Woman with a youthful and glowing skin gently touching her face

The Ultimate Guide to Collagen – Sources, Benefits, Tips, and Precautions

Collagen plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of multiple body tissues and organs, including bones, skin, cartilage, and ligaments. It acts as a natural glue in the human body and gives specific tissues and organs their strength and elasticity. For this reason, low collagen reserves can increase your risk of heart disease and lead to collagen-related diseases.

Knowing about the best sources of collagen and their benefits to the body can help you become more proactive in maintaining adequate collagen reserves. More importantly, you may need to understand more about collagen supplements and their side effects. This knowledge can help you determine whether to go for collagen-rich foods or supplements in your quest to boost collagen reserves.

What happens to collagen production as we age?

In most cases, young people can produce more collagen to replenish declining reserves. They just need an adequate supply of specific amino acids and collagen builders such as vitamin C to replenish their stores.

As one gets older, the collagen reserves start to decline. Collagen production also begins to break down, and the body is unable to replace the lost collagen. This situation can lead to age-related skin wrinkling, thinning, and dryness. It can also cause bone density, cartilage, ligaments, and other connective tissue to deteriorate. At this point, people may develop collagen-linked diseases.

As a result, they might start taking collagen supplements to improve their skin elasticity, appearance, and hydration. A recent study that found that taking as low as 2.5 grams of an oral collagen supplement daily results in better skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. This means that people with poor skin health can take collagen supplements to boost their skin outcomes.

Even so, supplements are not the only option. Older people should explore collagen-rich foods as their first choice. They can also take supplements and collagen-rich foods together to ensure their bodies get different types of collagen.

The Best Sources of Collagen

Collagen-rich food sources

Collagen comes from different sources. One of the best ways to increase collagen in the body is by consuming collagen-rich foods.

Bone broth is by far the best source of collagen. One just needs to boil animal bones, ligaments, cartilage, and other connective tissue to produce a rich broth.

A plate with fresh bones for making collagen-rich bone broth

Even so, bone broth is not the only collagen-rich food. Some more collagen-rich foods include meat, egg white, fish with skin, cashews, avocados, berries, citrus fruits, bell peppers, soy, tomatoes, chicken, papaya, sesame seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, oysters, leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, and beans.

Some of these foods do not directly provide collagen. Instead, they support its production in the body. For instance, foods containing glycine, proline, and vitamin C can help promote collagen synthesis in the body. They are very useful in boosting collagen reserves in the young and old.

Collagen supplements as a collagen booster

Collagen supplements can help boost your collagen reserves. The manufacturers of these products hydrolyze or break collagen into peptides to facilitate their uptake in the body.

One can buy collagen supplements in the form of powders, tablets, or capsules. They are readily available online on leading eCommerce sites such as Amazon.

The type of collagen supplement you purchase depends on your objective and whether you prefer collagen peptides or collagen builders.

How Do Collagen Peptides Differ From Collagen Builders?

Collagen is not easily digestible in its natural form because it consists of tough connective fibers or tissue.

However, collagen supplement manufacturers break it down into smaller and easy-to-digest units known as collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen currently sold in shops and stores worldwide.

Collagen peptides are supplements derived from animal-based connective tissue such as fish scales, cartilage, and bovine skin. However, the connective tissue has been broken down into easily-to-absorb units.

By contrast, collagen builders do not have any type of collagen in them. Instead, they contain nutrients that help the body produce more collagen.

Collagen builders appear best suited for vegans, given that no plant-based collagen exists at the moment. You might also consider this option if you have allergies to animal products such as shellfish, fish, or eggs.

If you determine that a collagen peptide or builder is the right product for you, you can easily find it on the internet or at a supermarket near you.

The Different Types of Collagen Supplements

Some supplement brands contain different types of collagen such as eggshell, bovine, and marine collagen.

Specific brands also take their products a notch higher and fortify them with collagen-boosting ingredients such as vitamin C, biotin, glycine, and hyaluronic acid. Thus, you can choose different varieties of collagen supplements depending on your needs.

Collagen supplements come in flavored or unflavored forms. Unflavored collagen peptides do not have any taste or odor and appear colorless.

By contrast, flavored collagen supplements have natural or artificial flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, caramel, peach mango, and berry lemon.

The choice between flavored and unflavored collagen supplements will depend on how you intend to use this supplement. For instance, an unflavored collagen supplement is better if you plan to add it to your coffee, smoothie, tea, or yogurt.

In such a case, it is not likely to compromise the natural flavor of your beverage. On the other hand, flavored collagen powders can come in handy if you want to add them to water.

Health Benefits of Collagen

1. Collagen improves joint and bone health

Collagen is a key ingredient for the development and maintenance of healthy joints.

It is a critical component of ligaments, cartilage, bones, and other connective tissue responsible for keeping your joints in good shape. Therefore, you should always have an adequate supply of this protein to guarantee musculoskeletal integrity.

Beyond this, collagen supplements have added advantages. They improve bone density in men and postmenopausal women because they contain calcium.

