What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body made up of chains of amino acids. It is continually produced in our body and forms the structural framework, providing strength and tensile properties to tissues like skin, bone, cartilage, tendons, muscles and organs. There are about 28 types of collagen in our body but three primary types tend to dominate; namely Type I, II and III.
Before we go into the benefits of collagen supplements, it’s necessary to know that all collagen is sourced from animals, so it’s a big no for vegans. Commonly collagen is derived from marine (fish), bovine (cow), porcine (pig) or from chicken.
Purported benefits of oral collagen based on research
Promotes healthy skin – Skin is considered as the largest organ in the body and is composed of mainly collagen, providing strength and hydration. As we age collagen production decreases leading to wrinkles and dryness. However, several studies have shown that collagen supplements may help slowing the aging process by reducing wrinkles and dryness.
Relieves joint pains – Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects joints. There is wear and reduction of collagen synthesis as we age, leading to risk of developing osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce overalljoint pain and mobility.
Prevents osteoporosis – Collagen provides strength to bones and is reduced as we age and so doesbone mass. This may lead to conditions called osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone density leading higher risk of bone fractures. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have certain effects in the body that help inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.
Improves muscle mass – About 10% of muscle is composed of collagen. This protein is necessary to keep your muscles strong and functioning properly. Studies suggest that collagen supplements help boost muscle mass in people with sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass that happens with age.
Side effects of collagen supplements
The collagen supplements market is not regulated as is for medications, as it is categorized under ‘food supplements’. So beware of the source, ingredients, potency and the additives.
Though side effects are not common, the most commonly reported side effects are increased calcium levels in blood (hypercalcemia), constipation, fatigue and allergy to collagen proteins. Other undesirable aspects are bloating, bad after taste, and meat/fish smell of the supplement. Before taking any supplements, make sure to discuss with your health care provider about any possible side effect unique to your health history
For many, supplementing with collagen can be something of a mild fountain of youth in how it affects the body. Somebody with skin starting to wrinkle, hair starting to thin, arthritis pain and poor circulation will benefit greatly from collagen supplementation. Even if few health benefits are gained by the user, cosmetic improvements can boost confidence, which will not only transfer over and be reflected in the person’s performance at the gym, but will reflect in their day-to-day life. So – is collagen worth it? As long as the supplementation is monitored and the supplementation is done safely, collagen is definitely worth it.