Collagen is everywhere today. Everybody you know who’s into health and wellness has talked about it. You can find it in pill forms, powder supplements, lotions, cosmetics and even gummies. What’s all the hype about, and what does it do?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up around 30-40% of all proteins. It also makes up 70-80% of the skin. It is in your bones, skin, bowels, gums, muscles, cartilage, tendons, and is carried in your blood. It’s what lets your skin stretch and keeps it smooth, it forms most of the cell matrix that holds the calcium in your bones together, maintains connective tissues, and protects internal organs.
The body produces its own collagen, but it that production starts slowing down sometime in the mid to late twenties. (Notice that the late twenties/early thirties is when most people start making “I feel old” jokes.) Habitual smoking, a junk diet, and too much sun can further slow down production.
There are supplements that can boost your collagen production even if it’s started to slow down, but first let’s talk about some of the biggest benefits of high collagen levels.
Your cartilage is mostly collagen, so lower production means gradual depletion of cartilage and accompanying joint pain. Boosting collagen production may relieve some of the arthritis symptoms. A study from 2009 found that a test group who took undenatured type II collagen for 90 days saw a 40% decrease in the arthritic pain.
Supporting skin health is probably the most widely advertised use for collagen supplements, and it’s the most outwardly visible improvement collagen can make. Most of the skin is collagen and when your production slows down it loses its elasticity. It makes all the difference between old looking and young looking. Well, a 2012 Welsh study found that regularly taking a hydrolyzed collagen supplement “leads to a significant improvement in wrinkle depth.”
May help the digestive system
Collagen is also what keeps the lining of your intestines, called the epithelium, in good repair. The consequences of a damaged epithelium include inflammatory bowel disease. There is not much research demonstrating a direct effect of collagen supplements on IBD or the so-called “leaky gut syndrome,” but it’s entirely plausible since the epithelium depends on collagen.
May reduce cellulite
Cellulite is when the subcutaneous layer of fat pushes through the connective tissue directly under the epidermis, causing a rumpled or bumpy appearance. In a six month study from 2015 researchers in Germany and Brazil found a correlation between regular collagen supplement use and significant decrease lumpy skin. There’s not a lot of research on this particular collagen application, but at least cellulite, though annoying, is no health danger.
May encourage muscle growth
Of course, like any other fitness secret, this only works if you yourself are working on it. But if you are trying to build muscle mass at the gym, you know that you have to give each muscle group a couple days of rest between workouts. Why? Because working out literally tears muscle cells, forcing them to heal stronger than they were before. And that’s where collagen comes in, because it works as a healing agent on a cellular level (it’s what binds broken bones and torn skin back together too).
Whichever of these health benefits you’re hoping to get from a collagen supplement, remember that only hydrolyzed collagen will help you. Full-sized fibrils are too big to pass into the bloodstream from the stomach wall, and the hydrolysis process breaks them down into peptides of about 5000 Da, just the right size to reach the bloodstream and start recombining into fibrils. Choose a hydrolyzed supplement like those from Prisma Natural, all of which are infused with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and other key collagen-boosting ingredients. To learn more about our products and what goes into them, see our product page.