What's the Deal with Collagen?
Welcome back for another ingredient highlight!
This week’s focus: collagen. It’s the stuff that keeps us connected. As in, it's one of the main building blocks of connective tissue—collagens form very sturdy links that provide structural strength and support to our skin, muscles, bones, and other body parts. Our ability to produce collagen declines as we age, especially for women post-menopause. Consuming collagen, via supplements or powders, can potentially promote collagen production.
Note: more research still needs to be done for any formal conclusions to be made, but the potential effects are promising!1
BENEFITS OF COLLAGEN
BENEFIT ONE: STRENGTHENS SKIN
One infamous result of decreases in collagen production? Wrinkles! Collagen is responsible for improving the elasticity and hydration of your skin. Researchers are now seeing that there is an improvement in skin quality correlated with increased collagen consumption. Collagen activates cells called fibroblast; these little guys are the cells that trigger the production of elastin, which is a protein that makes skin stretchier and firmer.2
A 12-week study done in October 2019 tested a collagen and a placebo product on a group of 72 women, aged 35 and over. By the end of the study, the collagen group experienced improved skin appearance compared to their placebo counterparts: less noticeable wrinkles, and improved skin hydration and elasticity.3
BENEFIT TWO: RELIEVES JOINT PAIN
When collagen deteriorates with age, stiffness and pain can set in. In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight, taking collagen supplements may bring some relief. In addition to supporting skin health, collagen plays an important role in your joints’ ability to move by providing a natural cushion between bones.4
A recent study concluded that 147 participants that had joint-related pain and took collagen supplements reported less pain at rest and while walking, standing, and light exercising.5
BENEFIT THREE: INHIBITS BONE BREAKDOWN
Did your mom urge you to drink milk to develop strong bones? Well, this is us urging you to take collagen to KEEP them strong. Your bones are made mostly of collagen, giving them structure and strength. But just as collagen deteriorates with age, your bone mass does as well. Studies suggest that daily collagen supplements could inhibit bone conditions such as osteoporosis (bone breakdown) and protect against fractures by increasing bone density and helping your body continue producing new, healthy bones.6 Bone breakdown is a scary thing, but it is going tibia okay (sorry, we just love a good pun).
BENEFIT FOUR: BOOSTS MUSCLE MASS
Another fun side effect of aging: muscle mass decreases. Because collagen is such an important part of muscles, taking supplements could boost your muscle mass. This is attributed to collagen containing the amino acids arginine and glycine, which are important building blocks of creatine. Creatine is widely known to improve muscle mass, strength, and athletic performance.
Fun fact: Why are “rest days” a thing? Because during exercise, your muscles are literally tearing. But not in a bad way—during the healing period or “rest day,” collagen helps the muscle fibers regenerate and build back stronger.7 Integrating collagen supplements into a diet and workout recovery routine could accelerate the muscle regeneration process. It’s like a hangover cure for your muscles. Sign us up.
BENEFIT FIVE: HELPS REDUCE RISK OF HEART CONDITIONS
Collagen supplements could help reduce the risk of dangerous heart conditions because it provides structure in arteries and veins. Without collagen, they are less flexible and elastic, which could lead to fatal conditions such as atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), potentially leading to heart attacks and strokes. Taking collagen supplements could reduce these risks.8
In a 6-month study, 31 healthy adults took 16 grams of collagen daily. At the end of the study, the participants had experienced a significant reduction in arterial stiffness. Plus, their HDL levels (high density lipoprotein a.k.a good cholesterol), which is directly related to heart health, rose by 6%. In conclusion: collagen could contribute to the prevention and early-stage treatment of heart conditions.9
BENEFIT SIX: AIDS GROWTH OF HAIR AND NAILS
Collagen may be the solution to your struggle of thinning hair and brittle nails! A collagen treatment was given to 25 women that were experiencing brittle nail syndrome. The results showed that the women experienced a 12% nail growth rate and a 42% decrease in the frequency of broken nails. Overall, there was an 88% improvement of brittle nails after 4 weeks of treatment.10
Collagen-deficient hair follicles in the scalp result in brittle, dull, and dry hair. Collagen helps keep hair follicles moisturized and strong which promotes hair growth and strength.11
While more research is needed to prove the effectiveness of collagen supplements, the findings thus far have been promising. Collagen is a powerhouse protein in our body and consuming more of it may just help your aging issues from wrinkles and dry skin, joint pain, brittle hair, broken nails, and bone and heart diseases.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Good Reads blog without a little #ShamelessPlug. We are excited to announce that we released a new line of smoothies that feature a collagen supplement, and you can find those below!