What’s the deal with collagen supplements?

April 10, 2019 Providence Health Team

Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet and doing regular, weight-bearing exercise can be helpful in promoting natural collagen production.

There is little scientific evidence to show that collagen supplementation is necessary.

Have you noticed the abundance of collagen supplements at the stores lately? They come in powders, coffee creamers, peptides, bone broths, and a variety of other related products. This recent focus on the benefits of collagen is likely the result of trending diets, particularly the keto diet. Proponents of collagen supplementation are claiming that it enhances skin, supports healthy digestion, and improves overall health and fitness.

But what does science say?

Kari Ikemoto Exter, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian at Providence St. John’s Health Center fills us in on collagen: what it is, how our bodies make it, and whether we need supplementation.

What is collagen?

Collagen, a structural protein, is one of the most abundant proteins in the body. It can be found in connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and skin.

Our bodies naturally make collagen as a result of the foods we eat. Proteins are full of amino acids, and these amino acids are broken down into collagen. Collagen production can decline as we age and lose lean body mass, or as a result of a poor diet.

“It is important to consistently eat a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, and a variety of protein sources. These should include both animal-based proteins, as well as plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, and lentils,” recommends Exter. “Also, vitamin C and zinc are considered co-factors that can help with collagen production.”

She advises to engage in weight-bearing exercise, such as running, strength training, or other physical activities, to help maintain your lean body mass.

Should I take collagen supplements?

“Collagen is very popular and trendy in mainstream health right now, but a lot of the claims tend to be more anecdotal than evidence-based,” explains Exter. “Some studies suggest that collagen helps with a bone-healing response; others show conflicting results.”

If you’re looking for something to help with general muscle soreness or arthritis, eat foods rich in omega-3s like salmon, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds. Also, make sure you’re getting enough protein at every meal; in particular, a lot of people don’t have enough at breakfast.

“Research has also found that taking collagen didn’t have any more of an influence on skin texture than the placebo did,” says Exter. If you’re looking for a micronutrient to help your skin, she recommends trying biotin.

Finally, Exter points out that taking collagen supplements probably isn’t harmful — except on your budget, since they can be very expensive. If you do decide to take them, look for ones with USP verification. This will ensure that you’re consuming a pure, quality product.

“At the end of the day, we need more research and more evidence to make any valid claims about collagen,” she concludes.

Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian to find the gaps in your diet and get some individualized nutrition advice. Looking for a provider to partner with in achieving a healthier lifestyle? Find a Providence provider near you:






Providence Health Plan

Providence Health Assurance

St. Joseph Health

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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