What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein responsible for healthy joints and skin elasticity, or stretchiness. It’s in your bones, muscles, and blood, comprising three-quarters of your skin and a third of the protein in your body.
As you age, your existing collagen breaks down, and it gets harder for your body to produce more. As a result, many people turn to collagen powder or other types of collagen supplements, such as capsules, gummies, and liquids.
Collagen is also produced naturally in the body by combining amino acids, the building blocks of proteins found in food. To produce collagen, your body needs:
- Proline: found in egg whites, dairy, cabbage, mushrooms, and asparagus
- Glycine: found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, and a variety of other protein-rich foods
- Vitamin C: found in citrus fruits and bell peppers
- Zinc: found in beef, lamb, pork, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, beans, milk, cheese, and various nuts and seeds
- Copper: found in organ meats, cocoa powder, cashews, sesame seeds, and lentils
Types of Collagen
Your body contains many types of collagen. Scientists have identified a total of 29 varieties, including these 5 main types
- Type I, which gives strength to your skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons
- Type II, which makes up the flexible cartilage that helps support your joints
- Type III, found in your internal organs, blood vessels, and muscles
- Type IV, in some layers of your skin
- Type V, which is present in your corneas as well as some layers of skin and hair
Most collagen supplements contain types I, II, and III, which account for most of the collagen found in your body. They contain a digestible form of collagen called collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen.
These supplements are made from the tissues of cows, pigs, chickens, or fish. You can also buy vegan collagen powders made of bacteria and yeast. But scientists don’t know whether they have the same possible benefits as collagen from animal sources.
Collagen capsules, liquids, and gummies contain the same active ingredients as collagen powder. But the dosages will vary depending on what form you use. Some people find it easier to add collagen powder to beverages or foods than to swallow several capsules. And you may not want the added sugar found in collagen gummies.
Collagen Powder Nutrition Information
Fourteen grams of collagen peptide powder contains:
- Calories: 50
- Protein: 12 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
The same amount of collagen peptide also contains 29 milligrams of calcium, 44.9 milligrams of sodium, and 0.98 milligrams of potassium.
Collagen Powder Benefits
Because it makes up so many critical parts of our bodies, collagen is not only beneficial but essential to maintaining good health. But scientists are still debating the benefits of collagen powder and other collagen supplements. While there’s reasonable evidence that they help maintain hydrated skin and relieve osteoarthritis pain, we need more studies into less well-understood benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Here are some commonly cited benefits of collagen supplements:
Stronger bones. As you age, your bones become less dense and more brittle, breaking more easily and taking longer to heal. Some research has found that taking daily collagen powder could help make your bones denser, slowing the aging process that makes them brittle and helping your body to produce new bone.
Skin elasticity and hydration. Collagen supplements have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity for older people. They might also help to lessen wrinkles.
Thicker hair. While more men go bald, many women also have hair loss or thinning as they age. In one study, a group of women with thinning hair saw significant increases in their hair’s quantity, scalp coverage, and thickness while taking daily collagen supplements.
Healthier nails. Some people’s nails break more easily than others, and don’t grow as fast. One study in a group of women showed faster nail growth and fewer broken or chipped nails after only 4 weeks of daily collagen supplements.
Reduced osteoarthritis pain. For people with knee osteoarthritis, collagen supplements might act as a mild pain reliever and improve joint function. It may take about 3-5 months of daily treatment before you see these improvements.
Increased muscle mass. One small study found that men who took collagen peptide supplements during a 12-week strength training program saw more increases in muscle mass and strength than those who didn’t.
Improved heart health. Collagen helps keep the shape of your arteries and blood vessels. When you lack collagen, your arteries may weaken. Fragile blood vessels increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. A small study done on healthy people found that collagen powder kept arteries healthier and helped reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
Keep in mind that after you take a collagen supplement, your digestive system breaks it down into amino acids. Your body then puts these amino acids together to form new proteins. They may not contain the same amino acids that were in the supplement you took. So, no matter what the label may say, you can’t target their benefits to certain areas like skin, hair, or joints.
Potential Risks of Collagen Powder
Side effects of collagen powder, capsules, liquids, or gummies are rare. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to hold off on taking a collagen supplement for now, since there isn’t yet enough research to come to any conclusions about their safety.
The FDA doesn’t regulate collagen powder or any other type of dietary supplement. So there’s no guarantee that your collagen supplement contains the type or amount of collagen the label says it does.
There’s also a chance it could be contaminated with pesticides, bacteria, or other substances. Since collagen powders and other collagen supplements are usually made from animals, they might contain heavy metals or other toxins that can collect in animals’ bones. Always make sure you buy supplements from a reputable source.
Healthier Alternatives to Collagen Powder
The effects of collagen powder and other collagen supplements continue to be researched and debated. Instead of buying these supplements, you can always help your body make more collagen naturally by ensuring your diet is packed with healthy foods.
To produce collagen, your body puts the amino acids glycine and proline together with other amino acids including vitamin C, zinc, and copper. You can help your body produce more collagen by eating lots of glycine- and proline-rich foods like chicken, beef, fish, dairy, eggs, and beans. For vitamin C, zinc, and copper, you should also be sure to eat foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, shellfish, nuts, and whole grains.
How Much Collagen Should I Take?
Research has shown indicated that adults can safely consume between 2.5 to 15 grams of collagen a day. Read the label on your supplement to see how much it contains.
Many people take 1-2 tablespoons of collagen powder per day. You can take collagen powder by mixing it into smoothies, shakes, baked goods, soups, or even your coffee or tea.
Is there such a thing as too much collagen powder? Because collagen is basically protein, you can’t overdose on it. But excessive protein can eventually take a toll on the health of your kidneys. That’s one reason you should tell your doctor before taking any type of supplement.