People seem to love taking and talking about collagen supplements.
I see them being touted all over social media, including by a number of my colleagues.
After my last exploratory article on biotin , it’s only natural then that I look into what collagen is all about.
In today’s article I explore some of the human studies on oral collagen supplementation and whether or not it has the potential to improve the health of your skin ( oh, and joints too).
What is Collagen?
Collagen, in short, is the primary “structural protein” in the human body.
Structural proteins represent the main component of your body’s connective tissue ( think skin and joints/ligaments etc), which is why collagen supplementation is frequently touted as an effective means to improve the health and vitality of these bodily systems.
Fun Fact: The word collagen is partially derived from the Greek word for “glue”.
Is Collagen Supplementation Effective?
I’m not going to get too much into the theory or science of why supplementing with oral collagen ( technically referred to as collagen peptides) “could” or “should” work in the human body, because you can find that on just about any other website or blog.
Rather, today I will share some results from a sampling of human intervention studies that provide insights into whether or not using collagen supplements has been demonstrated to lead to measurable, observable differences in skin and joint health.
Let’s take a closer look at what I found:
Although far from definitive, there are some promising recent studies supporting the efficacy of collagen supplementation on improving markers of skin aging.
A 2015 RCT out of the Journal Of Medical Nutrition & Neutraceuticals looked at whether or not oral supplementation of collagen (paired with other compounds) impacted the skin properties of post menopausal women.
They found it to be effective in improving relevant indicators of skin vitality including wrinkle depth, elasticity and hydration status.
A similar study set in a similarly aged female population was published in 2015 in the Journal Of Cosmetic Dermatology with similar positive outcomes.
Oral collagen supplementation in the studies discussed in that paper produced clinically observable effects on skin hydration and a number of other measurable indicators of skin health/aging.
These results are further supported by a 2014 study out of the Skin Pharmacology and Physiology journal which found that skin elasticity in elderly women increased after 4 weeks of oral collagen supplementation.
More good news when it comes to joint health as it appears collagen supplementation has some potential here as well.
A 2016 paper published in the Osteoarthritis And Cartilage journal looked at the effects of oral collagen supplementation in knee pain and overall joint health (stiffness, movement restriction etc) in both young adult athletes and middle aged men/women and found improvements in both populations.
In a more specific clinical context, I came across at least two papers which supported the use of oral collagen supplements as a potentially effective treatment support in Osteoarthritis ( but not RA) and it could be something to consider for individuals suffering with this ailment ( speak to your healthcare professional!).
The goal of today’s article was to broadly assess whether or not the hype surrounding collagen supplementation was supported by good quality human studies.
Collagen supplementation has exploded in popularity over the last 5 or so years and, as per many of the recently published papers reviewed in today’s article, seems to be supported by a modest but growing body of evidence vouching for it’s efficacy in improving certain outcomes related to joint and skin health in specific contexts.
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH