Are Collagen Powders Beneficial? The research on collagen supplements is still evolving, though some studies have shown promise for certain situations. It’s helpful to understand that “our bodies do not directly absorb collagen in powder form to be used immediately by our skin, bones, and joints. Rather, our bodies break collagen in powder form down into amino acids (the building blocks of collagen). These are then used by the body, along with zinc, vitamin C, and copper, to re-synthesize collagen, which can then be used by the body,” says Adams. Therefore, prioritize consuming enough protein and other nutrients that support collagen production. Collagen powders are often a good source of protein and provide the amino acids our bodies need to create collagen. In general, human studies looking at the health and appearance benefits of collagen are small, short, and conducted in very specific groups of people (often older women). Larger and longer studies are needed to support recommending collagen powders for these benefits. It’s also important to note that there haven’t been any studies to support the use of collagen supplements for improving gut health. There are 28 types of collagen, but the most common types are types I through IV, with type I making up almost 90% of the collagen found in our bodies.67 Collagen supplements may benefit: Skin appearance. Some studies have shown that oral collagen—types I and III—improve skin appearance and elasticity. The benefits seem to be more pronounced in older women (usually post-menopausal) whose skin has sun damage.85 Other studies have shown that various forms—bovine (cow), porcine (pig), and marine (fish)—may improve elasticity and reduce wrinkles.9105 Hair and nail strength. Results from small studies show that collagen supplements may improve brittle nails or increase nail growth.115 But other studies have shown no benefit.12 Since our hair is primarily made of keratin, and many of the amino acids found in keratin are also found in collagen, it’s plausible that consuming collagen could support hair growth. A small study supports this theory, where those who supplemented with oral collagen for 12 weeks had hair that appeared thicker and had less breakage.12 Bone density in post-menopausal women. Most research on the benefits of collagen on bone density has been in animals, but one small study among post-menopausal women with decreased bone density did see a benefit to taking 5 g of collagen peptides per day.13 Those with joint pain. Collagen may reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.14 It’s also been shown to reduce activity-related joint pain and improve joint movement.152 Pregnant and breastfeeding people. “Currently, there is limited research on the safety of taking collagen powders during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. However, at the moment there are no known side effects of using collagen powder during pregnancy or while breastfeeding,” says Adams. Protein needs are higher in the later stages of pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and new research suggests that breastfeeding people may need up to 1.7 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is similar to the needs of serious athletes.16 Collagen powders may be a helpful way for some people to meet those higher needs. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, always consult with a healthcare provider before adding a supplement, and be sure to choose one that is third-party verified by a reputable source, so you know it doesn’t contain any potentially harmful ingredients.

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