Collagen: Separating Fact from Fiction

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

June 03, 2021

Collagen

Surprisingly, the last year has brought more to the table than just COVID and quarantine. Recently, collagen has made its way to the health and beauty landscape. With many Americans now taking inventory of their health and longevity, supplements such as collagen are receiving more and more attention. You may have heard of collagen, and perhaps you are even taking collagen supplements already. Navigating the world of wellness can feel overwhelming at times, and it can be hard to discern fact from fiction. Is collagen really beneficial? If it is beneficial, what is the best way to get collagen into the body? Today, we are going to take a deeper look at collagen and whether or not it has proven benefits.

Collagen Facts

Collagen is a protein that occurs within the body. Collagen has many varieties as well as a number of benefits to our health. Some facts about collagen include:

  • Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body.
  • Collagen is primarily found in the bones, skin, and connective tissue.
  • Collagen levels decline with age, exposure to the sun’s UV rays, and smoking.
  • Collagen cells anchor to one another, providing elasticity to skin.
  • There are 16 different types of collagen.
  • Each type serves a different purpose.
  • Type 1, 2, and 3 make up nearly 90% of the collagen in your body.
  • Collagen is an incredibly strong protein; some varieties are as strong as steel.
  • Collagen makes up one-third of all of the protein in the human body.
  • Collagen can help improve joint pain.

Collagen Fiction

With any new wellness trend, companies seek to capitalize on the popularity of the newest fads, including collagen. Many companies have marketed creams and topical lotions with collagen to help make your skin appear more youthful and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. When it comes to collagen, however, creams and lotions will have little impact on skin’s elasticity and will most likely not have an impact on the appearance of wrinkles. This is because collagen is produced far below the surface level of the skin, the dermis, and it is difficult for the collagen from creams and lotions to penetrate that deep.

Another myth about collagen is that you can take collagen as needed to absorb the benefits. Unfortunately, once you start taking collagen, you will need to continue to take it in order to obtain the benefits. Collagenase is a naturally occurring enzyme in the body that depletes our collagen levels in the body. In order to continue to increase your levels of collagen and obtain the maximum benefits, you must continue to take collagen supplements regularly.

Research on the benefits of collagen is limited with studies showing that animal-based collagen can be beneficial to our health. There is little to no research on plant-based collagen, and there is no scientific validity supporting plant-based collagen having any overall health benefits or improving production of collagen levels in the body. With companies formulating and marketing “vegan,” “vegetarian,” and “plant-based collagen” as beneficial, it is important to know that current research does not support the claim of plant-based collagen being effective in collagen production.

Collagen Types 1, 2, and 3

If you are thinking about adding collagen to your supplemental routine, you will want to find collagen that includes types 1, 2, and 3.

Collagen Type 1: This type of collagen is found in the bones, teeth, tendons, skin, and internal organs.

Collagen Type 2: This type of collagen is found in your cartilage and eyes.

Collagen Type 3: This collagen type is found in the bone marrow, muscles, tissue, blood vessels, and skin.

Many supplements today offer all three types of collagen, and a common method of ingestion is powder and pills. Powders can be added to coffee, juice, and even water.

Conclusion

As previously mentioned, studies on collagen are limited. However, studies are showing many health benefits as well as benefits to the appearance of the skin when collagen supplements are taken orally. A recent study of 72 women aged 35 and older who consumed oral collagen supplements saw an improvement in the physical health and appearance of their skin with no adverse side effects.

It is important to note, however, you may face risk factors when taking collagen. Before taking collagen supplements, talk to your doctor or health provider about potential risk factors for you. A pharmacy near you may offer collagen supplements. Furthermore, if you need help paying for your medication, ScriptSave offers prescription savings. By downloading their free prescription savings card, you can start saving on your prescription medication today.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.

Resources:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881#overview

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/09/style/self-care/collagen-benefits.html

https://nutritionstudies.org/collagen-supplements-does-science-support-the-alleged-benefits/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/

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