Have you heard about collagen? Whether you’re familiar with the term and what it means or not, you likely use or ingest collagen without even realizing it, and collagen benefits your body in many ways. Lotions, cosmetics, creams and supplements often contain collagen, and these products put it to work to deliver better health to your body and skin. Collagen protein offers a natural, healthy way to achieve and maintain a youthful appearance, allowing people to preserve or recapture the beauty and vitality of their younger years.
But just what is collagen, where does it come from, and how does it work?
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the single-most abundant protein in the body, comprising one-third of total proteins, and it forms the structural foundation upon which beauty is built. At least 16 different types of collagen exist, but most of the collagen in the body — 80 to 90 percent — is type I, II or III collagen. It’s a key building block that helps make up our skin, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, blood and even our bones.
Our bodies naturally produce much of the collagen protein we need, but over time collagen production slows down with age. Lifestyle choices can also impede our collagen production; unhealthy eating habits, too much time in the sun and smoking can sabotage our body’s ability to produce collagen, as can certain health conditions.
Furthermore, the collagen fibers in our bodies can become damaged with the passage of time, causing them to lose their strength and thickness. Damaged collagen or a lack of collagen can leave our bodies more susceptible to wrinkles, sagging skin, joint pain and other unpleasant side effects. Fortunately, adding collagen to our bodies, whether topically or by ingesting it, can have a positive effect and deliver certain benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Collagen?
As a fibrous protein of the extracellular matrix, collagen supports tissues (including skin), and it supports hair and nails. It’s rich in amino acids like glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. These amino acids help provide collagen’s characteristic fiber-like structure and provide rigidity and resistance to stretching. Human studies show that collagen protein supports skin health by promoting elasticity and hydration. These important benefits aid in promoting and maintaining a more youthful appearance.
In addition to helping our bodies look younger, collagen can offer the following benefits:
- Support for skin. Collagen provides structure to skin, as well as elasticity and hydration. Collagen peptides have benefits that include reducing the dryness and wrinkles in aging skin. What’s more, taking collagen for skin health can actually cause our bodies to produce more collagen on their own, as well as other proteins such as elastin and fibrillin, which also lend structure to the skin.
- Support for hair and nails. Other collagen peptides benefits may include stronger nails and increased hair and nail growth.
- Support for joints. Just as collagen protein can help your skin keep its structure and elasticity, it does the same for the cartilage in our joints. Osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint disorders can strike as the amount of collagen in our bodies decreases. And taking collagen supplements may help to reduce joint pain and improve other symptoms of osteoarthritis. Studies have shown a significant reduction in joint pain among those who took between two and 10 grams of collagen daily.
- Support for bones. Bones are primarily made of collagen — which is why bones are also an excellent source of it. However, as we age, our bone mass decreases, in part because the collagen in our bodies deteriorates. Low bone density and osteoporosis may result. Taking collagen supplements has been shown to improve bone mineral density in multiple studies, so it’s possible that collagen supplements could help fight against bone breakdown and reduce the risk of bone disorders.
- Support for muscle. Collagen doesn’t play as key a role in muscle as it does in bones and joints, but even so, between one and 10 percent of our muscle tissues are made up of collagen, and collagen helps to keep them working efficiently. Collagen supplements have been seen in studies to help boost muscle mass in elderly patients as they exercised, compared to the patients who exercised but did not take collagen supplementation.
- Support for the heart. Collagen provides structure to our arteries, helping them transport blood throughout our bodies. As collagen deteriorates, our arteries lose some of that structure. Adults who took a collagen supplement for six months as part of a study experienced reduced artery stiffness over the course of the study. They also experienced a healthy increase in HDL cholesterol.
- Support for gut health. While research isn’t in place yet to back this claim, some medical professionals believe that collagen supplements may help treat intestinal permeability.
It’s clear to see that collagen benefits can help you not only look younger but also feel younger. Collagen is a major structural component of cartilage, and it also helps replenish the structure of both ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints. Studies show that collagen consumption can help reduce joint pain associated with aging and can also lower the risk of joint deterioration. It may also support joint mobility, and preliminary studies show that collagen may support gut health by positively influencing gut barrier function.
