Do collagen supplements really work?

Published June 29, 2021, 12:08 PM

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

Are they the real deal?

Take one look at any health and wellness store and you’ll see a full section of collagen supplements in powder, pill, and even candy form. There are a lot of brands in the market, both locally and internationally, each boasting of its list of skin and health benefits. But let’s cut to the chase: Are collagen supplements no big deal, or are they the real deal?

Collagen is a protein made of amino acids, forming a strong structure in long fibrils or thin fibers. It provides support to cells and tissues. It takes up 25 to 35 percent or one third of the body’s proteins—and that’s a lot! There are a lot of types of collagen, but Types 1 to 3 are the most common:

  • Type I: This type is the most common type, comprised of around 90 percent of the body’s total collagen that is in the skin, bones, teeth, nails, organs, and bones. It helps in wound healing and it is said to be responsible for skin health and ageing.
  • Type II: This type is mainly found in the gut and promotes joint health, a balanced immune system, and digestive health as well.
  • Type III: This type also supports bone, muscles, and organs. It is mainly found in the muscles and aids in muscle mass.

Collagen can be obtained from food such as bone broth, chicken, beef, poultry, dairy, nuts, beans, and whole grains. Food rich in vitamin C, iron, and copper can help with collagen production. Supplements, however, are much more convenient in their accessibility and flexibility when it comes to form.

Collagen starts to decline at around 25 to 30 years of age and at one percent every year after. That’s why by the age of 50, one would have lost approximately 25 to 30 percent of collagen. In addition, age, sun exposure, a poor diet, and lifestyle can also slow down its production and, when it declines, it becomes noticeable with aging and wrinkled skin. Supplements began with the desire to maintain its levels or to slow down its rate of loss. Those who have tried collagen supplements are a mixed lot. Some say they see the benefits, while others say they don’t. So are collagen supplements really effective?

There are few limited studies that show a statistically significant positive effect of oral collagen supplement intake to skin hydration and skin moisture. In terms of skin elasticity, no significant effect was seen with collagen drinks. Also, there is no reliable evidence that orally ingested collagen supplement goes preferentially to the dermis (mid-section of the skin), as opposed to other parts of the body. Some argue that amino acids needed by the body for collagen synthesis can be consumed from a normal protein diet, with which I agree, but that is if you do not have micronutrient deficiency and any build up inflammation in the body from stress, infection, pollution, and intrinsic aging. There are also proteins, other than collagen, which are vital to skin quality.

It should also be considered that collagen peptides, depending on the source material and manufacturing process, could differ with respect to molecular size and amino acid composition. Amino acid composition of the peptides is reflected by a high content of specific amino acids that are abundant building blocks of human collagen, such as hydroxyproline, proline, glycine, glutamic acid, alanine, and arginine. During digestion, the oligopeptides are further metabolized to bioactive di- and tri-peptides in the gastrointestinal tract and are subsequently released into the blood stream.

The concentration and type of collagen, as well as the content of other skin-relevant nutrients, can differ in mono and combination products. Therefore, it is crucial to underline the importance of product-specific trials.

If you think you have insufficient quality amino acid diet, you should get at least 2.5 gram to 10 grams collagen with higher content of bioactive dipeptides (pro Lyl hydroxyproline and hydroxyprolyl glycine). Based on clinical studies, this shows better improvement and results.

Collagen supplements are indeed promising, but you should still take careful consideration if you are interested to try it or are already taking it. It is always best to ask your physician’s opinion so he or she can also check if these supplements would be helpful for you. While generally safe for a lot of individuals, it is still important to always take precautions when trying something new, because it’s your health after all.