Collagen

Collagen is everywhere right now, and has been for awhile. So is it worth it / is it all just a hype man? I was originally skeptical about the rage that is collagen. I had heard that it’s too large of a molecule to even be absorbed. And if it is absorbed, does the body even break it down and reabsorb it as collagen? Or just as a simple protein? If the latter is the case, then it’d just be the equivalent of eating any quality source of protein. Right? Idk, honestly that was kind of just intuitive speculation. specoll(agen)ation? That pun is just as much of a stretch as that collagen theory.

After a bit of research (a bit being a bit of an understatement – I went a little w!ld), I’m confident about it’s anti(coll)agen’ properties in regards to improvements seen in bone loss, joint pain and inflammation, and skin care (wrinkles and hydration). To be clear, that poor attempt at punning does not imply that I’m anti-collagen. I’m pretty pro-collagen.  Here’s why:

To address my original question about collagen absorption in the intestine, since it is a large molecule after all, researchers found that supplemental collagen was able to pass across the mucosal barrier in the small bowel as a complete peptide (Jackix et al., 2010). In fact, in a rat study, 95% of collagen fed to rats was absorbed within 12 hours, indicating that even large (10-kDa) peptides can be used whole by the body (Jackix et al., 2010). It then accumulates in cartilage tissue, and stimulates production of type II collagen (the major protein in articular cartilage) and proteoglycans in the extracellular matrix of cartilage (Clark et al., 2008). This just means that it’s digested and signals to the body to make more collagen.

BONE LOSS

ovariectomy – bone loss: In one study (done in rats), researchers gave collagen supplements to rats whose ovaries had been removed, meaning they were lacking estrogen (estrogen is crucial for bone formation and a deficiency leads to corticol bone loss) (Vaananen & Harkonen, 1996). Rats who received the collagen supplement had heavier bones, supporting the hypothesis that consumption of collagen had prevented the loss of bone mass (de Almeida Jackix et al., 2010). The ovariectomized animals receiving the collagen expressed the tendency of having heavier bones than the intact and sham-operated rats, thus supporting the hypothesis that consumption of the collagen at least prevented, if not increased, the loss of bone mass in this osteoporosis model. This study revealed the benefits of collagen in regards to the physical strength, flexibility, and resistance to collapsing in (de Almeida Jackix et al., 2010).

It should be noted, however,  that this result was not the same for female rats who still had their ovaries in tact – in fact, this high amount of collagen was in fact detrimental to bone. BUT, even though these rats had functioning ovaries and therefore normal levels of estrogen, they were still being treated with an enormously high dose of collagen – 10 times the amount suggested in humans. So it could have been sheer amount that led to the damage, and college could be dose dependent (too high and too low of a supplement are ineffective). As the study notes, “for reasons not yet understood, supplementing the noncastrated female with the collagen at levels 10 times higher than those consumed by humans appeared to be detrimental to the bone. Once the estrogen secretion ceased, however, supplementation with the CH was substantially protective to the trabecular bone of the vertebrae, yet not to the cortical bone structure of the femur.” (de Almeida Jackix et al., 2010).

Another study was done on ovariectomy-induced bone loss, though this was done in postmenopausal women. The study’s aim was to determine whether or not bone loss could actually be reversed when taking a collagen and calcium supplement. In the study, women 1 to 5 years postmenopausal and not on hormone replacement therapy or any other prescribed medication known to influence bone metabolism, were randomized among two treatment groups to receive as a dietary supplement intervention daily for three months of either of the following: 500 mg of calcium carbonate and 5 mug vitamin D (control), or 5 g of hydrolyzed collagen containing 500 mg elemental calcium and 5 mug vitamin D. Bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and whole body were assessed before and at the end of the study. Blood samples were collected at baseline and after 3 months to assess bone biomarkers of bone metabolism. Physical activity recall and three-day food frequency questionnaire were completed to examine physical activity and dietary confounders as potential covariates. The collagen supplement significantly increased total body bone mineral density in comparison to the control group. The results of this pilot study suggested that supplemental collagen, when combined with calcium, enhances bone mass by increasing bone formation and suppressing bone resorption (Elam, Hooshm, Arjmandi). Another study confirmed these findings, in which a calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. (Elam)

