Muscles, bones, skin and tendons are mostly made up of collagen, the most abundant type of protein in the human body. More specifically, collagen makes up 30-35 percent of all protein in the human body. Collagen protein is also known as connective tissue and is responsible for stabilizing our skin and providing movement and flexibility to our joints. In addition, collagen provides elasticity to our skin. Research shows that collagen supplements have many benefits, including reducing facial wrinkles and getting rid of cellulite. I will address these issues later in this article. As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and becomes more and more wrinkled. This is due to many reasons. A reduced ability to produce collagen is one of them, but life stressors and oxidative damage also play a significant role. People with higher levels of melanin in their skin are more protected from the ultraviolet rays of sunlight and UV damage. I call this phenomenon "melanoprotection". At the same time, people with lower levels of melanin are at higher risk of sun damage and an increased risk of premature aging. Different collagen manufacturers use different sources to make their product. While some use body parts from bulls (cows), others extract collagen from fish. Collagen supplements contain a wide range of amino acids needed for hair growth, skin and tendon health, and bone health. Collagen is great for those people who want to get their proper amount of amino acids only from gluten-free supplements and dairy products. Weightlifters often use collagen supplements to maximize their muscle growth.
Scientists have identified at least 28 types of collagen. However, 90 percent of the collagen in the human body is types 1, 2, 3, and 5.
Collagen levels begin to decrease after the age of thirty-five. While we cannot stop time, there are some behaviors that are common to many people that hasten collagen loss and consequent aging. Smoking is the main type of human behavior that leads to the destruction of collagen or loss of it in the body. This is the main reason smokers often look older than their actual age.
While supplementation can ensure that a person is getting enough collagen, there are also a number of nutritional steps a person can take to optimize collagen production. Kim D'Eon, a nutritionist specializing in holistic nutrition, recommends a list of foods that can help the human body produce more collagen.
Scientific studies have shown that supplementing with collagen can be beneficial for optimal joint health and help strengthen bones. A healthy diet and physical activity are also critical to joint health. A 2017 study using an animal model found that collagen supplements not only reduced joint inflammation, but also prevented joint cartilage loss.
As a person ages, their bones become thinner. A doctor diagnoses osteoporosis when bone density is less than expected for a person's age. To determine the presence of this disease, the doctor refers the patient to an analysis of bone density. People with osteoporosis are at an increased risk of bone fractures, which is most often the risk of hip fractures from an accidental fall.
Tendons are thick fibrous cords made of collagen. Tendons connect muscles to bones and are responsible for movement. Maintaining tendon strength plays an important role in injury prevention. Tendon injuries are common among athletes and weekend sports enthusiasts. Collagen supplements increase tendon strength, according to a 2005 study, and a 2016 study found that they can also help increase Achilles tendon thickness in animal models.
Cellulite is a pathological condition that people have been trying to eliminate for decades. A 2015 double-blind, placebo-controlled study concluded that "...long-term therapy with oral BOD (bioactive collagen peptides) leads to improvement in cellulite symptoms and has a positive effect on skin health." In this study, women took collagen for a minimum of 6 months. Improvements were noted after 3 months.
According to the 2014 Clinical Intervention in Aging study, supplementing with collagen helps reduce skin wrinkles. In addition, a 2014 double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed improvements in skin elasticity in subjects who took 2,500 mg of collagen per day for eight weeks compared to those who took a placebo tablet. Another 2012 study showed an improvement in wrinkles and a reduction in skin dryness with 1,000mg of collagen for 12 weeks.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture concluded that oral collagen supplementation “led to greater improvement in facial skin conditions, including insufficient moisture and elasticity of the skin of the face, the presence of wrinkles and roughness.