Collagen - Is It Worth It?



Collagen supplements, bone broth, and collagen-rich foods are all the rage right now.  And why not as they are touted as the next best thing for your skin elasticity, energy level, joint pain, combating cellulite, smoothing wrinkles and they say it can even help with digestion!  But can collagen really slow down or even stop these physical aging processes?

 

Let’s start at the beginning.  Collagen is a structural protein present in skin, joints, hair, teeth, and nails.  As we age, collagen quantity and quality decline and therefore skin looks less plump, our nails become more brittle, joints hurt just a little bit more. It makes sense that supplementing our diet with additional collagen should revitalize these specific age related health issues right?

 

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  When we eat collagen, whether as a supplement or sip it as bone broth, our gut breaks it down into amino acids (the building blocks of protein).  These amino acids are then used as needed throughout the body. The body can not direct those amino acids to build more collagen and send it to a specific area of your body like your hair or your skin.  Studies have been conducted in animals suggesting that perhaps some of the components of collagen may be able to survive digestion and therefore have a positive effect on the body. Unfortunately, these studies are small and conducted by companies that could potentially benefit from the increased sales of collagen supplements.  Additionally, supplements vary widely in quality and are not regulated as rigorously as drugs and therefore should be taken with care.

 

At this point, there is simply no research to back the medicinal claims.  What we need are additional, more extensive studies by independent researchers. Collagen supplements/foods are generally safe and well-tolerated.  They provide an extra boost in your protein intake for the day but they are not a cure-all. If you like it and perceive positive outcomes then go for it (with the ok from your doctor) but at this time there are no studies supporting the advertised benefits.

 

Erika Niedernhofer, RD