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Should You Supplement With Collagen?

Collagen supplements boast a wide range of health benefits such as reducing the appearance of wrinkles, improving joint pain, and some impacts with weight management. But does the scientific evidence match the hype of this supplement? Should you start taking collagen?

What is collagen?

Collagen is a type of protein that helps to maintain the strength and elasticity of skin, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Your body can make collagen on its own, however collagen production starts to decline with age. Factors such as excess sun exposure, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet can further reduce collagen production. 

Food sources & supplementation

Essentially any protein source can help contribute to collagen production, such as meat, fish, dairy, legumes, or soy. It is important to make sure you are consuming a variety of protein sources throughout the day, especially if you consume a plant-based diet.

Your body breaks down all dietary protein (including collagen) into its component amino acids. These amino acids travel through the bloodstream and are then reconstructed back into proteins for the body to use. While these amino acids might be used for collagen production, they can also be used to make up a variety of other proteins, such as hemoglobin or insulin. 

Nutritionist Arlington VA

What does this mean for you?

In terms of muscle growth and weight management, consuming dietary protein is just as, if not more beneficial than taking a collagen supplement. If you’re looking for a good post-lift protein, a more complete protein source, such as whey protein, is a better option when it comes to optimizing muscle protein synthesis. 

If you’re striving for youthful and vibrant skin, consider lifestyle modifications. Don’t skimp on sunscreen and consume a diet rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production; food sources include citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, kiwis, and potatoes.

And if you’re aiming to reduce joint pain, prioritize those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), nuts and seeds (walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds), and plant-based oils (canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil).  

Bottom line

I always recommend starting with lifestyle modifications - whether you are trying to improve your skin health or reduce joint pain. If you are interested in supplementing with collagen, here are a few things to consider.

First, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Most collagen supplements are likely not harmful to your health, however, choose supplements that have been third-party tested with a USP or NSF label. Also, look for hydrolyzed collagen; as processing collagen in this manner helps to increase its bioavailability. 


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