What is Collagen, its Benefits and potential Side Effects
Recently, collagen and its supplements have gained tremendous popularity
among health – conscious people and experts equally. It is not only
consumed as a nutritional supplement, but now it is also widely utilized as
an essential ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products such as
shampoos, lotions, makeup items and bath products.
Since collagen and its supplements have become an important part of our
life and lifestyle choices, we thought we should explain to our readers –
what is collagen,
its uses and benefits,
collagen supplements, and
potential side effects or risks associated with taking collagen
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundantly found protein in the human body and
accounts for around one – third of its protein composition.
Collagen is hard, insoluble and fibrous proteins that are packed together to
build long and thin fibrils. It is the main structural protein present in the
connective tissues throughout your body. In other words, it is a glue that
holds your body together. Hence, it is one of the primary building blocks of
skin, muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons. It is also present in several
other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas and teeth.
Collagen has various essential functions, such as providing structure to
your skin, help tissues to withstand stretch, and giving strength to your
bones. It also means that these are those proteins that give strength and
elasticity to your skin.
Consuming adequate amounts of collagen can offer numerous health
benefits, such as improving skin health, promoting bone and muscle health
and relieving joint pains. There are several foods, such as bone broth, pork
skin, chicken, fish, egg whites, citrus fruits, and berries, that can elevate
your collagen intake. Besides these foods, having collagen supplements are
also a good way to increase collagen levels in the body. Most collagen
supplements are hydrolyzed – it means that the collagen is broken down
into smaller particles, making them simpler for the body to absorb
(Collagen supplements are explained below in this blogpost).
After the age of 60, a considerable decline in collagen production is deemed
normal by experts. Also, women after menopause experience a dramatic
reduction of collagen production in their body.
Types of Collagen –
There are 16 types of collagen found in the human body. However, 80 to 90
per cent of its total amount belongs to only four types.
These four types of collagen are –
Type – I
Type – II
Type – III, and
Type – IV.
Type – I Collagen: Type – I collagen fibrils account for almost 90 per cent
of your body’s collagen. It is formed of densely packed fibers. It gives
structure and strength to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective
tissues and teeth. This type of collagen is particularly capable of being
stretched. When compared gram for gram, Type – I collagen is even
stronger than steel.
Type – II Collagen: Type – II collagen is formed by loosely packed fibers. It
is the main collagenous component of elastic cartilage that covers and
cushions your joints.
Type – III Collagen: Type – III collagen provides support to the structure
of your muscles, arteries and organs.
Type – IV Collagen: Type – IV collagen is present in the layers of your skin
and assists in filtration.
Exogenous Collagen – The quantity and quality of collagen production
decline as individual ages, along with other factors, such as constant
exposure to UV light, smoking, poor diet and bad lifestyle choices. The
reduction of collagen production in the body results in the aging of the skin
and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on it. In addition, the skin
becomes less firm and supple as it ages. The cartilages also become weak
due to the aging process.
It is the reason that more and more people are opting for exogenous
collagen nowadays. Exogenous collagen is synthetic and needs to be
consumed from an outside source, such as supplements.
Exogenous collagen is also widely utilized for medical and cosmetic
purposes, such as repairing body tissues.
What does Collagen do in the Human Body?
Even though collagen is synthesized by various cells, it is primarily secreted
by the connective tissue cells. Collagen is constituted of amino acids that
bond together to build a triple helix structure of elongated fibril known by
the name collagen helix.
Collage is found in the extracellular matrix present in the body’s connective
tissues. Extracellular matric is an extensive and intricate network of
macromolecules that decide the physical properties of the tissues in the
In the middle layer of the skin, named the dermis, collagen creates a fibrous
network of cells known as fibroblasts, upon which new cells can develop.
As a result, it plays a crucial role in replacing and restoring dead skin cells
and healing wounds.
Some collagen provides protective coverings for vital and delicate internal
organs of the body, such as the kidneys.
Collagen is highly crucial for the structural integrity of the skin. It provides
strength, elasticity and firmness to it.
Many people consume collagen supplements to increase their collagen
intake in the diet. Collagen supplements come in the form of powder,
tablets and capsules.
Collagen supplements are constituted of different types of peptides or
amino acids. Most of them contain hydrolyzed type – I collagen derived
from bones, hides or fish scales. Hydrolyzation is the process in which the
manufacturer break down the chains of amino acids in the collagen of the
supplements into smaller units, peptides, to make it simpler and easier for
the body to absorb them and use.
The effectiveness of collagen supplements may vary from person to person
and depends on what a person uses them for. The alleged benefits of
collagen supplements are not thoroughly studied and understood by
Collagen Powder vs Pills
Collagen supplements are available in both pill and powder form. It has
very little to do with collagen and majorly to do with the way people can
The powder form of collagen supplements is typically the most preferred
option by people. Collagen powder supplement comes in loose form. You
can blend it with several food items and beverages like smoothies, juices or
water. It is prepared from bovine, porcine, chicken and marine sources. You
can get both unflavored and flavored versions of collagen powder
supplements in the market. Usually, most people prefer the unflavored
collagen powder supplement to mix it in their drinks and foods.
