplements (COL), also available in powder and pill form, assists in the reduction of joint pain, outlines Hill. This is thought to be due to the stimulatory effects of collagen on connective tissues, structure, and load-bearing abilities.

Each of the five studies researching the effects of COL on reducing joint pain found it to be successful. In fact, activity-related joint discomfort improved to the point where alternative therapies to manage pain were required significantly less. However, more studies are required to understand what dosage is required and in what time frame for the best results.

May Help Maintain Lean Muscle

Whilst strength training plays a starring role in maintaining lean muscle, collagen may also give you a boost. A 2015 study found that collagen peptides further enhanced the benefits of a three-month resistance training program in older male subjects with sarcopenia (natural loss of muscle mass).

It was hypothesized that this is due to collagen-containing arginine and glycine, which are known for the synthesis of creatine in your body. Compared with placebo volunteers, those who took the collagen supplement experienced a higher increase in muscle strength, as well as a bigger reduction in fat mass.

It is important to note that this study also included post-exercise protein supplementation as part of the experiment, which may have enhanced results.

A Word From Verywell

Collagen has many benefits, including maintaining skin elasticity and keeping joint pain at bay. Although supplementing with additional collagen outside of your regular diet is not a necessity, it may give your skin, muscles, bones and joints a boost.

Keep in mind, collagen supplements are not regulated by the FDA and should not be a replacement for nutritious eating and regular exercise. Before you start taking supplements, consider speaking to a healthcare provider like a registered dietician for advice on how to slowly introduce more collagen.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it better to get collagen from food?

    Collagen in supplements has been found in studies to be absorbed well by the body as the protein has already been broken down to boost its bioavailability. However, as such supplements are not FDA regulated and your diet alone is sufficient enough to meet your collagen intake needs, the 'safer' option may be to consume your collagen from food.

  • Is it OK to take collagen supplements every day?

    Studies have found collagen supplementation to be safe and without adverse effects during short-term use. However, long-term use has yet to be researched in detail. Keep in mind, collagen supplementation is an unregulated industry, so it's best to proceed with caution. Before starting any form of supplementation, speak to a dietician or another healthcare professional for guidance.

  • What are the best natural sources of collagen?

    The most natural sources of collagen are from foods, mainly whole foods, as your body can utilize these nutrients for collagen production. These include bone broths, fish and shellfish, egg whites, leafy greens and a variety of berries.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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