JOINT PAIN / INFLAMMATION

less joint pain in athletes – One study, noted that athletes who consumed collagen over the span of six months witnessed improvement of joint pain. After 3 months of taking 10g of collagen per day, athletes reported less pain and greater ease of climbing stairs and carrying objects (Clark et al., 2008). To control for outside anti-inflammatories, “pain relievers, anti-inflammatory agents, cyclo-oxygenase II inhibitors, and other over-the-counter analgesics, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, electric stimulation, massage therapy, joint condition- ing/training, or topical application of ice or heat” was recorded and collected. At visit 5, the group taking collagen hydrolysate reported using alternative therapies 12 times, while subjects taking placebo reported using alternative therapies 39 times. In conclusion, subjects taking collagen reported less joint discomfort than subjects taking placebo.

arthritis / joint pain – In one experiment, an osteoarthritic group took 40mg of collagen per day, and experienced a reduction in score on an osteoarthritis index (called the WOMAC) after 6 months compared to placebo. The group who supplemented with collagen, also experienced improvements in pain, stiffness, and physical function.  Safety outcomes did not differ among the groups. Overall the osteoarthritic patients who took the collagen supplement experienced improvements in knee joint symptoms in knee OA subjects and was well-tolerated (Lugo, Siayed, Lane, 2006).

SKIN

mechanisms of improved skin / more amino acids in skin – Collagen hydrolysate is a well-known dietary supplement for the treatment of skin aging, however its mode of action remains unknown. Previous studies have shown that the oral ingestion of collagen hydrolysate leads to elevated levels of collagen-derived peptides in the blood but whether these peptides reach the skin remains unclear. Here, we analyzed the plasma concentration of collagen-derived peptides after ingestion of high tri-peptide containing collagen hydrolysate in humans. We identified 17 types of collagen-derived peptides transiently, with a particularly enrichment in Gly-Pro-Hyp. This was also observed using an in vivo mouse model in the plasma and skin, albeit with a higher enrichment of Pro-Hyp in the skin. Interestingly, this Pro-Hyp enrichment in the skin was derived from Gly-Pro-Hyp hydrolysis, as the administration of pure Gly-Pro-Hyp peptide led to similar results. Therefore, we propose that functional peptides can be transferred to the skin by dietary supplements of collagen. (yazaki)

reverse skin damage – Furthermore, bioactive peptides isolated from collagen hydrolysates have shown several to have antihypertensive and anti oxidative properties (Zague, 2008). It is also shown to be beneficial for skin, the unique amino acid and peptide of collagen may be responsible for the observations of orally administered collagen effects on skin physiology (Zague, 2008). Furthermore, another study demonstrated that the “ingestion of collagen peptide (0.2 g/kg/d) suppressed UV-B-induced decreases in skin hydration, hyperplasia of the epidermis, and decreases in soluble type I collagen.” This suggests that  collagen peptide is beneficial as a dietary supplement to suppress UV-B-induced skin damage and photo aging (Tanaka, Koyama, & Nomura, 2009). However, additional research is needed to identify the mechanisms responsible for those effects of collagen on skin tissue.

skin / ulcer healing: Another study relates collagen consumption to better ulcer healing, according to PUSH tool scores (the standard of measurement for ulcers). Those who received the collagen supplement had twice the rate of pressure ulcer healing by the eight week of treatment. Collagen is a perfect ingredient to test with because it has no taste, and dissolves easily in liquid. Each unit of the study product contained 15g of fully hydrolyzed protein in a 45-mL unit dose. (Lee et al., 2006).

skin hydration – Collagen is also thought to attract water molecules, in turn improving skin hydration, scavenge free radicals or reduce inflammation. (Broumand). The benefits of 10 grams daily ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen on skin hydration of 20 healthy women saw gradual improvement of water absorption capacity compared to the placebo group. Another study measured subjective response of skin hydration with collagen supplement. The percentage of positive response between the subjects was very high. This study was followed by a double-blind placebo-controlled study by the same research group on healthy women volunteers aged 25-45. In this study 2.5, 5 and 10 g of fish collagen peptide were administered and compared to the placebo. The hydration of the stratum corneum was measured at baseline and after 4 weeks. A significant difference of hydration was observed in subjects older than 30 years between the treated group (5 g and 10 g) and placebo (Broumand).

hydration: We also demonstrated significant benefit of the test product on skin hydration of individuals consuming it on a daily basis. The water content of the dermis increased by 14% at week 6 from the baseline value. Even though, some increase in hydration was also observed with placebo, this was not significant compared to week 0, confirming that the retention of water molecules in skin tissues is primarily mediated by the active ingredients present in the test product. Thus, this study supports previous finding that the intake of hydrolyzed collagen protected mice against dermal dehydration (Broumand).

