Collagen peptide supplements have become all the rage in recent years. With claims of eliminating joint pain and smoothing skin, hair and nails, who wouldn’t want to give this versatile protein powder a try?
Collagen is a protein found throughout the body. It’s a strong molecule, making up tendons and ligaments, the flexible matrix of bone and teeth, joint cartilage, connective tissue, arteries, skin and hair. Because it can be found in all these places in the body, collagen supplementation sounds like a panacea. Do the claims – and potential – actually live up to the hype?
Before jumping on the collagen cure-all bandwagon and recommending it to all my clients, I scoured the scientific literature for nuggets of truth in the claims. Here’s is my attempt at summarizing the answers I found to my questions in 500 words or less:
Regarding joint health:
Collagen supplements increase production of hyaluronic acid, a major component of the synovial fluid that lubricates our joints and other tissues, allowing them to slide across each other. In a small study with 97 participants, collagen supplements were shown to improve joint pain. Interestingly, the longer the subjects took the supplement, the less impact it had. This suggests that taking collagen supplements may help maintain joint health, and be helpful for people with joint pain or osteoarthritis but it likely won’t resolve the issue completely (1).
Another study explored the impact of collagen supplements on rheumatoid arthritis and found that it reduced joint swelling and tenderness (2).
Regarding hair skin and nails:
In the body, collagen stimulates cell proliferation (reproduction) and accelerated cell migration to the skin (3).
After 90 and 180 days of taking a collagen supplement, women with thinning hair had more growth, volume, scalp coverage, and shine. They also found greater moisture retention and smoothness to their skin (4). Skin dryness and breaking down of the collagen matrix in the skin are hallmark signs of aging. Oral collagen increases the density of collagen in the skin after 8 weeks of supplementation (5).
Collagen cannot confer benefits when used topically, however, so save your money on skin care products listing collagen as one of the ingredients. The molecule is just too large to be absorbed through skin cells.
Collagen supplements may be helpful with nails that break or peel, or simply don’t grow. Taking supplements for 24 weeks improved nail health in a study on brittle nail syndrome. These benefits persisted even a month after supplements were discontinued (6).
If you’re interested in adding collagen supplements to your health regimen, here are a few things to keep in mind:
One thing that appeals to me about this supplement is its versatility. You can add protein powder to smoothies or roll these delicious Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites, blend it up in your bullet coffee or stir it into a glass of water. It’s tasteless and very versatile.
Have you tried using collagen? What did you notice? What are your favorite collagen recipes?
1) Clark KL1, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. 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; 2008 May 24(5):1485-96.
2) Trentham DE, Dynesius-Trentham RA, Orav EJ, Combitchi D, Lorenzo C, Sewell KL, Hafler DA, Weiner HL. Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30.
3) Lee SK, Posthauer ME, Dorner B, Redovian V, Maloney MJ. Pressure ulcer healing with a concentrated, fortified, collagen protein hydrolysate supplement: a randomized controlled trial. Advanced Skin Wound Care. 2006 Mar;19(2):92-6
4) Ablon, G. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. Journal for Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 28–34.
5)Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. 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. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301.
6) Hexsel D, Zague V, Schunck M, Siega C, Camozzato FO, Oesser S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 2017 Dec;16(4):520-526.