Takeaway: This vital protein can be found everywhere in your body: your muscles, skin, blood, bones, cartilage, and ligaments. Collagen’s richness in amino acids makes it an essential player in the building of joint cartilage. Taking collagen orally has shown improvements to skin elasticity, reduction in wrinkles, and increased skin moisture. Because hair is made up of the protein keratin, which is built by several amino acids that can be found in collagen, taking collagen supplements may be an effective way to help with hair loss.

From collagen pills to protein powders, the skin-based protein has taken the health world by storm. Collagen supplements have shown the potential to provide numerous health benefits to the body, with various types each specializing in individual areas. But, what is collagen exactly and what are any collagen benefits and side effects?

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found mainly in the dermis layer of your skin, as well as many connective tissues. This amino-acid compound is being touted as the solution to a great variety of conditions, from joint pain to wrinkles in the skin. It’s high levels of amino acid make it different from other proteins, like whey and casein, giving collagen supplements much higher levels of health benefits.

The Role of Collagen in the Body

This vital protein can be found everywhere in your body: your muscles, skin, blood, bones, cartilage, and ligaments. It’s highly concentrated amino-acid compound helps to promote skin elasticity, hold together bones and muscles, protect your organs and provide structure to your joints and tendons. As you get older, your body begins to produce less collagen causing wrinkles and joint pain.

Who Should Take Collagen Supplements?

Anyone who is concerned about the health of their skin and joints should look into taking collagen supplements. Introducing collagen supplements into your diet can be extremely beneficial, especially for those who are aging and are beginning to see declines in the quality of their skin.

Collagen Deficiency

You may be experiencing collagen deficiency if you have the following symptoms: fatigue, muscle weakness, fever, body aches, joint pain, and skin rashes. It’s typical to begin to experience collagen deficiency once you reach age 50, but your body starts to lose more collagen than it makes at around 25 years old. For this reason, it may be a good idea to supplement your dietary routine with collagen supplements to help avoid these issues.

Collagen for Joints

Collagen’s richness in amino acids makes it an essential player in the building of joint cartilage. Clinical trials have shown that introducing collagen supplements to patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may help to alleviate their symptoms. This could also be due to the potential anti-inflammatory effects of collagen.

Collagen for Skin

Woman smiling while touching face because her skin feels great after taking a collagen supplement.
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Nearly 80% of your skin is made up of collagen, so it goes without saying that it’s an important building block for good skin. By working with a protein called elastin, it strengthens the skin and helps it snap back into place when stretched. In addition to aging, UV light and tobacco smoke exposure can break down vital collagen in your body causing wrinkles and sagging skin.

Collagen Benefits for Skin

Taking collagen orally has shown improvements to skin elasticity, reduction in wrinkles, and increased skin moisture. According to Dr. Debra Jaliman, collagen peptides have been shown in studies to improve skin barrier function and the body’s production of collagen after eight weeks of intake. To apply collagen directly to the skin, you can try one of the best collagen creams in the market made by Mason Natural.

Collagen for Hair

Because hair is made up of the protein keratin, which is built by several amino acids that can be found in collagen, taking collagen supplements may be an effective way to help with hair loss. Proline, which is the main component of keratin, is also found in collagen and helps to provide your body with the building blocks it needs to create human hair. Although research is unavailable, collagen does protect the layer of skin that contains hair roots, so it may have the potential to prevent age-related hair loss and thinning.

Collagen for Weight Loss

Collagen has been found to help with weight loss in three different ways: satiation, appetite suppression, and muscle mass retention.

