Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is the main structural protein found in the skin, bones, ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and connective tissues, and it comprises approximately 30% of the body’s total protein content. It is made up of amino acids and though there it contains large amounts of proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline present, it lacks tryptophan and is therefore considered an incomplete protein.
Collagen is especially concentrated in the middle layer of the skin and plays a key role in keeping it moisturized and supple, giving it that smooth, healthy, youthful look. It is also responsible for the skin’s elasticity, enabling it to be stretched out and snapped back into place. As a person ages, collagen levels naturally decline and the result is often dry skin, wrinkles, sagging skin, the appearance of premature aging, and crepey skin.
Age isn’t the only culprit in the decline of collagen levels, however. It can begin as early as the age of 25 as cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake, exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, poor diet, excessive sugar intake, poor sleep quality, and a sedentary lifestyle all expedite the decrease in collagen levels.
Collagen has been associated with healthy hair, stronger nails, joint health and functionality, improved overall health, and even an increase in muscle mass (when combined with resistance training). But its purported ability to reinforce the skin’s natural moisture barrier, support its elasticity, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and restore youthful-looking skin played a big part in turning its exogenous supplements into a multi-billion dollar industry.
While collagen can be found in foods such as beef, chicken skin, pork skin, fish with skin, shellfish and egg membranes, many people believe that supplementation of collagen is more efficient. Though research is definitely trending in that direction, many scientists feel that more concrete research into the efficacy of collagen supplementation is needed.
Collagen supplements are believed to promote healthy skin, improved elasticity, increased hydration, and a reduction in wrinkling and deep lines.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the impact of the oral intake of low-molecular-weight collagen peptide (LMWCP) on skin elasticity and hydration reported that LMWCP can be used to improve human skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling.
This double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness of specific collagen peptides on human skin of 69 women aged 35-55 found a significant improvement in skin elasticity of the dosage group in comparison to placebo after four weeks, and an even more significant increase after 8 weeks. While the collagen supplementation was found to have a positive influence on both skin moisture and skin evaporation, the data did not reach a level of statistical significance.
This study evaluated the effect of collagen hydrolysate (CH) ingestion for 4 weeks on skin elasticity, and compared effects on skin elasticity between sun-exposed and sun-protected areas. Researchers reported that there were skin improvements after 4 weeks and that the improvement remained 4 weeks after the CH ingestion ended.
There is evidence that collagen supplementation can support joint health and function in athletes.
This 24-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study on the use of collagen hydrolysate in athletes with activity-related joint pain found that use of CH resulted in reduction of joint pain. Researchers also contend that the results of this study have implications for the use of collagen hydrolysate to support joint health and possibly reduce the risk of joint deterioration in a high-risk group. They concluded that more research is needed to support these findings.
Based on this randomized, controlled study on the efficacy and safety of collagen hydrolysate for improving joint comfort, researchers concluded that CH is safe and effective in promoting joint comfort.
The findings of this randomized, placebo-controlled study demonstrate that supplementation with 5 g of specific collagen peptides significantly increases bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and the femoral neck in postmenopausal women with age-related decline in BMD.
Collagen drinks have become one of the latest trends in the functional beverage world. The pre-mixed liquid supplement drinks come in sexy packages with catchy names and promises of increased hydration, better looking skin, and youthful looks. Their grab and go appeal, multitude of flavors, and easy access on almost any beverage shelf might make them a better source of collagen than the scoop, add water, and shake world of collagen powder. If you’re considering either option, there are a few things you might want to consider before you make your decision.
Liquid collagen supplements come in a variety of forms such as purified, filtered water, sports drinks, sparkling water, hydration drinks, juices, teas, coffee, cold brew, smoothies, shots, and vials. Some of them come with an ingredients list that could include vitamins, minerals, flavor additives, sugar, caffeine, fruit extracts, tea, melatonin, or cocoa water. And while you’re looking at the label, take note of collagen’s place on the ingredients list. Is it the first ingredient listed, or is it further toward the bottom? Or are you buying a tasty little concoction with an unknown amount of collagen in it?
When you’re buying high-quality collagen powder like Care/of’s, you are getting unflavored, bovine grass-fed collagen peptides with 10 g per serving. While you may have to scoop the powder into a liquid of your choice, you know how much you’re getting. And don’t underestimate the options you have when you choose your own liquid: coffee, tea, latte, juice, smoothie, milk; or you can even add it to your favorite recipes like pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, and, yes, even home baked bread and cookies.
Let’s not forget the original liquid collagen, bone broth. It’s been made in homes for centuries and it can be another source of natural collagen. If you’re buying your bone broth in stores, however, it tends to be made with beef or chicken bones, leaving out several types of collagens, like fish, pig, and eggshell membranes. Research shows that bone broth may not be as reliable when it comes to providing the amino acid profiles consistently needed for collagen support. If you add a scoop or two of an unflavored collagen powder into your bone broth, you can get a more complete supplementation.
Sources of collagen tend to be brand-specific, so it is essential to read the labels in order to get the best collagen for your needs. While there are at least 28 types of collagen, there are three types that make up nearly 90% of the collagen in the human body. Collagen supplements come from the skin, cartilage, and tendons of beef, chicken skin, fish skin, shellfish, pork skin, and eggshell membranes. Always look for collagen supplements that have been third-party tested to ensure that what is on the label is exactly what you are getting in your supplement.
Carefully review the ingredient list to make sure what you are getting is what is being promised. Look for a C.L.E.A.N. on the label. It is a holistic certification based on safety, minimal processing, and bioavailability of ingredients. Avoiding unnecessary fillers, additives, and potential allergens is important, as is looking for non-GMO, gluten, and dairy-free supplements. Organic, grass-fed raised animals and wild caught fish are also ideal.
There is no data on the potency of liquid versus powdered collagen supplements, though liquid typically tends to have less collagen per serving than powdered supplements. There is no recommended dosage for collagen but generally at least 2.5g-15g per day. It is easier to get higher doses with a single scoop of powder than it is to drink several liquids in order to reach 15 grams.
There is no evidence to support that either is more effective than the other.
As long as you are getting a top quality product in the right dosage, the type of supplement you choose is merely a matter of preference.
If you are going to supplement with collagen, make an informed decision on which type of collagen you need. Both the powdered and liquid supplements have their pros and cons. Whether it’s convenience, expense, accuracy of dosage, quality of product, or just personal preference, there is a collagen supplement that can work for you. It’s always a good idea to check with your physician or a registered dietician before taking new supplements.