Collagen is a protein that makes up a large part of the body's proteins, accounting for around 30%. It provides structure, support, and strength to skin, muscle, bone, and connective tissues. While scientific research on collagen supplements is lacking, a well-balanced diet can give the body the raw ingredients it needs to help it produce collagen naturally. Collagen is an important component of skin. It plays a role in strengthening the skin, as well as in elasticity and hydration.
As you age, your body produces less collagen, which can lead to dry skin and wrinkles. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and its fiber-like structure is used to make connective tissue. Connective tissue connects other tissues and is an important component of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. It helps make fabrics strong and resistant to stretching. Collagen also allows fabrics to be flexible. As people age, collagen production naturally declines.
However, there are potential health benefits associated with taking collagen supplements. Studies on the safety and effectiveness of collagen supplements are limited and most have been funded by the supplement industry, raising concerns about bias. When digested in the stomach, collagen breaks down into amino acids which are then distributed where the body needs protein most. They can be sold as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, which are decomposed forms of collagen that are more easily absorbed. Researchers are also getting closer to producing synthetic collagens for biomedical applications that do not come from animals or humans. At the end of one study, those taking a calcium and collagen supplement had significantly lower blood levels of proteins that promote bone breakdown than those who took calcium alone (1).
That said, available research has shown no negative side effects in people who received collagen supplements. Collagen can be found in all muscle tissues of animals (not organic tissue), bone broth, egg whites, and spirulina. Some people say that taking supplements that contain collagen hydrolysate can increase collagen levels and help control symptoms of osteoarthritis. There are also many anecdotal claims that collagen supplements help prevent acne and other skin conditions but they are not supported by scientific evidence. However, there are potential conflicts of interest in this area because most if not all research on collagen supplements is funded or partially funded by related industries that could benefit from a positive study outcome or one or more of the study authors have links to those industries. Celebrities are promoting it, the Internet is driving it, and your friends may even be excited about how consuming collagen has helped their skin look younger and their hair look healthier. In addition, collagen supplements can cause digestive side effects such as heartburn and feeling full (1).
Oral collagen supplements in the form of pills, powders, and certain foods are thought to be more effectively absorbed by the body and have skyrocketed in popularity among consumers. However, a variety of animal and plant foods contain materials for the production of collagen in our own body. More research is needed to determine if eating foods rich in collagen helps increase collagen levels in the body as they may not have the same benefits as supplements.