Are collagen supplements right for you? As a registered dietitian, clients often come to me asking what supplements they should take.
With all the supplements on the market, it can take time to determine what will benefit you and whether research supports them.
Collagen has been a trending supplement for years for its potential to improve joint, skin, and overall health. It is often used by athletes and people undergoing physical therapy for injury recovery.
So in today’s article, I will be breaking down what collagen is, the different forms of collagen, and some benefits it can have for your health.
Let’s dive in!
Looking for more evidence-based nutrition content? If you haven’t already, make sure to check out my blog on how much protein you really need next!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most common protein found in your body and helps repair and build your body’s skin, muscles, bones, and organs. It contains essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, that are important for the repair and formation of connective tissues.
Collagen’s central role in the body is to replenish, strengthen, and support your body.
A few examples of this include replacing dead skin cells, helping to clot your blood, and maintaining the elasticity of your skin.
There have been 28 types of collagen identified in our bodies that differ in molecular structure.
However, there are five most common types:
- Type I is the most common, making up 90% of your body’s collagen. It is involved in the structure of your skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
- Type II rebuilds joint cartilage and increases the range of motion of your joints.
- Type III is the second most common type of collagen and supports your gut, muscles, blood vessels, and some organs.
- Type IV is mainly in the layers of your skin.
- Type V is found in your eyes and helps facilitate your vision. It also supports your liver and lungs.
Dietary Sources of Collagen
As you age, you produce less collagen in your skin naturally, so it is helpful to include collagen-rich foods in your diet alongside a potential supplement.
Collagen-rich foods include:
- Bone broth
Bonus tip: Vitamin C
Did you know that vitamin C helps your body absorb and produce collagen? This can lead to greater improvements when taking a collagen supplement. Make sure to include foods full of vitamin C in your daily diet for maximum benefits!
Vitamin C-rich foods include:
- Citrus fruits (oranges, orange juice, lemon, grapefruit)
- Bell peppers
Different Forms of Collagen & Their Dosage
Collagen supplements and enriched food products are an increasingly popular way to get more collagen.
When looking at collagen found in food and supplements, it is typically in one of the three most common forms.
Hydrolyzed collagen is most commonly used in supplements because your body can easily absorb it. Depending on the use of collagen, doses vary from 2.5 grams to 40 grams per day. I know this feels like a large range but a general recommendation is 5 to 15 grams per day.
Undenatured collagen is typically used to improve joint pain in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The recommended dose is much lower than hydrolyzed collagen at 40 mg daily.
Gelatin is not usually sold as a supplement but instead is an ingredient in gelatinous desserts. This type of collagen is cooked but is also used to make sauces, soups, and smoothies as a supplement. For dosing, it is best to refer to the serving size on the package.
You can take collagen supplements in both a powder or capsule form. They are typically derived from either animal or marine sources.
Powders even come in flavored varieties such as Vital Protein’s chocolate collagen powder. This is a great option to throw into a smoothie with frozen banana or mixed into hot oatmeal for a collagen boost.
If you aren’t sure of an exact amount to take, it is best to check the serving size on your supplement or consult with your healthcare team.
Who Can Benefit From Collagen Supplements?
Collagen has many benefits outside of its role in your body’s structure. Here is more information about the effects of collagen supplementation in different groups of people.
Physical Therapy for Injury
Collagen is an excellent complement to physical therapy for healing an injury. Studies show that collagen can improve joint function and mobility. It can also reduce the pain associated with the injury making physical therapy more comfortable.
Many patients going through physical therapy use collagen as a supplemental tool to help speed up injury recovery. One of the key benefits of collagen is its ability to improve how fast your skin tissue regenerates.
Even more, recent research says that collagen may be able to reduce inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a common concern in physical therapy patients.
Collagen has lots of overall general health benefits as well!
Your bones are made mostly of collagen, and your bone mass decreases as you age. Collagen in your body also declines with age.
Next, collagen plays a big role in hair, nail, and skin health. By giving your body the valuable amino acids inside collagen, you can strengthen your nails and promote hair growth.
Last thing to note is that collagen supplements may be able to heal and repair gut health. Science is up and coming about using collagen to help with uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating.
Collagen supplements are popular among the athletic community for many reasons. Since collagen is made up of amino acids like glycine, it can potentially improve your muscle strength and endurance.
A study in older men found that when compared to men who didn’t take collagen, those who took 15 grams of collagen after exercise gained more muscle mass and strength.
Additionally, collagen is commonly associated with exercise recovery because it stimulates muscle growth and improves recovery time. This can further reduce your risk of injury which is very important for athletes!
All in all, it is up to you and your healthcare team to make an informed decision if a collagen supplement is right for you. Here are few key takeaways from this article:
- Collagen is essential in your body and helps repair and build your body’s skin, muscles, bones, and organs.
- It is helpful to include collagen-rich foods and sources of vitamin C in your diet to maintain healthy collagen production in your body.
- Collagen supplements can be beneficial at a dose generally between 5-15 grams daily. Most collagen supplements provide a serving size that you can also use as a recommendation.
- Collagen is highly beneficial for general health and healing injuries in conjunction with physical therapy and athletic recovery.
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