Is Collagen the New Fountain of Youth?

collagen supplements

By now, you have probably heard of collagen. It’s everywhere, from pills and powders to bars and drinks – even lotions! But what exactly is collagen?

Collagen is a protein that assists with the structural integrity of skin, bones, cartilage, and tendons. We lose collagen as we age, which explains wrinkles and sagging skin as well as all the achiness and stiffness with each passing decade.

This is precisely why collagen supplementation has become so popular in recent years. The promise of turning back the clock is very enticing for many. Supplement manufacturers have created products called collagen hydrolysates, which are small chains of peptides that are absorbed by the body and delivered directly to tissues that lack protein.

We have to keep in mind that, as with any supplement, there are a lot of false claims that have not been scientifically proven to confirm the effectiveness of these supplements. We also need to be mindful that the supplement industry is still an unregulated industry. Any company can say, for example, that a product contains collagen even when it doesn’t necessarily provide a significant amount of collagen in the supplement itself. Always choose a company that was tested by a third party for safety and integrity.

When you find a trusted source of collagen, you can begin to reap its benefits. There is a lot of promising research that supports collagen use.

Several studies showed improved skin elasticity and hydration, along with the reduced formation of deep wrinkles, after taking collagen hydrolysate supplements for at least six weeks. One of these studies was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2017. Its findings suggest that collagen hydrolysates can be transferred through the bloodstream directly to the skin. This would support the argument for collagen’s assistance with wrinkles and skin elasticity.

Another study done in 2017 from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology claimed that collagen supplements might also help improve brittle nails when it was taken for 24 weeks.

In 2018, a study on athletes was conducted and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. They showed a decrease in joint pain in athletes who supplement their diets with collagen. However, they also stated that longer-term studies need to be done on this subject to prove long-term safety and continuous results.

So, should you place your order right now and start supplementing with collagen? Not so fast. Our bodies produce collagen! It's found in our bones, tendons, ligaments, hair, skin, organs, muscles, and blood vessels.

Animals produce collagen, too. Does that mean we can get enough collagen from eating animal protein, especially when our bodies produce less collagen as we age? We simply do not know enough indisputable facts about collagen to say for sure, but we can look forward to future findings.

There are no single miracle foods out there. However, there is a miracle in eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet on a consistent basis. Get back to the basics of eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, grains, nuts, and legumes while also hydrating properly, and you will feel and look younger from the inside out.

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach


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