Ro Huntriss - EXALT Clinical Lead Dietitian - Feb 2021
Health Benefits of Collagen
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body making up about a third of all bodily protein. This structural protein is the main component in connective tissues. It is found in the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the blood vessels. It is involved in providing structure to the skin as well as helping blood to clot.
Collagen is made within the body by the consumption of a diet containing the amino acids needed to make it. It is also obtained by consuming foods that contain collagen. Collagen is found in animal products containing connective tissues such chicken and pork skin as well as bone broth. Other nutrients such as Vitamin C also aid in the production of collagen within the body. Lifestyle factors such as smoking and excessive exposure to the sun can accelerate collagen breakdown.
Benefits of collagen to health
Recently, there has been an increased interest in collagen supplements. Supplements of this protein can be found in pill or powder form and can easily be incorporated into sweet or savoury meals or drinks. Supplements are considered more absorbable as they have shorter chains of amino acids making it easier for it to be absorbed into our bloodstream.
There have been several studies showing that collagen can improve skin elasticity, skin firmness and reduce the signs of aging (1-4). In a review by Vollmer et. Al (2018) (5), it was stated that there was enough evidence to support the beneficial effects of collagen hydrolysates supplementation and skin health (5). Additionally, a review in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology by Choi et al. (2019) stated that the preliminary evidence shows promising results for the use of collagen supplements for wound healing, skin aging, skin elasticity and hydration (6).
The potential relationship between supplemental collagen and joint health has been acknowledged for some time. A review published in 2006 concluded that there was a growing body of evidence providing rational for the use of collagen supplements for patients with osteoarthritis (7), and a more recent systematic review published in 2016 concluded that collagen supplementation has a positive therapeutic effect on osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, can protect articular cartilage and provide symptomatic pain relief (8). In addition to providing benefits with those who have existing diagnosed joint conditions, a clinical trial also demonstrated improvement in joint pain of athletes following collagen supplementation suggesting that the supplementation could reduce the risk of joint degeneration in a high risk group (9).
Other health claims
There have been suggestions that collagen could help with weight management however there is insufficient evidence to support this claim when comparing collagen against other proteins. It is hypothesised that the benefits seen are due to the protein within collagen supporting satiety and weight management as opposed to a specific component of collagen offering the benefits.
The evidence base supporting the beneficial effects of collagen on health are growing. Whilst some claimed health benefits may not be sufficiently supported by evidence, the effect of collagen on skin and joint health show good promise. Future research outputs should include randomised, large-scale, long-term trials which will help us to further substantiate these claims.
1. Naoki, I., Fumihito, S., and Xuemin ,W.(2016). Ingestion of Bioactive Collagen Hydrolysates Enhance Facial Skin Moisture and Elasticity and Reduce Facial Ageing Signs in a Randomised Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Study. Journal of Food and Agriculture, 96, pp.4077-4081.
2. Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T., and Prawitt, J. (2015). The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 14(4), pp. 291-301.
3. Bolke, L., Schlippe, G., Gerß, J., and Voss, W. (2019). A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients, 11(10), pp. 2494.
4. Addor, F., Cotta Vieira, J., and Abreu Melo, C. S. (2018). Improvement of dermal parameters in aged skin after oral use of a nutrient supplement. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 11, pp. 195–201.
5. Vollmer, D. L., West, V. A., and Lephart, E. D. (2018). Enhancing Skin Health: By Oral Administration of Natural Compounds and Minerals with Implications to the Dermal Microbiome. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(10), 3059.
6. Choi, F.D., Sung, C.T., Juhasz, M.L., Mesinkovsk, N.A. (2019). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 18(1), pp. 9-16.
7. Bello, A.E. and Oesser, S. (2006). Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Current Medical Research and Opinion.22(11), pp. 2221-2232.
8. Porfírio, E. and Fanaro, G.B. (2016). Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Revista Brasileira de Geriatria e Gerontologia, 19(1), pp. 153-164.
9. Clark, K.L., Sebastianelli, W., Flechsenhar, K.R., Aukermann, D.F., Meza, F/. Millard, R.L., Deitch, J.R., Sherbondy, P.S. and 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), pp. 1485-1496.