Integrative Nutrition Blog

Collagen 101: Here's What You Need to Know

January 13, 2018

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Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body. It makes up connective tissues, like tendons and cartilage, and plays an important role in the integrity of our bones, skin, and even the gut. Collagen supplements have become more popular recently, and you might be wondering what they’re for and whether they actually work. Before you add it to your regimen, let’s take a deeper look!

What are the benefits of collagen?
Collagen has been embraced clinically for its effectiveness in treating wounds and burns, helping to boost the natural production of collagen in the body and reduce the risk of infection. Cosmetically, collagen fillers are a popular procedure for fuller, younger-looking skin.

Collagen is catching on in the mainstream as a supplement for many of the same reasons. Research shows that collagen supplementation can help decrease the signs of aging by reducing the appearance of wrinkles and improving skin elasticity – it may even help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Individuals who suffer from certain conditions, like frequent joint pain, may also find a supplement useful. However, research is pretty minimal on these supplements so far.

What reduces collagen?
It turns out that many of the things we’re exposed to daily can reduce the synthesis of collagen, including extended sun exposure and excess sugar in the diet. Activities like smoking and drinking in excess may also reduce the synthesis of collagen. Collagen production also naturally reduces as we age; because of this, women may notice changes in their skin, particularly following menopause.

How can collagen production be boosted?
If you want to support the production of collagen in the body, you’ll want to have a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods, has adequate protein, and includes a variety of nutrients. In particular, vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen. Good sources of vitamin C include red peppers, broccoli, oranges, and lemons. Dietary sources of copper (sesame seeds, tempeh, lentils, cashews) and iron (beans, tofu, lean beef, chicken, dark leafy greens) are also essential for the synthesis of collagen.

Aside from diet, collagen supplements are becoming widely available. These supplements are typically made from bovine (cow) tissue but also come in fish or chicken forms (vegans may want to opt out of supplementation). If you choose to take a supplement, research the product – remember these products aren’t regulated – and choose one of high quality.

Whether or not you decide to include a supplement in your regimen, you can help support collagen in the body through a good diet, avoiding extended sun exposure, not smoking, and moderate (if any) alcohol consumption.

(Remember to talk with your doctor before starting any supplement.)

Have you ever tried a collagen supplement? Did you notice a difference? Share your thoughts!

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