hydration and wrinkles combination – Another study investigated the effect of a dietary supplement containing a hydrolyzed collagen type II, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate in 26 healthy females who displayed visible signs of natural and photoageing in the face. Daily supplementation with just 1 g of hydrolyzed collagen for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction of skin dryness/scaling and global lines/wrinkles. An increase in the content of hemoglobin and collagen in the skin dermis was also observed after 6 weeks of supplementation. The authors suggested that dietary supplementation with hydrolyzed collagen can physiologically counteract natural and photo-ageing processes to reduce visible aging signs in the human face. (Broumand). This study shows that the oral nutritional supplement consisting of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, and essential vitamins and minerals, leads to a significant improvement in wrinkle depth. It is also able to induce noticeable improvement in elasticity and hydration of the skin.  (Broumand )

wrinkles / general aging: (Broumand ) The effect of daily ingestion of collagen hydrolysate (CH) on skin extracellular matrix proteins was investigated in rats. One group was fed casein, and the other collagen. The amount of type I and IV collagens was significantly increased after CH intake compared with the casein group. The results of this study suggest that collagen supplementation may reduce aging-related changes of the extracellular matrix by stimulating anabolic processes in skin tissue.

wrinkles – The results show that a combination of hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronic acid, together with other ingredients, when consumed orally for 9 weeks can significantly reduce the depth of wrinkles, whereas there was no significant reduction with placebo. In fact, there was 8% reduction in wrinkle depth in the group taking the test product, which was found to be significant ( P = 0.037). (Broumand). In this study, the deeper the wrinkle, the greater the reduction in depth. Fine lines probably result from alterations in the surface of the skin or the epidermis, whereas deep wrinkles are formed by changes in the dermis. Thus, nutritional supplementation with collagen may have an effect on the dermis, and so will likely reduce the deeper wrinkles to a greater extent compared with products that act on the surface of the skin (Broumand).

N.B. A very small percentage of individuals experience face flushing when trying collagen due to a histimine intolerance. If you’re adding collagen into your diet for the first time, start with marine collagen, with a small serving (1/2 a scoop as opposed to 2 scoops), and see how your body responds to it – a half scoop and eventually working up to the full serving size (2 scoops).

Recommended dosage based on studies:

  • 5 g of hydrolyzed collagen containing 500 mg elemental calcium and 5 mug vitamin D (Elam, Hooshm, Arjmandi)
  • After 3 months of taking 10g of collagen per day, athletes reported less pain and greater ease of climbing stairs and carrying objects (Clark et al., 2008).
  • Several other studies found similar results (Clark et al., 2008).  These studies recommended 7–10 g of collagen per day for 3 months, as this showed improvements in joint health or function, such as “reduction in pain, decreased dependency on pain medications, and improvement in leg strength.”
  • Furthermore, another study demonstrated that the “ingestion of collagen peptide (0.2 g/kg/d) suppressed UV-B-induced decreases in skin hydration, (Tanaka, Koyama, & Nomura, 2009)
  • In this study 2.5, 5 and 10 g of fish collagen peptide were administered and compared to the placebo. The hydration of the stratum corneum was measured at baseline and after 4 weeks. A significant difference was observed in subjects older than 30 years between the treated group (5 g and 10 g) and placebo (Broumand).
  • Daily supplementation with just 1 g of hydrolyzed collagen for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction of skin dryness/scaling and global lines/wrinkles (Broumand).

LOLOL was that too much info? Overload? You don’t have to answer that, I already know the answer is yes. Just wanted to share some studies I came across speaking to why I choose to implement collagen into my diet every day. Vital Proteins is my collagen of choice. And speaking of which, I used their beauty greens for my matchadamia nut latte!

  • 1 cup macadamia nut milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp matcha
  • 1 tsp fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp Vital Proteins Collagen (regular works just fine as well)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • sweetener of choice if desired: I add about a teaspoon of maple syrup
  1. Heat nut milk
  2. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until foamy!

References

Broumand, M. & Sibilla, S. (2015). Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration, and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), 47.