How Can You Add Collagen to Your Diet?
Collagen is found in the connective tissues and bones of animals. You can increase the amount of collagen in your diet in a few easy ways:
1. Eat gelatin
Gelatin is collagen once it’s been cooked, so eating gelatin gives your body more collagen. Gelatin can be used in a number of recipes involving broths, stews, jams, fruit snacks, and, of course, Jell-O. You can buy pre-made gelatin snacks, or you can buy powdered gelatin to add to your diet.
2. Eat bone broth
As its name suggests, bone broth is made from bones. You can buy bone broth or make your own at home; it comes as a liquid or as a powder that can be reconstituted and used in recipes such as soups and Vietnamese pho. You can also try using it to flavor grains or add moisture to leftovers. Whether you have it alone or as part of a larger meal, bone broth can deliver plenty of nutrients, including collagen, to your body.
3. Take supplements
Collagen peptides are found in a number of collagen supplements, and they’re one of the easiest ways to increase your collagen intake. Supplements containing collagen peptides have the amino acids found in collagen already broken down, so your body can digest and absorb them more easily for maximum results.
It’s important to note that while gelatin and bone broth both contain a lot of collagen, it’s unclear how much collagen is absorbed into the body when you eat collagen-rich foods. More research is needed to see whether eating collagen-rich foods is a truly effective way to enjoy the benefits of collagen. However, research has shown that collagen peptides found in supplements are effective at delivering collagen to the body, perhaps because the collagen is already hydrolyzed and is more easily absorbed.
Nature’s Sunshine’s premium Collagen peptides is a clean, effective source of pure protein. Studies have shown that when collagen hydrolysate is taken orally, it is absorbed as di- and tripeptides (two or three amino acids) typically rich in hydroxyproline. These smaller peptides are believed to enter circulation and reach target tissues like skin or cartilage where they help support collagen-producing cells (fibroblasts).
Does Taking Collagen Really Work?
Collagen supplements can deliver more collagen to your body, but if your body already gets all of the collagen it needs then adding more won’t necessarily help you. However, research shows that collagen supplements can be helpful for many people, particularly if they are older or have conditions such as arthritis.
A 2017 study demonstrated that collagen peptides benefits included improved skin laxity, repaired collagen fibers, increased collagen content and normalized ratios of collagen types — in other words, collagen peptides worked to combat skin aging.
In another study from 2014, collagen hydrolysate was studied for its effectiveness on skin elasticity, moisture and roughness. The eight-week study showed statistically significantly higher skin elasticity in the subjects who took the collagen hydrolysate.
Are There Side Effects to Taking Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements don’t carry as many risks as many other types of non-collagen supplements. With collagen supplements, the biggest thing to watch for is an allergy, as the protein sources used to derive the collagen can include common food allergens such as fish, shellfish and eggs. Other side effects may include a lingering bad taste in the mouth, feelings of fullness and heartburn.
Be sure to check the collagen sources being used in any collagen supplements you purchase to make sure you’re not at risk for an allergic reaction.
Why Use Nature’s Sunshine Collagen Supplements?
Unlike most collagen products, NSP Collagen is sourced from only the finest, grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. This ensures that you receive the highest quality, natural, sustainably-sourced collagen in the world. Nature’s Sunshine Collagen is quality you can see and feel, and it’s non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, Keto-friendly and Paleo-friendly.
Nature’s Sunshine’s premium Collagen peptides are odorless, tasteless and mix easily into any hot or cold beverages, smoothies or foods. They are easily integrated into any daily wellness program. Stir 1 scoop into any beverage (coffee, tea, water, fruit juice, etc.), or add it to your favorite recipes. Use daily for best results.
Collagen affords many benefits. While collagen is found in our bodies in abundance, it breaks down over time. Adding collagen to the diet can help us experience better health in our skin, nails, joints, bones and more.
Collagen peptides are the most readily absorbed form of collagen, and they can be found in collagen supplements such as collagen powder. To enjoy collagen benefits without adverse side effects, check any collagen product you purchase to make sure you don’t have an allergy to any of its ingredients.