Most of us have been told at some time we should be taking some collagen – either in our food or in supplements. But we’re often unsure as to why we need this extra boost of collagen. What are the real benefits of collagen and do we really need to consume it?
We asked Libby Babet, the Co-Founder of Beauty Food, why collagen is so important in our foods or supplements. Babet has researched this area of health a great deal and she was so inspired by what she found out about the benefits of collagen, she set up her company so she could provide healthy food with added collagen.
She also gave us her Top 5 Health Benefits of Taking Collagen and we’ve listed these below.
So what is collagen?
According to Babet, technically, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s found in your hair, your skin, your nails, and is the main protein in your connective tissue, which basically connects your whole body.
As Babet says: “An easy way to explain it is to think of your connective tissue as a wet sponge. You can stretch it, you can pull it… it’s pretty elastic. But when it’s not in good health, it’s like a dry sponge that’s been sitting on the windowsill for a week; it’s not as hydrated, it’s not as bouncy, it’s not as full. And as a result, it doesn’t function as well and you appear older.”
“As you get older, your collagen production reduces, which is why young people have bouncy, full skin and as you get older your skin seems less elastic. This is the same with the collagen that helps your hair, skin and nails stay healthy. So, the more you can boost your collagen levels, the younger you will look and feel. That’s why collagen supplementation is great as you get older because it actually provides a daily source of what your body is creating less of and it makes you look fresher and younger,” she adds.
Babet says drinking bone broth is one way to increase your collagen intake – and this has become very popular over the past few years. But more recently we’ve seen a lot of powders and snack bars/bites which incorporate collagen in their ingredients, making it a lot easier to consume some collagen.
If we consume collagen, what are the benefits?
We asked Babet what are her Top 5 Health Benefits of taking collagen and she gave them to us, complete with science-backed, research links provided at the end of this story.
1. Look younger (skin, hair, nails)
Most of the research I’ve seen is focused on skin, and several studies have shown that consuming collagen may help slow the signs of aging by reducing wrinkles and dryness. Researchers attribute this to the ability of collagen supplements to stimulate your body to produce collagen on its own. Also, collagen supplements may promote the production of elastin and fibrillin, proteins that help structure your skin.
In one study, researchers found that women who consumed a drink mixed with a collagen supplement daily for 12 weeks experienced better skin hydration and a significant reduction in wrinkle depth compared with the control group. This was backed up by another study which showed women who took a supplement containing 2.5–5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks had a significant increase in skin elasticity compared with those who didn’t.
I haven’t yet seen comprehensive research on nails and hair, however some research suggests that collagen improves the quality of hair by boosting levels of keratin. Anecdotal evidence suggests collagen supplementation may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness and may stimulate your hair and nails to grow longer. It makes sense as collagen, along with keratin, is the major protein in your nails and hair.
Some say that collagen supplements help prevent skin conditions including acne, but I haven’t seen any evidence for this.
2. Improved joints and tendons
There are a few studies that show supplementing with collagen may help reduce joint pain by improving the collagen levels in cartilage and stimulating your tissues to make its own collagen. Researches think this may lead to lower inflammation, better support of your joints, and reduced pain.
One study had 73 athletes consuming 10 grams of collagen per day for 24 weeks, who had a significant decrease in joint pain compared with the control group. Another study had people consume 2 grams of collagen per day for 70 days, and they had a significant reduction in joint pain compared with the control group.
The studies suggest that to get an effect, you should consume 8–12 grams of collagen per day. That’s why Beauty Food has 8g and Chief Collagen Bars have 12g of collagen.
Up to 10% of our muscle tissue is made of collagen so it makes sense there would be an effect here if we’re seeing it in other parts of the body. One study showed men who took 15 grams of collagen per day as part of a program for 12 weeks gained significantly more muscle mass and strength. These men were considered “frail” so the results may be more pronounced, but it’s a good indication of the impact collagen can have.
Researchers believe this may be due to collagen increasing the synthesis of creatine and stimulating muscle growth.
4. Help prevent osteoporosis
Our bones get their structure and strength from collagen. Just like collagen in your body deteriorates as you age, so does bone mass which can lead to osteoporosis.
Studies show that taking collagen supplements may help inhibit the bone breakdown. One study had women take either a calcium supplement plus 5 grams of collagen, OR a calcium supplement only for 12 months. At the end of the study, the women taking calcium plus collagen had significantly lower blood levels of proteins that cause bone breakdown. In a similar study, women who took collagen supplements showed an increase of up to 7% in their bone mineral density.
5. Gut health
While there’s no research showing collagen improves gut health, some health experts use collagen supplements to treat leaky gut syndrome. I’m keeping my eye on this one as I see a lot of people with gut issues!
What else should you know about consuming collagen?
Babet warns that when you’re consuming collagen the number one rule is to avoid combining it with sugar: “Sugar competes with Vitamin C which is important to absorbing the collagen. That’s why our Beauty Food bites are low sugar and infused with Vitamin C,” she says.
As a special offer, Beauty Food have given us a code you can use if you want to try some of their products. Just go to Beauty Food and use the code CAROUSEL to get $20 off your first order!
Resources for the Top 5 Health Benefits of Taking Collagen