The market for collagen supplements is one of the biggest in the health industry at this point, with them being promoted for everything from joint health, through to skin care and in some less scrupulous cases even weight loss. There’s a lot of misunderstanding around what collagen actually is, what it does and how much of it you should take. That’s where this article comes in.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a fiber like protein that is used to make connective tissue in the body, it’s most important use is around the joints, ligaments and tendons, although it’s also important for bones and skin elasticity.
What Is Collagen For?
The first question we should ask is why you should take collagen at all, generally it’s most well backed for use as a joint supplement, with the most well known type of collagen for joints being type ii as this is the type used in your skins ligamints, although this isn’t usually what collagen supplements mean if they’re selling themselves simply as collagen. As for the impact of supplementing collagen on skin health, this is a little more debatable although the evidence does show that it seems to have a mildly positive effect. As for weight loss, this is simply not true.
How Much Is Too Much Collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein, and as most people need 60 grams or more per day, it’s not too likely that anybody is going to get into the realms of severe issues anytime soon, with the exception of people who are allergic to collagen taken from shellfish for example.
That’s not to say there are no side effects of too much collagen though, just that normally they’re not all too serious. The most common collagen side effect is nausea and stomach distress, although this is pretty common across the board when it comes to supplements. Indigestion is also a pretty common reported issue.
In general the main issue you’re likely to have with collagen is if you’ve had an allergic reaction, and this is of course entirely possible, so if you have any allergies you should make sure to check the source of the collagen before you consume it.
Should I take Collagen Every Day?
It is perfectly safe to take collagen every day with the exclusion of the potential issues that we’ve mentioned above. Generally speaking it’s recommended that you don’t exceed 15grams per day, although it’s relatively unlikely that many people will be doing this.
However, if you are taking any medication it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first, particularly if you’re taking a mixed blend supplement that doesn’t just contain collagen.
How Does The Body Absorb Collagen?
As we age our bodies stop producing as much collagen naturally which is why more and more people look to take collagen supplements. The question is of course can the body absorb collagen supplements at all, and the answer is that it can absorb some of them through the stomach, but not all types of collagen make it through the stomach without being broken down. Type ii collagen for example, which is often promoted for joints, doesn’t make it through the stomach very well, with almost all of it being broken down. Some studies have shown that when mixed with Hyaluronic Acid  and it does work very well when injected directly into the site of the issue, but you can’t absorb it very well orally as other options like glucosamine can be.
It also can’t be absorbed through the skin, despite what many anti wrinkle creams would like to suggest as the molecules are simply too big to penetrate the skin.
What Are The Actual Benefits Of Collagen?
Well the benefits of collagen come more from taking in the amino acids in the collagen itself which is broken down in the stomach and this is largely only for people who are deficient in certain building blocks of protein to begin with. That being said, a lot of people, especially vegans, don’t have diets which contain all of the different amino acid types that humans need and in these cases the main benefits of collagen are that it can improve:
- Hair quality and growth
- Reduce joint stiffness and pain
- Speed up healing
- Wrinkle reduction
- Improve Digestion
Although wrinkle reduction and hair improvements are less well backed with them seeming to work for far less people. And remember there are different types of collagen and usually much better options for joints, skin and other health issues.
1 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25786729/