If you’ve heard about celebrities touting the benefits of taking collagen supplements, then you’ve probably heard of some of the many boosts to wellness and beauty collagen is said to offer: more youthful, elastic skin; less joint pain; healthier hair and nails: stronger bones; and even better gastrointestinal health. This raft of benefits might sound too good to be true. But it turns out there’s solid scientific research to back up some of these claims. There really are three ways collagen supplements can change your life.
What is Collagen?
Before taking a look at the research, let’s start with what exactly collagen is, and how your body uses it. Collagen is a collection of amino acids that form the most abundant protein in your body. In fact, collagen represents 30% of the body’s protein. It’s the one needed for all your connective tissues and is in your bones, muscles, skin, blood vessels, tendons and digestive system.
The body produces less and less collagen over time, which is why we develop joint pain and wrinkles later in life. There are other factors, in addition to aging, that can decrease your collagen levels, like getting too much sun, eating too much sugar, and smoking.
Collagen Supplements Can Change Your Life
A recent double-blind, placebo controlled trial, published on the National Institute of Health’s website, resulted in higher skin elasticity and measurably smaller facial wrinkles in the women who took daily collagen supplements. Furthermore, there are several studies that indicate taking collagen supplements daily will result in reduced pain in your joints. In this one, cited by Prevention magazine, people who took collagen supplements experienced a reduction in osteoarthritis related knee pain.
Collagen supplements might also aid your digestive system. The research studies on this are fewer, but there is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence. Individuals state that after they started taking collagen they experienced healing properties on their gut. This reporter for Prevention had a first-hand experience with collagen supplements helping boost her gut health. The Healthy Gut Institute calls collagen The Powerful Supplement You Need to Heal a Leaky Gut.
Ways to Take Collagen
There are three main ways people try to boost their body’s collagen:
- Dietary Supplements
Collagen injections serve two purposes. Sometimes doctors will prescribe them for joint injuries and sometimes people receive them as less invasive alternatives to plastic surgery. In both cases the injection affords only temporary relief. The collagen eventually breaks down and leaves the body.
Collagen creams are used for cosmetic purposes. Since there’s evidence that increasing the body’s collagen can result in more elastic, youthful looking skin, some think that applying collagen directly to the skin can bring about those benefits. However, most dermatologists think the creams do not penetrate the dermis, the thick layer on the bottom of the skin, rendering any potential benefits nil.
Collagen supplements added to food in powdered form are the most promising form of additional collagen. The study cited above, on the NIH’s website, where the participants experienced a reduction in wrinkles and greater skin elasticity, used a powdered form of collagen that is added to food or drinks. This powder is tasteless and can be mixed with hot or cold foods.
If you decide to give collagen supplements a try, do a little research first before choosing which one. Since nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA, you want to try to find one that’s as safe as possible. A good place to start is by checking for contaminants at the NSF, The Public Health and Safety Organization.
Another way to get more collagen is to make lifestyle changes that help your body produce its own supply. Use sunscreen and avoid sunbathing, stop smoking, and increase the pro-collagen foods in your diet.
According to Livestrong.com foods you can eat that will boost your body’s production of collagen include:
- Lean meats
- Egg whites
- Wheat germ
- Cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
- Foods rich in Vitamin C
Whether you choose to make lifestyle changes to boost your body’s production of collagen or give dietary collagen supplements a try, there’s a good chance adding this protein will have a beneficial effect on your health.
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