Do collagen supplements work? Collagen refers to a family of proteins that are the primary structural component of connective tissues, such as skin and cartilage, according to Yale University.
Where does collagen come from?
The body naturally makes its own collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids. The amino acids are what build the various types of protein in the body, including collagen, according to Shannon Weston, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Health School of Public Health in Houston.
You get the specific building blocks for collagen by eating a balanced diet of protein-rich foods (chicken, beef, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and whole grains, for example) and a variety of fresh produce, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
A diet high in fresh vegetables and fruit has the added benefit of providing antioxidants, which protect the body from oxidative stress that can degrade collagen, Weston said.
The body’s ability to produce collagen naturally decreases as we age, she said, but excess sun exposure, smoking and poor diet can also inhibit collagen production.
Collagen for arthritis
There is some evidence that collagen supplements work for arthritis. Arthritis causes the collagen in joints to break down faster than it can be replenished, which results in joint pain and decreased mobility.
• Scientists have been experimenting with administering collagen for treating arthritis since the 1980s, said Brooke Russell, a microbiologist and professor at the Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston. But this method hasn’t always proven effective, she said.
• Collagen supplements have been shown to help patients with osteoarthritis in a small number of clinical trials, but collagen doesn’t appear to be more effective than the leading drug for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
• A 2017 study published in the Journal of Arthritis found that oral collagen supplements helped relieve pain for patients with osteoarthritis, but collagen wasn’t more effective than the existing leading drug treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
• A 2016 study published in Nutrition Journal also found that collagen supplements helped relieve pain in patients with osteoarthritis.
• However, collagen is not likely to begin regrowing itself to completely reverse arthritis, even after a person takes oral supplements, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Do Collagen Supplements Work?
Collagen is a popular ingredient in oral supplements and topical creams, but there is little science to support the effectiveness of such treatments.
• Some collagen supplements claim that they can improve skin health, provide relief from joint pain, prevent bone loss, boost muscle mass, promote heart health, increase hair and nail strength, improve gut and brain health and aid weight loss.
• According to Dr. Adelaide Hebert, a professor of dermatology and director of pediatric dermatology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston., “There is little, if any, proven evidence that taking these supplements has any real medical benefit for hair, nails or skin.”.
• Other experts advise: “Be skeptical of the health claims surrounding supplemental collagen. Science has not fully studied all of these supposed benefits.”
• Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate collagen supplements with the same stringency as it does drugs.
• This means that manufacturers of collagen supplements don’t have to prove that the supplements are effective or safe before putting them on the market.
When considering whether to take a collagen supplement, it is important to first factor in how your diet and lifestyle are affecting collagen production in your body. Many experts advise us to “Focus on lifestyle factors and a well-balanced diet, and skip the supplements.”
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