Almost every day a patient tells me they have added collagen to their list of supplements, only to follow with the question “Do you think I should be taking it?” Nowadays, you can’t walk into Target, Costco, or just about any other Big Box store without running into the collagen supplements on the end aisle. But does anyone really know what taking them does?
First off, what is collagen? Collagen is a structural protein (amino acids strung together in a triple helix) that help make up the body’s bones, ligaments, tendons, skin, and muscle, as well as several other structures. In addition to ingesting collagen by eating animal products like meat, bone broth, and gelatin, you can get collagen through collagen powder and capsule/tablet supplements. The supplements are often from cow, chicken, and fish sources. There are also vegan collagen supplements with amino acids that build collagen, however, the research on vegan collagen supplementation is not as robust.
Several small studies have concluded that collagen supplements can help aid your fitness goals by increasing muscle strength and fat-free mass, as well as enhancing fat loss, compared to training without collagen supplementation.
Collagen supplements can also improve skin health. A recent metanalysis concluded that collagen can help improve skin elasticity, hydration, and appearance of wrinkles.
There are also several studies demonstrating significant improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms with collagen supplements. One metanalysis showed that collagen significantly decreased the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC), a questionnaire looking a pain, stiffness, and physical function, as well as the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) pain scale.
So, to answer the question, should I be taking a collagen supplement? It depends on your individual wellness goals. But in general, yes, most people could benefit from a collagen supplement.
Dr. Briana Rueda practices functional medicine in the Twin Cities area. Fill out a contact form for more information!
Kirmse M, Oertzen-Hagemann V, de Marées M, Bloch W, Platen P. Prolonged Collagen Peptide Supplementation and Resistance Exercise Training Affects Body Composition in Recreationally Active Men. Nutrients. 2019 May 23;11(5):1154. doi: 10.3390/nu11051154. PMID: 31126103; PMCID: PMC6566878.
Jendricke P, Centner C, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A, König D. Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 20;11(4):892. doi: 10.3390/nu11040892. PMID: 31010031; PMCID: PMC6521629.
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