October 22, 2021

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Collagen Supplements: 6 Health Benefits

4 min read
  • Benefits of collagen supplements include younger-looking skin and stronger nails. 
  • Supplementing with collagen may also improve bone and muscle strength. 
  • Supplements aren’t regulated and may have harmful ingredients; avoid while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Collagen is fibrous in structure, giving skin its firmness and elasticity. But our bodies produce less collagen as we age, which leads to wrinkles and saggy skin. That’s why some people may opt for collagen supplements.

But collagen won’t just help you keep firmer skin. Here are seven potential benefits of taking collagen supplements.

1. Keeps skin firm

Some studies have found evidence to suggest that taking collagen supplements may help skin look younger

For example, a 2019 review of 11 studies found collagen supplements may increase skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen content. While dosage and supplements varied across the studies, two had participants take 3 grams of collagen tripeptide for 4 to 12 weeks and saw a notable improvement in skin elasticity and hydration. 

However, there are no large, randomized studies that have directly compared collagen supplements’ effects to a placebo. 

Furthermore, collagen supplements may contain other, added ingredients known to improve skin like hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore, it’s hard to say if its collagen specifically that’s causing positive effects or the added ingredients. Lastly, while lab studies in mice show collagen supplements are something the body can use, it’s not clear how much of it goes to the skin.

Therefore, whether or not collagen supplements firm up skin and reduce signs of aging is still up for debate, says Rajani Katta, MD, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

2. Improves joints 

A number of studies suggest that collagen hydrolysate, a type of collagen supplement, can strengthen cartilage thereby improving symptoms of osteoarthritis. In particular, a 2019 review found collagen supplements significantly decreased stiffness associated with the condition, but did not relieve pain. 

However, research has yet to determine how long the impacts of collagen on joints could last, and what dosage is most effective, says Libby Mills, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

3. Prevents bone loss 

Collagen plays an important role in bone structure and density, but as you age that bone stops replenishing, which increases your risk for osteoporosis

In a small 2018 study of postmenopausal women, those who took 5 grams daily of a type of collagen supplement called collagen peptides saw significantly increased bone mineral density in their spine and hip, which reduces the risk of bones breaking. 

4. Builds muscle mass

Collagen may also promote lean muscle growth. In a small 2019 study, healthy young men either took 15 grams of collagen peptides within 60 minutes of their daily strength training session or just strength trained. After 12-weeks those who supplemented with collagen had a greater increase of lean muscle mass than those who only exercised.

5. Strengthens nails 

Our nails are made of the same protein found in the top layer of our skin, so it’s no surprise collagen may also benefit them. 

In fact, one small 2017 study, found participants who took 2.5 grams of collagen peptides for 24 weeks followed by a 4-week off period, saw their nails grow 12% faster and had a 42% decrease in the frequency of broken nails compared to the beginning of the study.

6. Supports heart health

Lab studies suggest that collagen can slow the buildup of the fats and cholesterol that harden arteries and lead to

heart disease
. A small 2017 study of people in Japan with cardiovascular disease found that taking collagen tripeptide, a type of collagen supplement, increased levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and reduced artery stiffness. Artery stiffness is related to an increased risk of

hypertension
, chronic kidney disease, and stroke. 

Insider’s takeaway 

Research on the benefits of collagen supplements in humans is still emerging. But initial studies suggest that it may improve the appearance of the skin, ease joint pain, and support strong bones, amongst other benefits.

When choosing a collagen supplement, look for a product with a third-party tested seal as the FDA doesn’t require that companies specify all ingredients used in supplements. 

To prevent drug interactions or other unwanted side effects, talk to your health care provider before taking any supplement, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

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