The collagen pills or capsules are more suitable for those people who do
not want to mix collagen in their foods or drinks. It is easier to take
collagen in pills form than in powder form – just take a collagen pill with a
glass of water. Collagen pills are filled with collagen powder. Hence, they
provide the same health benefits as the collagen powder form. However,
collagen pills may present a minor issue if you experience troubles in
digestion. It may be a little difficult for your digestive system to break down
a pill than powder. Aside from this minor con, collagen pills are just as good
an option as the collagen powder supplement.
Top Benefits of Collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, including humans. It
plays a vital role in various biological functions in the body, such as
providing structural support to connective tissues, muscles and skin. It is
responsible for providing elasticity and firmness to the skin. It is also vital
for maintaining joint and bone health.
Let’s understand the top benefits of collagen –
Collagen Benefits for Skin Health
Collagen is a substantial component of your skin and constitutes around 75
per cent of its dry weight. It plays a significant part in the strengthening of
your skin, its hydration and maintaining elasticity.
However, with age, your body slows down collagen production, and the
inner layer of your skin starts losing collagen. As a result, your skin
becomes less supple, more vulnerable to dryness, wrinkle formation and
Most people who take collagen through foods or supplements are looking
to receive its benefits for skin health. It improves the look and overall
quality of the skin by adding moisture to it and improving its elasticity. It
slows down the appearance of several signs of aging on the skin, such as
dullness of the skin, uneven skin tone, skin dryness, age spots, fine lines
The credit of wrinkle – lessening effects of collagen supplements can be
awarded to their ability to stimulate the body’s ability to build collagen on
its own. In addition, collagen supplements also promote the production of
other proteins, such as elastin and fibrillin, that help structure the skin.
Some also claim that collagen supplements can help in preventing acne and
other skin conditions, but these claims are not backed by scientific
A study in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology revealed that
women who consumed a collagen supplement for eight weeks noticed a
significant decrease in skin dryness and increased skin elasticity compared
to those who did not have the supplement.
Another study in the Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals
showed that women who drank a beverage mixed with a collagen
supplement every day for twelve weeks experienced improved skin
hydration and a substantial decrease in the depth of their wrinkles as
compared to those in the control group.
Collagen Promotes Joint Health
Collagen can promote joint health by maintaining the integrity of the
cartilage. Some pieces of evidence suggest that collagen helps by
preventing deterioration and restoring the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage
is the rubber – like padding that protects the joints.
As a person gets older, the amount of collagen lowers in his body, which
increases the risk of degenerative joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis.
Studies suggest that collagen supplements can ease the symptoms of
osteoarthritis and relieve joint pains.
A study involving 73 athletes showed that those who took around 10 grams
of collagen every day for 24 weeks experienced a substantial reduction in
joint pains while walking and other activities compared to the group who
did not have it.
Researchers believe that collagen supplements assist by accumulating in
cartilage and stimulating the tissues to produce collagen. They also
indicated that this might lead to decreased inflammation, better joint
support and increased pain relief.
Collagen Limits Bone Loss
The main constituent of bones is collagen. Collagen provides structure and
strength to the bones.
As collagen production slows down and collagen decreases in the body
when a person ages, the bone mass also deteriorates and bones become
weaker. It can cause conditions, including osteoporosis, leading to lower
bone density and a higher risk of bone fractures.
Studies have shown that consumption of collagen supplements can
substantially inhibit the bone breakdown that results in osteoporosis.
A study involving 66 women revealed that those who consumed 5 grams of
collagen for one year had an increase of up to 7 per cent in their bone
mineral density (BMD) compared to women who did not have collagen.
The results of collagen in promoting bone health are promising. However,
more studies are required to confirm the role of collagen in improving bone
Collagen Improves Muscle Mass
Muscle tissues are also composed of collagen. The protein is essential for
providing strength and proper functioning of muscles. Some evidence
indicates that collagen supplements can help improve muscle mass. Some
studies also suggest that consuming collagen can help people with
sarcopenia, which is associated with the loss of muscle mass as age
A study was conducted in which male participants took 15 grams of
collagen every day along with exercising for 12 weeks. At the end of the
study, it was found that men who took collagen with regular exercising had
a significant gain in their muscle mass and experienced increased strength
compared to those who exercised regularly but did not consume collagen.
Researchers believe that collagen help stimulates the synthesis of muscle
proteins, such as creatine, that promote muscle growth.
Though the results of investigations to confirm that collagen can boost
muscle mass are promising, more research is required in this area.
