Collagen supplements such as collagen powder are becoming increasingly popular for their powerful anti-aging benefits. Start taking collagen powder, and you may notice that your skin is smoother, firmer, well-hydrated, and glowing; your cellulite and stretch marks are reduced, and your joint and bone pain is relieved.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein. In fact, it is the most abundant protein in the body—it makes up 30 percent of the protein in our body and 70 percent of the protein in our skin. It adds structure to the hair, skin, nails, bones, ligaments, and tendons throughout your body. When you’re young, your body has no problem producing collagen, which is what makes your skin plump and firm and gives your joints flexibility and your bones density.
As we age, our bodies lose the ability to produce collagen easily, and so we develop fine lines and wrinkles, our hair loses bounce and shine, and we develop joint pain and bone loss.
Like all proteins, collagen is made up of amino acids. The reason it is such an important and valuable protein is that it has incredibly high levels of amino acids—about 1,000 amino acids per collagen molecule—including proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, making it an especially strong protein.
You can improve the health of your bones, joints, skin, gut, nails, and hair by increasing your consumption of collagen. Let’s explore how.
Gelatin vs. Collagen Hydrolysate
Gelatin and collagen hydrolysate are often confused because they are so closely related. They share the same amino acids and are both beneficial to the body, but they’re not exactly the same.
Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen. It is often used in foods such as marshmallows, Jell-O, and gummy bears to add a gel-like quality. If you prepare bone broth or meat on the bone, the gel that appears when the food is cooled comes from gelatin.
Collagen hydrolysate is produced when collagen is hydrolyzed. This is a more intensive process than cooking it. The result is proteins that are further broken down than in gelatin and more easily absorbed. In other words, the amino acids are the same, but the chemical properties are different.
Gelatin powder congeals. It can be used in dessert recipes to add structure, but it can’t be mixed into a cup of cold liquid as a supplement because it will just clump up. Hydrolyzed collagen powder, on the other hand, will not turn to gel. It dissolves easily in cold or hot drinks such as smoothies, tea, coffee, and more.
Benefits of Collagen Powder
While collagen beauty products may temporarily improve the look of your skin, they don’t do nearly as much good as the ingested form of collagen. The collagen molecules present in your anti-aging creams can’t be absorbed through the skin, and their effects are short term. The best way to benefit the entire body is to ingest it so that it can benefit you from the inside out.
Improves Skin and Hair Health
We know that everyday wear and tear causes slow and steady damage to the skin. Fine lines, wrinkles, age spots—these are all indications of a person’s lifestyle and age.
Supplementation with collagen powder can slow or even reverse the effects of aging on the skin.
A 2008 study investigated the ways in which daily ingestion of collagen affected damage caused by UV-B light damage. It was found that collagen supplement prevented various types of damage caused to the skin, including skin dehydration, hyperplasia of the epidermis, and decreases in collagen levels in the skin. (1)
Collagen makes up muscle tissue, which means that the more collagen you have, the more muscle mass you can build. Since muscle burns fat, the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn—even at rest.
Relieves Joint Pain
Between our bones at each joint in the body, we have cartilage—smooth and elastic connective tissue that pads the bones and allows for easy movement. As we age, the cartilage between our bones begins to deteriorate, causing stiff and achy joints.
Studies show that collagen supplements can improve cartilage health and reduce joint pain related to athletic activity and osteoarthritis.
In a 24-week clinical trial, 97 patients with joint pain were given either collagen hydrolysate or a placebo. The collagen group showed significant improvement in all parameters, including joint pain at rest, joint pain when walking, joint pain when carrying objects, and more. (2)
Prevents Hormonal Imbalance
Collagen contains many important amino acids that support the functioning of all systems in the body, including the endocrine system. Collagen balances hormones and neurotransmitter functioning, and it can actually reduce hormonal acne, relieve symptoms of PMS, regulate your menstrual cycle, and improve thyroid function.
Treats Leaky Gut Syndrome
The gut’s connective tissue is made up of collagen. The lining inside the gastrointestinal system is incredibly important because it allows the acidic stomach juices to digest food properly without damaging the stomach itself.
A leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which cracks and holes form in the lining of the gut, allowing for unwanted particles to pass through the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. This leads to chronic inflammation and a whole host of symptoms, which may present in the form of celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
Supplementation with collagen powder can help to strengthen the connective tissue in the gut, preventing holes from forming.
Prevents Bone Loss
Osteoporosis—or, the loss of too much bone—affects a quarter of all postmenopausal women. Loss of bone density significantly increases the risk of fractures and compromises muscle health as well. In serious cases, osteoporosis can lead to breaks and fractures from minor events, such as a sneeze or a bump.
Collagen helps to form bone. It is only natural, then, that if your collagen supply decreases, so does your bone mass.
A 2013 study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed an increase in bone mass in rats that had ingested hydrolyzed collagen. (3)
As mentioned before, supplementation with collagen can help correct a hormone imbalance. This includes stress hormones, such as cortisol—high levels of which cause anxiety, acne, weight gain, and mood swings.
People who supplement with collagen powder get the benefit of an important amino acid called glycine that has been shown to have anti-anxiety properties.
Prevents Stretch Marks and Cellulite
Stretch marks occur when collagen and elastin fibers break during rapid growth such as a growth spurt, weight gain, or pregnancy. Collagen works from the inside out to repair the skin, give it elasticity and build in it the resilience that it needs to prevent and heal stretch marks.
Cellulite is a condition in which the skin has a rippled appearance. This happens when fat deposits push up against fascia—connective tissue—right under the skin. A 2015 study showed that supplementation with collagen helped to reduce the appearance of cellulite. (4)
If you’re looking for a supplement that will naturally improve the appearance of your skin and boost the health of your gut, bones, and muscles, you may want to consider collagen powder. You can also increase your collagen levels by eating foods that boost collagen production—fish, eggs, peanuts, avocados, leafy greens, berries, and chia seeds—and by eating foods that contain gelatin.