  • Satiation: Collagen has been found to have higher satiating properties than other proteins, which means that it gives the user a feeling of fullness. A clinical trial found that collagen was 40% more filling than the same quantity of whey, casein or soy. Individuals in this trial who took collagen supplements consumed 20% less at their next meal than those who used other protein supplements.
  • Appetite Suppression: A study done by the Department of Internal Medicine and Thyroid Unit showed that hydrolyzed collagen in the form of gelatin might help to suppress appetite. Having a suppressed appetite is an effective form of weight loss, as you will be less willing to eat more than you should.
  • Muscle Mass Retention: In astudy done by researcher Margriet Veldhorst, collagen has been shown to help retain muscle mass. This muscle mass is often replaced by fat in aging individuals. By retaining this muscle, you can maintain a lean body and preserve a healthy nitrogen balance to avoid weight gain.

The Different Types of Collagen

White powder (collagen supplements) in a spoon.
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While at least 28 different types of collagen have been identified, there are only a handful of types that dominate the collagen supplement sector of health. Each type has a different function in the body, so it’s best to recognize what each type does and where it can come from. Read about the different types of collagen and see which is the best collagen supplement for you.

Type 1 Collagen

The most prevalent type of collagen in the body is type 1 collagen which is no coincidence considering it is also responsible for the widest range of areas. Type 1 collagen is mostly recommended for its benefits in hair, skin, and nails due to its role as a major structural component of the skin, tendons, bones, and organs. This well-rounded protein can be found in powder form via Vital Protein’s Collagen Peptides supplement.

Type 2 Collagen

Type 2 collagen is much more specialized than type 1 mainly focusing on its benefits for cartilage and joints. This type of collagen is often extracted from bovine or chicken cartilage. You can get this type of collagen in capsule form Vital Protein’s Cartilage Collagen supplement.

Type 3 Collagen

As the second most common form of this amino-acid rich protein, type 3 collagen is found in cartilage like type 2 collagen. However, it is often seen alongside type 1 collagen in the body primarily working within most of the circulatory system. Because it’s usually found with type 1 collagen, it is also usually sold alongside it and can be found in protein powder form such as Live Infinitely’s Hydrolyzed Bovine Collagen Protein Powder.

Type 4 Collagen

Type 4 collagen is the least common of the four, only found in the endothelial cells in the basement membrane of the skin. This type of collagen helps to form the basil lamina which acts as a filtration system for blood vessel function. Type 4 collagen also supports the circulatory system, nervous system, and digestive tract because of its role in the body’s muscles, fat, and organs.

Collagen Peptides

Pill bottle with pills.
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The collagen compound alone isn’t soluble or bio-available meaning that it isn’t easily absorbed into liquid and the body’s blood stream. For this reason, collagen must be made into peptides which are much smaller amino-acid compounds with high solubility, absorption, and digestibility rates.

Hydrolyzed Collagen

Hydrolyzed collagen is the same as collagen peptides, wherein the larger collagen molecules are broken down into smaller peptides through a process called hydrolysis. Typically sold as a powder, collagen peptides take the form of short chains of amino-acid.

Hydrolyzed Collagen Benefits

Because it’s the same as collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagen carries the same benefits due to its high concentration of collagen and size. Its newly formed qualities make it easy to add to any food or drink, and gives it a neutral taste and odor.

Marine Collagen

Typically, collagen supplements are extracted from bovine sources and mainly carries type 1 and 3 collagen. Marine collagen, however, is sourced from fish skin and scales and almost exclusively is made of type 1 collagen. Marine collagen also has much smaller peptide molecules making it even more bio-available and absorbable.

This type of collagen is the best option if you are a pescatarian and even comes with the added bonus of being rich in the amino acid hydroxyproline (an essential component of blood vessel walls and other connective tissues). You can find marine collagen from Vital Sources in the form of powder or capsules.

Vegan Collagen

While there are no vegan collagen supplements because collagen is extracted from animals, the key amino acids that the body needs to build new collagen is available in a variety of fruits and vegetables. If you’re vegan and can’t take supplements derived from animals, consider eating the following fruits for different amino acids.

  • Glycine Sources: bananas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, kale, kiwi, pumpkin and spinach.
  • Proline Sources: alfalfa sprouts, asparagus. beans, buckwheat, cabbage, cucumber, chives, tempeh, watercress, and white mustard seeds.
  • Vitamin C is also a major component in boosting collagen production in the body.

