Collagen: Health Benefits, When to Use & How to Take

Collagen is a protein produced by the body that contributes to the firmness and elasticity of skin. Collagen can be found in foods like gelatin, and is a key ingredient in moisturizing creams as and food supplements.

This protein is very important for maintaining cells firm and well-attached, which helps to prevent the appearance of stretch marks, wrinkles and laugh lines. Collagen also promotes hair and nail health. 

Collagen is fundamental for the formation of tendons, cartilage and ligaments to prevent contact and breakdown between bones. 

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Health benefits

Collagen is a protein that is important for:

1. Preventing wrinkles

Collagen is a major component of skin cells that reinforces, hydrates and provides elasticity to the skin. It helps to prevent wrinkles and laugh lines. 

Some studies show that consuming collagen supplements stimulate the body to produce other protein that also increase firmness and elasticity, like elastin and fibrillin. All of these help to delay skin aging, and reduce wrinkles and skin dryness. 

2. Helping to treat osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes joint inflammation, swelling and pain due to cartilage breakdown. Cartilage is mainly made-up of collagen, and serves to line the bones and soften impact and friction between the bones. 

Generally, the quantity of collagen produced by the body reduces with age, which increases the risk for developing osteoarthritis. 

Some studies have shown that consuming collagen supplements helps to reduce joint inflammation and stimulates the body to produce more collagen, which may lead to decreased pain. It may be a very effective for helping the treatment of osteoarthritis. 

3. Strengthening the bones

Collagen is important for providing solidity to the bones and keeping them strong. However, with aging, the collagen levels in the bones decrease, leaving them more fragile and less dense. This can increase the risk for fractures and make healing more difficulty. 

Some studies show that collagen supplements help to strengthen and increase bone density, and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis or osteopenia. 

4. Increasing muscle mass

Collagen is necessary for maintaining strong muscles and for promoting correct muscle functioning. Using collagen supplements can help to increase muscle mass and strength by promoting the protein synthesis of muscle proteins like creatine. 

In addition, collagen supplements may be very beneficial for athletes, people with sarcopenia, or to prevent muscle loss from normal aging.

5. Improving cardiovascular health 

Collagen is a component of artery structure, and promotes elasticity of the blood vessels. This facilitates the transport of blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When the body does not have enough collagen, arteries become very weak and fragile, which increases the risk for atherosclerosis. This a cardiovascular disease characterized by the narrowing of arteries, which can lead to a heart attach or stroke.

Some studies show that taking collagen supplements improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk for the development of atherosclerosis. In addition, these supplements increase good cholesterol, which is important for prevent the risk for cardiovascular disease.

6. Promoting skin and hair health

Collagen helps to promote hair skin health as it is a component of these tissues. It increases hair growth and elasticity, and improves  nail durability, to make them stronger and healthier. 

When to use

The use of collagen is indicated when you start to notice signs like: 

  • Decreased thickness of hair strands
  • Increases flaccidity and loss of skin elasticity 
  • The emergence of wrinkles and laugh lines
  • The appearance of stretch marks
  • Thin and dehydrated skin 
  • Decreased bone density, like in cases of osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Weakening of joints and ligaments 

These are signs of low collagen levels that may indicate a need for supplementation. If you notice these signs, or if you are over the age of 50, you should consult your doctor for a more thorough assessment to determine the need for supplements. 

How to take it

To supplement collagen and to guarantee all of its benefits, it is important to increase your intake of collagen-rich foods. In some cases, eating more collagen foods is sufficient, however a doctor may recommend supplementation.

Collagen-rich foods

A high collagen diet usually consists of eating red meat, lean meat and gelatin. You should also increase your intake of vitamin C foods, like oranges, kiwi, pineapple and papaya, as these facilitate collagen absorption. 

Collagen supplements

Collagen supplements can be taken as capsules, pills or powder, which should be diluted in water. It can be mixed with lemonade, for example. Supplements should be taken as guided by a doctor or registered dietitian.  

These supplements can be purchased at pharmacies. natural health stores and compound pharmacies as hydrolyzed collagen. Treatment duration is usually about 9 months, with a maximum dose of 9 g of collagen per day to achieve benefits.