Collagen Boosts Heart Health
Researchers believe that taking adequate collagen can promote
cardiovascular health and lower the risk of heart – related diseases. This is
because collagen supports the structure of arteries that transport blood
from the heart to other parts of the body. With the deterioration of
collagen, arteries may become weak and feeble. It can result in
atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by narrowing of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack or stroke in people.
A study was conducted in this area in which 30 healthy adults consumed 16
grams of collagen every day for six months. By the end of the study, these
adults saw a significant decrease in artery stiffness and reduction of low –
density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol. The decline in stiffness of arteries
can help in boosting heart health.
Other Health Benefits of Collagen
Some people claim that having sufficient collagen may provide additional
health benefits. However, there are no extensive studies to support these
Other potential health benefits of collagen may include –
Hair and Nail Growth – Collagen can stimulate the growth of hair
and nails in people. It can also promote the strengthening of nails and
prevent them from becoming brittle.
Healthy Gut – Collagen supplements can be used to promote gut
health and treat intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.
Mental Health – Adequate levels of collagen in the body can improve
mood and ease the symptoms of anxiety.
Weight Loss – Collagen supplements can promote a faster
metabolism and speed up the process of weight loss in people.
Factors that lead to Collagen Decline in the body
There are several factors that can deplete collagen levels and lead to
collagen decline in the body. By avoiding these, you can keep your skin
beautiful and your body healthy for a longer time.
These factors include –
High Consumption of Sugars –
High consumption of sugars or high – glycemic foods can cause the insulin
levels in the body to spike, which can lead to a burst of inflammation.
Inflammation forms enzymes that can break down collagen and deplete its
The digested sugars attach themselves to the collagen through the process
of glycation to produce new molecules known as advanced glycation end
products (AGEs). AGEs destroy proteins, lower collagen levels and make
collagen weak, dry and brittle.
Many experts advise not to smoke to avoid premature aging and several
other chronic health issues.
The chemicals found in tobacco smoke can substantially destroy the
collagen and elastin proteins present in the skin. In addition, nicotine can
also narrow the blood vessels located in the outer layer of the skin. As a
result, it can compromise skin health by decreasing nutrients and oxygen
delivery to the skin.
Exposure to Sunlight –
It is proved that ultraviolet (UV) radiations in the sunlight damage, destroy
and deplete collagen levels in the skin. Exposure to UV rays can rapidly
break down collagen, harm collagen fibers and lead to the building of
Upon damage caused by UV radiations to the collagen in the dermis layer,
the skin incorrectly redevelops, leading to the appearance of lines and
wrinkles on it.
Genetics can also influence your collagen levels. It determines the amount
of collagen that your body makes or breaks. So, the chances of you having
great – looking skin are high if your parents and grandparents have good
Autoimmune Disorders –
Some autoimmune diseases, such as collagen vascular disease, can target
and destroy collagen in the skin, tissues and organs.
Aging Process –
In most cases, collagen production begins to dip when people are in their
late teens or early 20s. The process of depletion of collagen is inevitable
and outside of anyone’s control. Therefore, collagen lowers in your body
naturally as you age.
Menopause in women can affect their skin by quickly decreasing their
collagen levels. Studies reveal that most women lose around 30 per cent of
their skin’s collagen in the first five years of menopause.
Potential Side Effects of Collagen Supplements
There are only a few side effects or risks associated with taking collagen
supplements. However, consuming them as directed by a healthcare
professional is usually considered safe. You should always consult a doctor
before beginning any new collagen supplements or increasing the dosage of
an existing supplement.
The potential side effects or risks of taking collagen supplements are mild.
These may include –
Most people report that collagen supplements can leave a lingering
bad taste in the mouth.
Collagen supplements can cause digestive issues in some people,
such as a feeling of heaviness in their stomach, heartburn and
It can also cause rashes in some people.
Some collagen supplements are prepared from common food
allergens, including fish, eggs and shellfish. Those who are allergic to
these foods should avoid collagen supplements formed from these
ingredients to avoid any allergic reaction.
Other than these, collagen supplements do not pose any major health risk
and seem to be safe for most people.
The Bottom Line
Collagen and its supplements are famous for promoting the vitality,
elasticity and overall health of your skin. It also supports other areas of
your health, including bone, muscle and heart health.
Collagen is a vital protein that provides structure and strength to your skin,
muscles and bones. There are several foods and supplements that can
stimulate the synthesis of collagen protein in your body.
Collagen is associated with several health benefits. It can promote
strengthening, hydration and elasticity of your skin. It can decrease dryness
and slow down the signs of aging, such as the formation of lines, age spots
and wrinkles on the skin. Collagen can also support the increase of muscle
mass, prevention of bone loss and relief from joint pains.
Taking collagen supplements do not pose any significant health risks or
side effects. You can purchase collagen supplements from any local or