Collagen Injections

Cosmetic surgeons typically use collagen injections to treat minor imperfections in the skin, including laugh lines, wrinkles, creases, crow’s feet, and acne scars. It can also be used to create fuller lips and cheeks as well as make other face-lift procedures or laser skin resurfacing treatment more effective. There are many different types of collagen injections, varying by the source of collagen, the lasting time, and the price.

Bovine Collagen:

  • The most common type of collagen injection, bovine collagen, generally costs from $250 to $800 per session. Results of this injection can last from six weeks to a year depending on the type of procedure. There may be a risk of allergic reaction, so allergy testing should be conducted prior to the procedure.

Autologen:

  • This type of injection uses collagen derived from your own skin that has been harvested during a previous operation. The collagen is extracted, sterilized, and liquefied for re-injection and is a popular choice for lip augmentation. The risk of allergic reaction is much lower due to its source and lasts longer than bovine collagen with a price of $800 to $15oo per session.

Isolagen

Woman's face with a scalpel and needle pointed towards it.
Image via Flickr
  • This collagen is also derived from your skin but is made by cloning the collagen-making cells that are taken from behind your ear. These injections are usually performed in intervals of about two weeks with steadily improving results. This also has less of a risk of allergic reaction and is the most expensive type at $1000 to $1500 per session.

Dermalogen:

  • Collagen injections of this type derive their collagen from deceased human donors which are sterilized and processed after extraction. This type also lasts longer than bovine collagen and has a lower risk of allergic reaction, with the only risk being an allergy to numbing agents. This injection costs $500 to $1000 per session.

Keto Collagen

If you’re considering adding collagen to your daily supplement routine, you may be interested in finding out its effect on your keto diet because of the limit on protein consumption. However, the amount of protein found in collagen peptides is probably not enough to end your ketosis through the creation of glucose. If you’re still worried about its effect on your diet, it would help to add healthy fats like coconut oil or grass-fed butter to your collagen intake.

Do Collagen Supplements Work?

While research is still being done on the full extent of collagen supplement’s effect on the body, many studies have shown that there is a real benefit to adding it to your diet. One study by the China Agricultural University of Beijing showed that oral administration of bovine collagen peptides improved skin by increasing the ratios of type 1 and type 3 collagen in the body as well as increasing the body’s antioxidant properties. Although further research is needed, it’s clear that collagen provides a plethora of health benefits that can lead to beneficial results across the board.

How Long Does it Take for Collagen Supplements to Work?

Man holding pill bottle with one pill in palm.
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After seeing all of the great potential benefits that collagen supplements can provide, you are probably wondering how long it takes for them to work. Well, this depends on the specific health benefits you’re looking for.

Skin Benefits:

  • According to a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, changes in wrinkles started to show after four to six weeks of regular use of collagen supplements. Max results were seen at the 12-week mark, with wrinkles being reduced by up to 31.2%.

Joint Pain Benefits:

  • One study from in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that it took three months to see results in healthy individuals with sports-related joint injuries.
  • Alternatively, a study found in the International Journal of Medical Science found that type 2 collagen specifically took three to six months for relief in osteoarthritis symptoms. Another study found in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found similar results when using hydrolyzed collagen.

Collagen Side Effects

Due to limited research, at the moment there are not many known risks to taking collagen supplements. The only known unwanted side effects are the following:

  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Fullness
  • Allergic reactions (from specific collagen sources)

Collagen Peptides Side Effects

While peptides have in some cases earned a bad reputation for their detrimental side effects, this is most often associated with peptides used via injection for body-building and large amounts of muscle mass gains. Collagen peptides are usually taken orally via powder or capsule form, so most of the side effects seen from peptide injections are not applicable. At this time, the only side effects that are known to come from collagen peptides are minuscule.

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