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  • Writer's pictureRayki Goh, MSc

The Best Collagen Supplement and What are their Side Effects?

Are you tired of navigating the endless hype surrounding collagen supplements, particularly their touted benefits for skin health? Do they actually have real benefits or it's another placebo effect?


Despite social media trends and anecdotes, it's important to grasp collagen's scientific benefits for our skin. Collagen, especially type-17, anchors skin stem cells, preserves skin suppleness, and may prevent ageing.


However, collagen production decreases with age, causing skin to age. Can collagen supplements reverse this natural decline and retain youthful skin, or are they overhyped?


How does the body metabolise these supplements, and what does the science say about their skin, bone, joint, and overall health benefits?


Collagen beverage


Dear food people,

 

Let's have a chat about the craze around the best collagen supplements that has been all over TikTok lately and what the science says without making it sound like we're sitting through a food science lecture. Everyone's talking about collagen these days—it's like the secret to looking and feeling great, right? But what lies beneath all the hype?

 

Starting with the skin—our largest organ and the one that probably gets the most attention when we talk about collagen— Some studies suggest that popping collagen supplements could give your skin a bit of a boost, making it more elastic and hydrated and possibly even smoothing out some of those wrinkles we all start to notice at some point. But, and it's a big but, the evidence isn't rock solid just yet. We need more scientific research before we can say for sure that collagen is a miracle worker for the skin.

 

Now, onto the joints—they keep us moving, after all. There's some chatter in the scientific community that collagen supplements might help ease joint pain, especially for those dealing with osteoarthritis. Experts believe that supplementing with extra collagen could stimulate our bodies to produce more of it, potentially improving the cushioning of our joints.

 

What about our bones and muscles? There are hints in the research that combining collagen with buddies like calcium and vitamin D might help keep bones sturdy, especially in postmenopausal women. And for the muscle-minded, especially older adults, adding collagen to your routine while you hit the gym might help you bulk up more than exercise alone. However, the science remains inconclusive, so you should approach this with caution.

 

Heart health is also in the conversation. A study showed that collagen supplements might make our arteries less stiff, which is good news for our hearts. But, you guessed it, we need more research.

 

However, there's a bit of a catch. When we take collagen, we don't fully understand how well our body can use it. What I’m trying to say is that you can’t really feel the immediate physical effects after ingestion. Plus, many studies are small or not super rigorous, making it hard to know what's really going on.

 

When you take collagen, it doesn't just slide through your digestive system and pop up where you want it, like in your skin or joints. Initially, our bodies break it down into smaller pieces for our use. Research indicates that the body more readily absorbs and distributes smaller collagen peptides and amino acids, like glycine-proline-hydroxyproline (Gly-Pro-Hyp), than intact collagen proteins. The blood temporarily detects these collagen-derived peptides, which then tend to accumulate in connective tissues such as the skin. This could potentially stimulate your body's natural collagen production, particularly in your skin, thereby achieving the desired glow.

 

The entire journey of collagen supplements, from consumption to manifesting potential health benefits, remains somewhat enigmatic. Despite promising research, the scientific community continues to grapple with understanding the precise mechanisms at play. Particularly, the efficacy of these supplements in enhancing bone, joint, and muscle health is still under scrutiny. A central question persists: Do the observed health improvements stem directly from the supplements themselves, or are they a result of the body's own collagen production, stimulated by the presence of these supplements? This distinction is crucial, as it could significantly influence how we view and utilise collagen supplementation in our health regimes.

 

For those of you curious about what collagen is made of, it's a protein (not fatty acid), a major building block for our bodies. And its biochemical structure? Imagine a super-strong, triple-stranded rope. That's the kind of strength we're talking about—it's what gives our skin its elasticity and our bones their resilience.

 

Digesting collagen from our diet starts in the stomach but doesn't really get going until it hits the small intestine. This is where the magic happens—breaking down collagen into bits our bodies can actually use.

 

If you're thinking about giving collagen supplements a go, they're absorbed pretty quickly by our bodies. But remember, results may vary, and it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. The suggested amount? Around 2.5 to 15 grams per day could do the trick, but there's room for flexibility based on what you're hoping to achieve.

 

Side effects? Generally, they're few and far between. But some folks might experience digestive issues, allergies, or other minor hiccups. And if you're wondering about taking too much, yes, you can overdo it, leading to some uncomfortable side effects like bloating or even raising the risk of kidney stones.

