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Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements at this point are a marketing tactic. If you truly sit down and logically think this through - how does collagen transport itself from your acidic gut to your skin intact? Read more...



collagen supplement

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What is collagen?

Collagen is a protein that provides structure throughout our body in the skin, bones, joints, muscles, etc. As with all proteins, the basic building blocks for collagen are amino acids. Amino acids are structural building blocks of all proteins, not just collagen.

What are the different types of collagen?

There are several types of collagen - over 2 dozen types, however, collagen I, II, III, and IV tend to be the most common. Collagen forms different structural components from connective tissue, to basement membranes separating structures, etc giving form and resilience to various aspects of our body. Endogenous collagen, the type our body forms, is synthesized in cells in our body called fibroblasts. Exogenous collagen is the type companies market for people to apply or consume. Collagen is a large resilient molecule and cannot be absorbed topically through the skin. When consumed as a supplement, most products are hydrolyzed collagen for this reason. This means that the supplement contains the breakdown products of collagen- the basic amino acid sequence that is found in collagen fibrils. Although there is evidence in some medical studies that the breakdown product of hydrolyzed collagen could be absorbed to some extent, it is difficult to say for certain how much of these basic amino acid sequences make it to the skin, make it to the skin intact, and are used to produce actual collagen.

What are the benefits of taking collagen?

There are not many products that have gained the buzz that collagen water has attained. Every single day I am asked about these products by patients and every day I see posts from acquaintances on social media selling this product. The reality is that the popularity of collagen water appears to be primarily linked to the marketing campaigns of various brands and the ease of consumption. We are all seeking simple solutions to anti-aging. So many topical anti-aging products require a routine as well as the risk of skin irritation that accompanies some of the more effective products. This is likely why collagen water seems like a simple product to try. The real question that comes up is how effective these products can be. The collagen is of course ingested, spends time in the acidic environment of the stomach, and theoretically needs to be absorbed and transferred to the skin to boost the skin’s support. Whether or not this process actually happens and to the extent that we would like it to occur is very difficult to say for certain. There are some limited studies that show the potential for some products to potentially be absorbed to some extent, however, these are in marketing studies primarily and there are so many products and formulations of hydrolyzed collagen on the market, it is difficult to say which actually has the ingredients that may work and which are just using the word “collagen” as a buzzword to push sales.

Are collagen supplements as effective as they claim to be?

Collagen supplements at this point are a marketing tactic. If you truly sit down and logically think this through - how does collagen transport itself from your acidic gut to your skin intact? There may be something to the potential anti-inflammatory effects of peptides. There may be something to supplementing a diet low in protein with collagen or amino acid supplements to compensate for what is missing in our diet. There may be something to the fact that people tend to add collagen powders to smoothies and other dietary foods that may incline them towards healthier food choices. I haven’t come across many people who sprinkle their collagen supplements on their fast food French fries as a seasoning agent but have seen that some people are inclined to increase their water intake to take their expensive collagen supplements. In general, any product that uses everyone around you as a salesperson - your friends, your neighbors, etc - is probably beneficial for ancillary income but not for true or truthful results. My general advice for patients is that it is difficult to say if collagen supplements will help their skin but it probably won’t hurt their skin, just their wallet. If taking the supplements pushes your diet in a healthier direction, then maybe that’s not a bad thing. Do I take them? No, I do not.

What are some important things to know or consider before taking collagen?

There is no FDA oversight in the supplement market with regard to collagen supplements. It is difficult to say precisely what is in your supplement and whether there could be any benefit at all. The studies referenced by these companies are by the industry and not independent medical studies. Even if a study does show some possible absorption of some amino acids from a supplement, the reality is that the supplement you are trying may not have anything close to what the study referenced in the first place, and it is impossible to say if those specific amino acids did their job and went to your skin and were specifically used to build collagen. Be cautious with regard to marketing language. Things that sound too good to be true usually are. Learn how to spot a “skincare halo” to avoid wasting money.

collagen supplements


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