Updated: May 7, 2020
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Drinking collagen supplements has become quite trendy over the past couple of years. Everyone has been obsessed with collagen powders in smoothies and collagen gels mixed with water in hopes that their skin stays forever young so I thought I’d see what the research says on the matter.
Enjoy this read and, as always, click the numbers in square brackets to check out all the references!
What is collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein found throughout the body. It is extremely important as it helps provide structure to your skin and strengthens your bones[i]. Collagen is made up of amino acids (the basic building blocks of life). The amino acids are bound together in a triple helix which is what gives collagen its strength and flexibility[ii]. There are 16 types of collagen in different parts of the human body, that all do similar functions[iii]. As we age the amount of collagen in our skin decreases which contributes to wrinkles because the bond between skin layers becomes weaker[iv]. This is why companies have started adding collagen to everything like it's an anti-ageing potion!
Are there any differences between eating and applying collagen?
Yes there are some differences in the benefits. I will be doing a whole post on topically applying collagen and will link it here when it is up! Stay tuned.
Are there benefits to drinking collagen?
Quite a bit of research suggests that drinking collagen can help improve your skin’s hydration and reduce the visibility of wrinkles[v,vi,vii]. Drinking collagen supplements seems to improve skin by inducing collagen production in the skin itself[viii]. Basically it's an eat more to make more kind of deal.
Some research on mice suggested that ingesting collagen reduced the amount of cholesterol floating around in the blood and decreased stress on the liver[ix]. High cholesterol in blood shows increased risk of developing coronary heart disease[x]. In humans there isn’t as much collagen/blood research but what I found shows that ingested collagen gets absorbed into the bloodstream and then transported to the skin[xi,xii] and other organs.
A Japanese study looked at people who normally eat about 1.9g of collagen per day. When they got a collagen supplement of 5-10g per day they had improved quality of their facial skin, decreased UV damage, and improved immune function[xiii].
How to add collagen to your diet
Collagen supplements will often be called collagen hydrolysate or hydrolysed collagen (these mean that they added water molecules to the collagen to break it apart and make it easier to absorb). Some effective supplements in the studies I read were Bioactive Collagen Peptide (BCP)[xvii] and Pure Gold Collagen[xviii]. Always follow the instructions on the label if you decide to use these types of supplements.
Some supplements I've looked into and would recommend:
The studies I have read seem to be well done and have pretty consistent results. There aren’t quite as many repeated studies as I would like and I couldn’t find any studies that focus on negative side effects. Quite a few studies looked at middle aged to elderly women and only a few included younger women so the benefits for them are less clear. Finally if you eat meat it is quite possible that you eat more than enough collagen so adding it as a supplement might not benefit you at all. But I guess the only one way to find out is to give it a try so if you do, please let me know how it goes!