Bruyere, O., Zegels, B., Leonori, L., Rabenda, v., Janssen, A., Bourges, C., & Reginster, J.Y. (2012). Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: a 6-month ranomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 20(3), 124-130. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2011.12.007

Clark, K.L., Sebastianelli, B., Flechsenhar, K.R., Aukermann, D.F., Meza, F., Millard, R.L., Deitch, J.R., … & Albert, A. (2008). 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 24(5), 1485-1896. doi: 10.1185/030079908X291967

de Almeida Jackix, E., Cuneo, F., Amaya-Farfan, J., Viera de Assuncao, J., Quintaes, K.D. (2010). A food supplemenent of hydrolyzed collagen improves compositional and biodynamic characteristics of vertebrae in ovariectomized rats. Journal of Medicinal Food, 13(6), 1-6). doi:10.1089=jmf.2009.0256

Elam, M., Hooshm,  S., Gu, J., & Arjmandi, B. (2012). Supplemental collagen with clacium imrpvoes bone health in part by attenuateing sclerostine. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 27.

Elam, Marcus L., et al. “A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 18, no. 3, 2015, p. 324+. Educators Reference Complete, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=PROF&sw=w&u=s9004555&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA411140908&it=r&asid=a8be0db8c97ceb9fa75f051477913205. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

Lee, S.K., Posthauer, M.E., Dorner, B., Redovian, V., & Malone, M.J. (2006). Pressure ulcer healing with a concentrated, fortified, collagen protein hydrolysate supplement: A randomized controlled trial. Advances in Skin & Wound Care: The Journal for Prevention and Healing, 19(2), 92-96.

Lugo, J.P., Saiyed, Z.M., & Lane, N.E. (2006). Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: A multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutritional Journal, 15(1).

Tanaka, M., Koyama, Y., & Nomura, Y. (2009). Effects of collagen peptide ingestion on UV-B-induced skin damage. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 73(4), 930-932. doi: 10.1271/bbb.80649

Vaananen, H.K. & Harkonen, P.L. (1996). Estrogen and bone metabolism, 23, S65-69.

Zague, V. (2008). A new view concerning the effects of collagen hydrolysate intake on skin properties. Archives of Dermatological Research, 300, 479-483. doi: 10.1007/s00403-008-0888-4

Yazaki, M., Ito, Y., Yamada, M., Goulas, S., Teramoto, S., Nakaya, M.A., Ohno, S., & Yamaguchi, K. (2017). Oral ingestion of collagen hydrolysate leads to the ptransportatino of highly concentrated Gly-Pro-Hyp and its hydrolyzed form of Pro-Hyp into the bloodstream and skin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2017. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b05679

Zague, V., de Freitas, V., da Costa Rosea, M., de Castro. G.A., Jaeger, R.G., & Machado-Santelli, G.M. (2011). Collagen hydrolysate intake increases skin collagen expression and suppresses matrix metalloproteinase 2 activity. Journal of Medicinal Food. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0085

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48 Responses

  1. Hi, this question relates to another supplement you written about, Curcumin. I looked at the brand you had in your post and noticed it did not have black pepper to help absorption or organic ingredients. Any advice on what really matters when choosing a curcumin supplement as I am really confused about how to choose one to get the right levels of curcuminoids, clean ingredients and easy absorption. I have been using Pukka Wholistic Turmeric organic for curcumin and wondering if I should switch. Any advice would be much appreciated, thank you!

    1. I didn’t, specifically. I included literally all of the evidence based research I found. Hope to update it in the future as more research continues to get published!

  2. Great post, thank you!!! Why is Vital Proteins your collagen of choice, versus, maybe Sports Research Premium Collagen Peptides? Thanks

    1. This is the one I know and have used extensively, so I’m pairing the scientific research with my own subjective experience. Also, the customer service team here is great. Each time I have a question about a product, they are quick to answer and back their suggestions with research.

  3. THANK YOU SO MUCH for doing all of this research and posting this!!!! I’m a research nerd and need evidence before I believe something (obviously you do too!), so I super appreciate this post. You are amazing!!

  4. I LOVE this deep dive you went on here! I was skeptical too! I like to know the science behind why something works before i shell out $$$ and dump it into my body.

  5. Just wanted to say this was great information! I appreciate that you went so in-depth. I’ve never tried collagen before, but you’ve convinced me to try it. Keep it up girl!

  6. Hi! Such a great article. My only question (you didn’t leave much room for questions!! So thorough – awesome!) is about the bone effects in women with ovaries. Didn’t it say it had averse results in women still making estrogen? Or am I col-lost-again? Collagen seems like it’s no doubt a great thing for older women to take!

