Story at a glance:
- Collagen supplements can be used to promote skin elasticity and healthy joints.
- Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body.
- The protein can be taken in the form of pills, powder or topical cream.
Collagen is used in many skin care products, but some people have been turning to supplements to get the effects of the protein. So what is collagen and do the supplements work?
Luke Walker/Getty Images for Nutraformis
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and acts as “the glue or scaffolding that holds everything together nice and tight.”
Collagen is found in ligaments, tendons, cartilage and skin. It’s even in your blood vessels, muscles, gut and teeth.
As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, which can lead to outward signs of wrinkles and less supple skin. Inwardly, less collagen can also lead to a slower recovery time for wounds.
But eating the protein may not be the most effective way of keeping your collagen levels high. Because the complex protein is made up of 19 different amino acids, the digestive system breaks it down before releasing it into the bloodstream, according to The Guardian.
“Collagen doesn’t stay collagen,” Pia Winberg, a marine ecologist studying the benefits of seaweed for wound healing, told The Guardian. “[Your body] only makes it if [that’s] what you need first in terms of protein and you have the right set of amino acid building blocks to make it.”
“The marketing of collagen supplements is taking people for a ride, a bit, unless they are deficient in certain dietary amino acids, in which case of course it will benefit. But they could equally get that from just increasing amounts and/or diversity of protein intake,” she added.
Collagen comes in the form of pills, powders, topical creams and liquids — but “absorption can be a tricky game,” according to The New York Times. A board-certified dermatologist told the Times that it is hard for collagen in the form of creams to penetrate past the skin and go deeper into the body.
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