 

Plant-based options? They're out there, offering a way to boost your body's own collagen production without relying on animal sources. These options are especially appealing for those following vegan or vegetarian diets.

 

Personally, I will always advocate for focusing on a diet comprised of complete meals before considering supplements. Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients that support collagen production might be just as effective, if not more so, than supplements. Foods like bone broth, omega-3-rich fish, and plenty of fruits and veggies can do wonders. Other plant-based foods high in protein (e.g., legumes, whole grains, fermented soy), vitamin C (e.g., citrus fruits, bell peppers), zinc, and copper do the trick too. Furthermore, it's cheaper than paying a high price just for the brand, marketing, or packaging.

 

In the end, the choice between supplements and natural food sources comes down to what fits your lifestyle and dietary preferences best. Both routes offer benefits, but leaning into nutritious foods not only gives you collagen but also a wide range of other nutrients that keep your body humming along.

 



Interesting Facts About the Relationship Between Collagen and Our Skin Cells

 

If you didn’t already know, collagen is our skin's best friend. Particularly when we're aiming for that youthful glow. And no, this isn't about randomly choosing a skincare product and crossing your fingers. There's solid science backing up collagen's fame, especially when it comes to a specific type known as collagen type '17' (type XVII, alpha 1, COL17A1). This particular collagen plays a crucial role in ensuring that skin stem cells cling to their rightful place—the basement membrane of your skin. Imagine it as the essential anchor preventing these cells from drifting into oblivion.

 

However, there's a twist. As the years pass, our skin's reserve of collagen type XVII, begins to dwindle, loosening the stem cells' firm hold. Once these cells lose their anchor, they suffer damage and are eventually ousted by their healthier neighbours. It's somewhat akin to being the last chosen in a game—hardly a pleasant scenario. This unfortunate chain of events is largely why ageing signs like wrinkles, decreased elasticity, and drier skin become more apparent.

 

Collagen taken from nutritious foods, ingested via powders or capsules, or applied directly to the skin through creams could very well be the lifeline your skin cells are searching for. By boosting the levels of collagen type XVII, they help secure those stem cells right where they need to be, supporting your skin's continuous renewal process.

 

But collagen supplements don't stop there. They also energise your skin's production of key players like proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans—the duo behind keeping your skin hydrated and elastic. And there's more—collagen also has the power to slow down certain body processes that accelerate ageing and contribute to wrinkle formation.

 

To sum it up, collagen's starring role in maintaining skin health is all about ensuring those stem cells stay anchored, warding off the onslaught of aging. By potentially safeguarding these crucial stem cell-collagen connections, collagen supplements play a pivotal role in maintaining your skin's youthfulness for the long haul.

 

So, there you have it! You have just read all about the effects and benefits of collagen on our skin. You're now better equipped to make informed decisions when shopping for collagen-based foods and products. Whether you're considering supplements, creams, or other collagen-infused goodies or even collagen drinks, you're stepping forward with a clearer understanding of what to look for and how it can benefit your skin in the long run.

 

Want to learn more or share your thoughts on the topic? Feel free to drop us a message at me@obsideonmedia.com if you've got something to say or a question to ask. Whether you are pro-supplement, all about the food, or still figuring it out, your insights are valuable as we all navigate the complex world of health and wellness together.


 

Further Reading:

1.Bienkowski, R.S. and Baum, B.J. (1983) 'Human collagen digestion: I. Nature of the digestion kinetics as a function of age and structure', Experimental Gerontology, 18(6), pp. 485-495. doi: 10.1016/0531-5565(83)90028-1.

2. Choi, F.D. et al. (2019) 'Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications', Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 30(8), pp. 1-18. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2018.1519391.

3. Choi, F.D. et al. (2022) 'Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics', Nutrients, 14(1), p. 159. doi: 10.3390/nu14010159.

4. Choi, F.D. et al. (2023) 'Effects of Oral Collagen for Skin Anti-Aging: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis', Nutrients, 15(9), p. 2037. doi: 10.3390/nu15092037.

5. Harvard Health Publishing (2023) 'Considering collagen drinks and supplements?', Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/considering-collagen-drinks-and-supplements-202304122911

6. Healthline Media (2023) 'Collagen: Benefits, Side Effects, and More', Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen


 

The information provided in our articles is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The content on our website, including articles, is not meant to endorse or promote any specific medical treatments, products, or procedures. The information provided is based on general knowledge and research at the time of writing. Medical practices and knowledge are constantly evolving, and what may have been accurate at the time of publication may not be current or applicable today.

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