  7. Hi Katie!

    Thank you so much for all this info! I appreciate the depth of it 🙂

    A few questions- where you state “This result, however, was not the same for female rats who still had their ovaries in tact. This high amount of collagen was in fact detrimental to bone”, what is meant by this? That someone who still has functioning ovaries could experience a disadvantage from consuming collagen?

    also do you know why Marine Collagen is recommended if one is just beginning to consume collagen?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Taylor! Awesome questions. I went back and revised that paragraph, as it was definitely confusing. Though the researchers were also a bit confused with the results and didn’t offer direct parallels to humans (the study was done on rats, after all). I also included the link to that specific study, found here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jaime_Amaya-Farfan/publication/46576853_A_Food_Supplement_of_Hydrolyzed_Collagen_Improves_Compositional_and_Biodynamic_Characteristics_of_Vertebrae_in_Ovariectomized_Rats/links/5610350508ae6b29b49c21c8.pdf

      I’ve only heard of an issue with the beef collage on one occasion. My therapist used it and said it resulted in an extreme face flushing (skin on her face was extremely read). I contacted the company about this and they said some have a histamine reaction, which is less likely in the Marine collagen.

      Because all of these products are extremely new, there are not researched studies on each of them. Though the common denominator is that they all have collagen, hence all the above research. Some individuals are uncomfortable consuming beef products, so chicken is their choice. Others are lacto ovo vegetarians, so marine collagen is a better option for them.

      I hope this helps!

  8. also- sorry one more thing? Do you have any insight on the various options of collagen specifically with Vital proteins? Are there different benefits to each variation from beef gelatin, bone broth, collagen peptides, veggie blend, marine, ect?

  9. THANK YOU for always doing the research that most of us don’t have access to (or, let’s be honest, are too lazy to do). You are awesome as is this post! I’ve been extremely skeptical about collagen, but this post has helped me make the decision to go for it. : ) Happy Friday!

  10. This is such a wonderful and concise post! Thanks for sharing all your research. Feeling even more pumped about all the collagen I’ve been taking this past year!

  11. I’ve been following you on IG for quite some time now! I just subsribed to your blog. Thank you for the in depth review on collagen! Also becasue of you, I am now a faithful Silver Fern probiotic user!

  12. So which collagen do you suggest? I know that even vital proteins has so many different options. Also i really appreciate you doing all of this research, i’ve been on the fence about trying it for awhile and after reading the research that you compiled I think I’m ready to give it a try.

    thanks!

    1. Hi, Rachael! Thank you so much for your kind words! I like the plain collagen peptides in the blue canister. You can put it in the most things without tasting it!

  13. Thank you SO SO MUCH for sharing this! I have been recently transitioning away from a vegan diet and have yet to incorporate meat. I was thinking about beginning with collagen because of all the great things people say about what it does for your skin/hair/nails and gut health, but nothing I was hearing seemed based on true science. So thank you a million times for doing the research and putting your precious time into sharing it with your readers. I have been so indecisive about buying collagen peptides (literally adding and taking them away repetitively from my online shopping cart for 3 weeks) and you just solidified my decision to go for it! You are amazing, lady! I hope to see more posts like this in the future. 🙂

  14. Thanks for the great article!! Quick question: is there any reason to be concerned when you say “This result, however, was not the same for female rats who still had their ovaries in tact. This high amount of collagen was in fact detrimental to bone.”? Just wanted to get your thoughts on this. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Ally!! Great question. I went back to the study and added in another paragraph for clarification. The researchers themselves seemed befuddled by the results. I also added in the link to the study, but you can find it here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jaime_Amaya-Farfan/publication/46576853_A_Food_Supplement_of_Hydrolyzed_Collagen_Improves_Compositional_and_Biodynamic_Characteristics_of_Vertebrae_in_Ovariectomized_Rats/links/5610350508ae6b29b49c21c8.pdf

  15. Well, you are completely awesome for getting all of this information together in one spot! So helpful!! I will have a better time explaining to my friends/fam/people why collagen is so great, thank you for this post!

  16. Hey Katie! I was wondering if you’ve done any research into alternatives for vegetarians/ vegans? I’ve read a few articles about supplementing with silica instead and was wondering if you came across anything in your research. If not, would love to see that as a future post!!

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