Do Collagen Supplements Work?
Type I Collagen Overview
Type I collagen is the most abundant protein in all vertebrates. It functions almost like glue forming a matrix-like structure that binds cells together, primarily in tendons, ligaments, and skin strengthing them and also providing elasticity.
It is well established and accepted in the medical community that collagen is a crucial element of having healthy joints, skin, and hair. That being said, the main argument against supplementing with collagen is that since it is a protein the enzymes in your digestive system will break down the polypeptide chains leaving you with the individual amino acids. At which point your body can either use those amino acids to reconstruct its own collagen or repurpose the amino acids for other functions in the body.
Collagen's polypeptide chains are atypical with respect to its high hydroxyproline content. And because of the uniquely high concentration of the amino acid hydroxyproline, it is thought that even though your digestive system breaks collagen down it will recognize that collagen was consumed and will likely use the amino acids to reconstruct its own collagen.
Collagen's Effect on Joint Health & Osteoarthritis
Below is an excerpt from the summary done after researchers conducted a 12-week study on the effects of type 1 collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis.
"Results reported here suggest that daily consumption of hydrolyzed type 1 collagen (hCol1) protects against cartilage loss and stimulates the production of proteoglycan by chondrocytes in injured joints. Articular chondrocyte number is also increased in the joints of mice from the hCol1 groups, possibly due to an inhibition of apoptosis in these cells. Trauma-related synovial hyperplasia is also reduced in supplemented mice, and this effect occurs in conjunction with reduced synovial TNF expression. Overall, these results suggest that hCol1 is chondroprotective and anti-inflammatory in posttraumatic OA."
Collagen's Effect on Skin Health
Collagen is quickly becoming one of the most popular supplements on the market for a couple of reasons. The first being its universal appeal. Everyone wants healthier and younger looking skin and most people have some level of joint pain they would like relief from. Combine that demand with the growing evidence for its efficacy and you start to see why it has become so popular.
Researchers have shown positive results in reversing and reducing the hallmarks of skin aging including skin dryness and fragmentation of the dermal (skin) collagen network.
Take for example this excerpt from a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
"Oral collagen peptide supplementation significantly increased skin hydration after 8 weeks of intake. The collagen density in the dermis significantly increased and the fragmentation of the dermal collagen network significantly decreased already after 4 weeks of supplementation."
Collagen's Effect on Hair & Nail Growth
Unfortunately, there is very little published research on the effect of collagen supplementation on hair and nail growth. The research that has been published tends to show little to no efficacy. And in the few instances that positive results were reported, there have been critical weaknesses in the research including, limited subjects and a lack of control groups.
There is strong evidence to support the use of type 1 collagen peptides for improving joint health and promoting younger healthier skin. While some marketers claim collagen supplements support hair and nail growth there is very little evidence to support that claim.
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