(RxWiki News) If you’ve been to a health food store, the natural products section of a grocery store or a juice shop lately, chances are they’ve tried to sell you collagen products.
You might also have seen collagen as an added ingredient in snack foods and drinks. But are there actual health benefits to adding collagen to your diet? Are there risks or potential side effects? What is collagen anyway?
Collagen is a protein. In fact, it is THE protein. It is the most plentiful protein of the human body. We need collagen to build bones, tendons, ligaments, hair, nails, cartilage and skin.
Collagen is a protein only found in animals and animal byproducts. Some plant-based products claim to contain “all the right ingredients to build collagen” but not whole collagen itself.
If collagen can do all these wonderful things, like “plump” skin so it doesn’t wrinkle as fast and “grease” joints so they bend more smoothly, taking it should have excellent benefits, right? Maybe.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Why? Well, when we eat the powder (or capsule), it goes through all the levels of our digestive tract. Enzymes start breaking down proteins and other molecules as early as in our mouth with saliva. The acids of our stomach continue this process.
Absorption into the bloodstream occurs in the small intestine. The supplement needs to reach the blood in order to travel to where it would be active (in the nails, joints, etc.). Science is still unsure of how much of the collagen we eat makes it to where it needs to go.
Scientific research on how much collagen is absorbed from supplements is currently limited. Therefore, it's difficult to tell how well it can make positive changes to your health. But small samples show some promise:
- A study found that people who ingested a daily collagen supplement saw improvement in nail growth and a decrease in nail brittleness.
- Another study found that individuals who took collagen by mouth each day experienced significant improvements in skin hydration after eight weeks.
- One study found that athletes receiving collagen supplements reported less activity-related joint pain after 24 weeks.
So, should you add more collagen to your diet? The jury is still out, and more research is ongoing. It may be worth a try. But always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding new medications or herbal supplements to your routine. They will need to know about other medications and supplements you already take and other health conditions you may have to make sure there will be no interactions.
Collagen supplements are not without side effects, although these side effects are generally mild. Most commonly, supplements can upset the stomach and your digestion. As with any new dietary substance, you may experience allergic reactions to one or more of the ingredients.
Written by Digital Pharmacist Staff