Scrolling on Instagram you will be able to notice new vitamins, superfoods, and supplements that people claim can help with various health and beauty concerns. Social media is frequently flooded with numerous new wellness trends, and sometimes one finds it difficult to separate real, science-based tips from the fads. One trend that has received a lot of advertise as of late are collagen supplements, which are available in both capsules, and powders. But the question is: whether collagen really provides any actual health benefits?
Collagen is considered the most important and abundant protein our bodies produce (30 percent of the protein in our bodies overall, and 70 percent of the protein in our skin). There are at least sixteen types of collagenthat our bodies produce, according to Healthline, and types I, II, III, and IV collagen account for over 90 percent of the collagen in your body. This natural-produced protein is widely recognized for its beauty-boosting properties (aka, it makes your hair, skin, and nails look fabulous), is of a great importance for your overall health. Dr. John Layke, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who is the co-founder of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Group and Beverly Hills MD Cosmeceuticals, tells Bustle, “Collagen is the main structural protein in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of connective tissue, including bone, cartilage, ligaments, hair and skin. Healthy collagen means healthier joints, tissues, and overall wellbeing, as it is involved in gut, cardiac and musculoskeletal function.”
As being a fibrous protein, collagen is extremely effective in strengthening and thickening dense connective tissues — the type of tissue that forms ligaments and tendons, as well as major organs like your kidneys. The four key types of collagen each perform a specific function: Type I is typically found in bones, ligaments, tendons, and skin, while Type II collagen is found primarily in cartilage. Type III collagen is a thinner form of the protein, but is vital to internal organ function and your skin. Lastly, Type IV is the main collagen found in the basement membrane, a unique extracellular matrix that is “regulator of cell behavior,” and enables proper blood vessels function.
Allison Webster, PhD, RD, who serves as the Associate Director, Nutrition Communications for the The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, tells Bustle, “We naturally lose collagen as we age, but losses can be minimized by a following a healthy diet, having an active lifestyle, not smoking, and protecting your skin from the sun.”
The collagen production is best stimulated by leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle which includes a nutritious diet, but the question is whether taking additional collagen supplements to increase your collagen production can be really beneficial to your health. Briefly, the efficacy of your collagen powder or pill still has to be confirmed. Dr. Layke says that there are some medical professionals considering that collagen oral intake through supplements can boost hair, skin, and nail health, but he adds “it is difficult to assess the benefits of ingesting collagen because many forms are broken down into amino acids.”
Furthermore, Dr. Webster clarifies that there isn’t sufficient science yet behind the claims that collagen supplements are a real groundbreaker in beauty and health. “However trendy they may be, there is no strong scientific evidence to support that collagen supplements — in any form — can treat or reverse the natural aging process in hair, skin, or nails,” she says. “It’s also important to remember that these supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and manufacturers don’t have to prove that they’re effective or safe before putting them on the market.”
Though the jury is still out on the effectiveness of collagen supplements, there are methods to confirm your body’s collagen production is supported. “Our bodies are entirely capable of making collagen on our own. It’s much simpler — and less expensive — to get protein from our diet instead of an expensive collagen pill or powder,” says Dr. Webster. According to Livestrong.com, foods rich in collagen or collagen-aiding amino acids — such as dairy products, meat, beans, and certain fresh produce — can significantly stimulate this essential protein. In addition to this, Dr. Layke tells Bustle injecting collagen into a specific area is still the most tried and true method to directly receive benefits from the protein when it’s produced outside your body.
To summarize, scientists, nutritionists and doctors aren’t quite sure yet if taking collagen supplements really provide any health and beauty benefits. But, you can feel free incorporating collagen into your daily vitamins, as it doesn’t cause any damage either.