Collagen benefits (studies)

Collagen is a structural protein important for normal skin, bones, cartilage, muscle, ligaments, and tendons function (Avila Rodríguez et al., 2018). Collagen is involved in various body functions; thus, many studies attempt to review the benefits of collagen. In this article, we will summarise trials from those areas, from which the evidence is most reliable.

 

Collagen and skin

Collagen is linked to improved skin health. In the systematic review, Barati et al. (2020) assessed 10 randomized control trials on collagen and skin. 9 of those trials were performed on healthy subjects, 1 involved systemic sclerosis patients. All trials indicated that hydrolysed collagen improved skin health parameters, including moisture, elasticity, wrinkle number, roughness. Doses ranged from 1 to grams per day, 5 trials lasted for 8 weeks, 4 trials – for 12 weeks. The study with systemic sclerosis patients lasted the longest, for 12 months, and participants took 500 micrograms of intact collagen supplements. Modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS) defines skin thickness and the progress of the disease; patients who were in the late stage of systemic sclerosis (had the diagnosis for 3-10 years) had a significant improvement in MRSS compared to the control group. Therefore, collagen supplementation can have beneficial effects on both healthy individuals and patients with serious diseases.

Collagen and joints

One of the major components in cartilage, which covers and protects joints, is collagen. With exercising and ageing cartilage in joints start losing elasticity, and diseases, such as osteoarthritis, may develop. By acting at the target tissues that are the cause of the pain, collagen can improve joints-related problems, such as knee pain. Zdzieblik et al. (2017) conducted a randomized control trial on physically active adults who were active at least 3 hours per week. The results indicated that 5 grams of hydrolysed collagen in 12 weeks helped to reduce physical activity-related knee pain. Similar results were found in another trial, where 24 weeks participants consumed 10 grams of hydrolysed collagen, and also reported the reduction in knee pain (Clark et al., 2008). In several trials, collagen helped to decrease knee pain linked to osteoarthritis, improved mobility (Benito-Ruiz et al., 2009; Lugo et al., 2016). The specific mechanism of action on how collagen works on joints is unknown; supposedly, collagen may decrease inflammatory processes and stimulate the production of cartilage matrix components (Lugo et al., 2016). The intracellular matrix is part of the connective tissue, thus, indirectly, collagen promotes the production of connective tissue as well.

A few studies have linked collagen with the strengthening of damaged tendons and ligaments, both are made of connective tissue as well (Dressler et al., 2018; Praet et al., 2019).

Collagen and bones

Due to degeneration processes bone health deteriorates as we age. Menopause is linked to the reduction of bone mass, consequently, the risk for the development of osteoporosis increases. König et al. (2018) conducted a randomized control trial where 5 grams of collagen peptides in 12 months increased the bone density of the spine and hips in women who were already suffering from the menopause-related loss of bone mass. Elam et al. (2015) also found that collagen supplementation slowed down bone mass loss in women with osteoporosis. It is worth mentioning that supplements also contained calcium which contributes to normal bone health.

Can collagen supplements cause side effects?

In the previously mentioned Barati et al. (2020) review, trials conducted with healthy adults did not report any side effects. The study with systemic sclerosis patients reported disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract, some participants experienced adverse events in the hematologic system (reduction in hemoglobin, white blood cell count), decreased headache compared to the control group. Moskowitz (2000) also reported that people with osteoarthritis experienced disturbances in the digestive tract, such as diarrhea, bloating. There were no serious adverse events, thus collagen supplements are considered to be safe to consume.

 

Bottom line

Many trials are investigating collagen benefits to human health, but the strongest evidence so far is linked with better skin health, decreased joint pain, and possible improvements in bone health. A balanced diet with plenty of protein should suffice collagen needs.

    References

    1. Avila Rodríguez, M.I., Rodríguez Barroso, L.G. and Sánchez, M.L. 2018. Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 17(1), pp.20–26.
    2. Barati, M., Jabbari, M., Navekar, R., Farahmand, F., Zeinalian, R., Salehi-Sahlabadi, A., Abbaszadeh, N., Mokari-Yamchi, A. and Davoodi, S.H. 2020. Collagen supplementation for skin health: A mechanistic systematic review. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 19(11), pp.2820–2829.
    3. Benito-Ruiz, P., Camacho-Zambrano, M.M., Carrillo-Arcentales, J.N., Mestanza-Peralta, M.A., Vallejo-Flores, C.A., Vargas-López, S. V., Villacís-Tamayo, R.A. and Zurita-Gavilanes, L.A. 2009. A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolysate, for improving joint comfort. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 60(SUPPL. 2), pp.99–113.
    4. Clark, K.L., Sebastianelli, W., Flechsenhar, K.R., Aukermann, D.F., Meza, F., Millard, R.L., Deitch, J.R., Sherbondy, P.S. and Albert, A. 2008. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 24(5), pp.1485–1496.
    5. Dressler, P., Gehring, D., Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Gollhofer, A. and König, D. 2018. Improvement of functional ankle properties following supplementation with specific collagen peptides in athletes with chronic ankle instability. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 17(2), pp.298–304.
    6. Elam, M.L., Johnson, S.A., Hooshmand, S., Feresin, R.G., Payton, M.E., Gu, J. and Arjmandi, B.H. 2015. A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medicinal Food. 18(3), pp.324–331.
    7. König, D., Oesser, S., Scharla, S., Zdzieblik, D. and Gollhofer, A. 2018. Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women—A randomized controlled study. Nutrients. 10(1), article no: 97 [no pagination].
    8. Lugo, J.P., Saiyed, Z.M. and Lane, N.E. 2016. Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: A multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition Journal. 15, article no: 14 [no pagination].
    9. Moskowitz, R.W. 2000. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 30(2), pp.87–99.
    10. Praet, S.F.E., Purdam, C.R., Welvaert, M., Vlahovich, N., Lovell, G., Burke, L.M., Gaida, J.E., Manzanero, S., Hughes, D. and Waddington, G. 2019. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides combined with calf-strengthening exercises enhances function and reduces pain in achilles tendinopathy patients. Nutrients. 11(1), article no: 76 [no pagination].
    11. Zdzieblik, D., Oesser, S., Gollhofer, A. and König, D. 2017. Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 42(6), pp.588–595.