As a result, they can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other bone disorders associated with declining calcium reserves and advancing age.

2. Collagen boosts skin health and gives a youthful glow

Collagen also contributes to better skin health. In particular, it helps maintain well-hydrated, elastic, thick, and glowing skin. It further provides anti-aging properties. Thus, taking adequate collagen helps prevent fine lines and skin wrinkles.

However, collagen does not just confer anti-aging benefits. It can help treat dermatological conditions such as pressure ulcers, cellulite, and xerosis. It achieves this objective by improving skin hydration, wound healing, skin elasticity, and dermal collagen density.

3. Collagen leads to better arthritis outcomes

Collagen is a vital component of healthy joints. As a person ages, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other degenerative joint disorders might significantly impact mobility and the quality of life.

However, taking gelatin, undenatured, or hydrolyzed collagen supplements can benefit people with arthritis. They provide a good dose of collagen and help with pain relief, joint stiffness, and swelling.

Bone broth is also a rich source of collagen. However, collagen peptides might be a better choice because they supply the body with specific amino acids that help improve joint integrity. Multi-collagen supplements further add variety to the diet.

Taking 10 mg of collagen supplements is enough to confer the benefits noted above and can lead to a more quality life for people with arthritis.

4. Collagen improves nail growth

Brittle nail syndrome is a significant concern among women. It makes nails ragged, thin, weak, dry, and fragile. In addition, the nails become more susceptible to peeling and surface roughness.

Taking collagen peptides boosts nail growth and strength. It also reduces the incidence of broken and split nails and improves their overall appearance. Thus, collagen supplements can help women and men keep their nails strong and healthy.

5. Collagen promotes hair growth

Collagen is a crucial ingredient of healthy hair. It provides the specific amino acids that help form keratin, a protein responsible for hair growth and regeneration. Collagen also promotes hair follicle growth and repair after they get damaged.

Taking collagen supplements further keeps the scalp dermis intact and elastic. It helps prevent hair loss and other problems that affect hair growth.

Collagen supplements fortified with biotin and zinc also have an added advantage because they improve hair growth and regeneration. They help boost alopecia outcomes because this hair disorder is sometimes linked to biotin and zinc deficiencies.

A scalp with hair loss in the frontal region

6. Collagen improves heart and vascular health

Collagen is a major component of blood vessels. It strengthens them and boosts their capacity to withstand blood pressure changes in the circulatory system.

Collagen also keeps blood vessels elastic and allows them to transport blood across the body with little resistance.

Taking the right amount of collagen can help prevent the rupture of atherosclerotic plaques while minimizing the risk of developing arterial stenosis.

Having inadequate collagen in the body makes atherosclerotic plagues more susceptible to rupture and can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. However, collagen supplements can change this and improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Tips for Taking Collagen Powders/Supplements

One should take collagen peptides consistently to see results. Taking collagen every day while keeping the intake within the recommended levels helps boost outcomes.

Several studies show that one should take 2.5-10 grams of collagen supplement to achieve observable results.

A person taking collagen supplements should start seeing favorable outcomes after at least 4 weeks, although this might take longer depending on the dose and age.

People who work out can safely take collagen and protein powder together to help their bodies recover faster. Mixing these two powders helps build muscles and makes bones stronger.

Collagen peptides or powders work well with smoothies, juices, soups, tea, milk, yogurt, and coffee. They are highly soluble in liquid drinks and do not gelatinize at ambient temperatures.

Hot coffee will also not destroy collagen protein at normal brewing temperatures. Most collagen peptides have also already undergone denaturation and hydrolysis. Therefore, hot liquids will not affect their structure and bioavailability.

Side Effects of Taking Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements appear safe when taken in the recommended quantity. However, they might cause untoward side effects in some people. For instance, collagen peptides might cause constipation and gastrointestinal bloating due to their high calcium content.

Starting with a smaller dose of a collagen supplement is often advised. It helps assess tolerance to constipation. One can then gradually increase the dose to the recommended intake for better outcomes.

Collagen supplements also cause heartburn, fatigue, allergies, and a bad taste in the mouth. Fatigue is often a consequence of too much calcium in the body. However, reducing the dose can improve outcomes.

Collagen peptides are not likely to cause liver damage. In fact, glycine, a building block for collagen, helps relieve liver injury. Taking collagen supplements might, however, cause kidney stones in people at a high risk of this disease.

On the other hand, consuming collagen in moderate amounts can reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Is Collagen Supplement Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant mothers can take collagen supplements without any risks to them or their babies. These supplements can actually support growth and development throughout the pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

They can supply glycine and other amino acids to the baby and the mother and help keep their tendons, joints, and skin healthy.

Our Top Picks for the Best Collagen Supplements

Best Unflavored Collagen Supplement: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder

Best Flavored Collagen Supplement: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder

Best Collagen Supplement For Vegans/Vegetarians: Garden of Life Vegan Collagen Builder

Best Fortified Collagen Supplement: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C

Best Liquid Collagen Supplement: NeoCell Collagen Peptides + Vitamin C Liquid

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