Collagen is an abundant protein and an important component of many parts of the body including our muscles, bones, skin, blood, and joints. Composed of beneficial amino acids including proline and glycine, collagen is well-known for its beauty-related benefits, from promoting skin elasticity to strengthening hair and nails. Beyond those effects, it plays a crucial role in repairing damaged cells, fighting inflammation, protecting our organs, and providing structure to our joints and tendons. It is often described as the “glue” that holds the body together.
Although it is the most abundant protein in the body, our production of collagen naturally slows down as we get older. This contributes to many things that we tend to think of as inevitable effects of aging, including wrinkles and joint pain.
A number of other factors including diet, sun exposure, and certain health conditions can also reduce collagen production and storage, however, supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen can help to boost our natural production of the protein.
Top 10 Benefits of Collagen
1. COLLAGEN HELPS TO REDUCE JOINT PAIN: Collagen production naturally declines as we get older, which can lead to joint pain and stiffness. We often think of stiff, achy joints as inevitable effects of aging, but studies have shown that supplementing with collagen can help to reduce pain and stiffness (1). Collagen supplementation may also help with swelling, stiffness, and tenderness in the joints associated with rheumatoid arthritis, and with symptoms of osteoarthritis (2).
2. COLLAGEN PROMOTES HEALTHIER, GLOWING SKIN: Many people of all ages swear by collagen products for glowing, younger looking skin. Collagen is a crucial component of our skin, and as we age and our production declines, we may start to notice fine lines, dryness, and looser skin. The skin-related benefits of supplementing with collagen, which can help stimulate the body to naturally produce more of the protein, are almost limitless and include increased firmness, smoothness, and strength; improved elasticity; better hydration; and reduced appearance of fine lines and cellulite (3, 4, 5, 6). Collagen also helps to ensure that skin cells are renewing and repairing as they should be. And as an added bonus, collagen has also been found to increase the strength and health of hair and nails.
3. COLLAGEN HELPS TO BURN FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE: Collagen contains the amino acid glycine, which helps to naturally synthesize creatine, giving our muscles the added energy we need for workouts. Collagen also helps to build muscle mass and strength, and to burn fat.
4. COLLAGEN BOOSTS METABOLISM: Collagen has been shown to boost metabolism, which is helpful for healthy weight loss, increasing energy levels, and a myriad of other things.
5. COLLAGEN MAY HELP TO PREVENT OR HEAL LEAKY GUT: Collagen is a component of the connective tissue found in the digestive tract, and is necessary for maintaining the strength of the protective lining of the gut. A damaged or weakened gut lining can lead to leaky gut, which is often at the root of digestive disorders and other chronic illnesses. Adequate collagen intake can help to both prevent and heal leaky gut, enhance digestive health, repair damaged cell walls, and form and strengthen the tissue that lines the gut. Research has found that individuals with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) are more likely to have lower levels of collagen (7), and that collagen supplementation may help with symptoms of IBD, IBS, acid reflux, and other digestive disorders.
6. COLLAGEN HELPS TO REDUCE CHRONIC INFLAMMATION: Glycine, found in high concentrations in collagen has been shown to reduce chronic inflammation, which is at the root of chronic illnesses of all kinds (8).
7. COLLAGEN STRENGTHENS BONES: Collagen is a major component of our bones, and is necessary for their structure and strength. The decline in collagen production as we age can lead to decreased bone mass and lower levels of important minerals like calcium in the bones. It is also an important factor in the development of osteoporosis. Collagen supplementation may help to reduce the breakdown of bones and increase bone mineral density.
8. COLLAGEN HELPS TO REDUCE RISK OF HEART DISEASE: Collagen is required for the structure and strength of our arteries. Inadequate collagen may increase the risk of atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in the arteries), which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Collagen supplementation has been found to both prevent and treat this buildup of arterial plaque (9), reducing the risk of a number of heart-related conditions. Collagen may also help to support a healthy cholesterol ratio, another important factor in cardiovascular health.
9. COLLAGEN IMPROVES SLEEP QUALITY: Adequate restful sleep is crucial for the overall maintenance of health. Research has found that glycine, found in collagen, can improve sleep quality, and reduce fatigue and daytime sleepiness for individuals who suffer from insomnia (10).
10. COLLAGEN MAY HELP TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S: Collagen may help to reduce or prevent the production of amyloid-beta proteins, which form a plaque in the brain that has been linked to the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease (11).
How Can I Ensure That I’m Getting Enough Collagen?
Collagen production slows naturally with age, but there are other factors that can contribute to reduced collagen production in individuals of all ages, including diet, illness, and sun exposure.
Collagen is found in animal products including chicken, fish, egg whites, and beef. Bone broth is one of the best natural sources of collagen, and it also offers a number of other health related benefits.
In general, eating a well-rounded diet consisting of nutritious, whole foods helps with both the production and absorption of collagen. There are some foods in particular that will help to stimulate natural production of collagen, including avocados, dark, leafy greens, garlic, berries, pumpkin seeds, eggs, and wild salmon.
Although it is possible to increase collagen levels through diet alone, collagen supplementation is also an option. Because the collagen in most supplements has been broken down already, it may be absorbed better than the collagen found in food. Make sure to choose hydrolyzed collagen peptides when going this route, for better digestion, absorption, and bioavailability. Taking vitamin C with collagen may also help with absorption.
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Do you regularly take collagen? What positive effects have you noticed? Let me know in the comments below!