Collagen is a fibrillar protein of the conjunctive and connective tissues in the human body, essentially skin, joints, and bones. Due to its abundance in our bodies, its strength and its relation with skin aging, collagen has gained great interest as an oral dietary supplement as well as an ingredient in cosmetics. Collagen fibres get damaged with the pass of time, losing thickness and strength which has been linked to skin aging phenomena. Collagen can be obtained from natural sources such as plants and animals or by recombinant protein production systems. Because of its increased use, the collagen market is worth billions. The question therefore arises: is it worth it?

This 2019 systematic review assessed all available randomized-controlled trials using collagen supplementation for treatment efficacy regarding skin quality, anti-aging benefits, and potential application in medical dermatology. Eleven studies with a total of 805 patients were included. Eight studies used collagen hydrolysate, 2.5g/d to 10g/d, for 8 to 24 weeks, for the treatment of pressure ulcers, xerosis, skin aging, and cellulite. Two studies used collagen tripeptide, 3g/d for 4 to 12 weeks, with notable improvement in skin elasticity and hydration. Lastly, one study using collagen dipeptide suggested anti-aging efficacy is proportionate to collagen dipeptide content.

The authors concluded that preliminary results are promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging. Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. Collagen supplementation is generally safe with no reported adverse events. Further studies are needed to elucidate medical use in skin barrier diseases such as atopic dermatitis and to determine optimal dosing regimens.

These conclusions are similar to those of a similar but smaller review of 2015 which concluded that the oral supplementation with collagen peptides is efficacious to improve hallmarks of skin aging.

And what about the many other claims that are currently being made for oral collagen?

A 2006 review of collagen for osteoarthritis concluded that a growing body of evidence provides a rationale for the use of collagen hydrolysate for patients with OA. It is hoped that ongoing and future research will clarify how collagen hydrolysate provides its clinical effects and determine which populations are most appropriate for treatment with this supplement. For other indication, the evidence seems less conclusive.

So, what should we make of this collective evidence. My interpretation is that, of course, there are caveats. For instance, most studies are small and not as rigorous as one would hope. But the existing evidence is nevertheless intriguing (and much more compelling than that for most other supplements). Moreover, there seem to be very few adverse effects with oral usage (don’t inject the stuff for cosmetic purposes, as often recommended!). Therefore, I feel that collagen might be one of the few dietary supplements worth keeping an eye on.

8 Responses to Collagen, a promising supplement for reducing skin aging?

  • I am puzzled by this post. According to my very limited knowledge of the human physiology, all orally consumed proteins are degraded to single amino acids in the process of digestion.
    Does this not exclude any possibility that collagen/collage hydrolysate has any PROTEIN-specific health benefit?!

    • seems logic.
      but the trial evidence seems to suggest it has some effects nevertheless.
      I am also puzzled.

      • I just had a (very brief) look at this paper:
        “Oral collagen-derived dipeptides, prolyl-hydroxyproline and hydroxyprolyl-glycine, ameliorate skin barrier dysfunction and alter gene expression profiles in the skin”
        from Shimizu et al. (2015) (Biochem Biophys Res Commun., 456(2):626-30. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2014.12.006).
        Interestingly, the dipeptides prolyl-hydroxyproline (PO) and hydroxyprolyl-glycine (OG) are detected in the human blood after ingestion of collagen hydrolysate.

        So apparently I was wrong, not all proteins are fully degraded to free amino acids during digestion.

        In this paper, the authors investigated (quote) ”the effects of the administration of PO + OG on diet-induced skin barrier dysfunction in HR-1 hairless mice.”
        According to this paper, the administration of these dipeptides significantly improved skin barrier dysfunction. Via a microarray assay, the authors excluded the possibility that this effect was caused by altered gene expression of genes known to relate maintenance/repair of skin, but the exact mode of action of PO and OG remained unclear.

        • thanks
          still, a bit early to run to the shops and buy the stuff, I think.

          • Can´t say that I was on my way.
            My personal beauty secret is liquid-based anyways… with beer as a foundation. Works like a charm. When applied correctly, my aging skin doesn´t bother me at all. 🙂

          • does it also grow back my hair?

          • Of course it will!
            Simply trust my recommendation (I have a PhD, so you can trust me) and try it!
            Next, rely on your personal experience if it worked or not (best done not too long after treatment).
            If you are convinced, then I am happy to send an invoice to you!

  • One of the most pock marked and wrinkled faces I remember from my youth was that of my grandfather’s housekeeper. My grandfather ran a big farm and old Agusta cooked for the household of up to 15 to 20 people. Despite having taken collagen all her life that collagen had certainly not kept her skin soft and supple.
    Like her, I prefer to have remnants of dead animals in some form in most of my food. Thus I take collagen almost every day. It does not help with my arthritis at all. I particularly like to take my dose of collagen in the form of a good poultry or fish meal but bacon and steaks are also a favourite.
    The collagen products I see in the shelves of pharmacies and health sections of the supermarket contain some form of partially hydrolysed* purified, dried and pulverised collagen made raw materials that would otherwise be wasted, i.e. offall, skins, bones and other waste from slaughterhouses or fish processing.
    The price of these products is for some strange reason extremely high if you calculate the per weight price, considering that a completely comparable or often the same product can be bought for a hundreth or less of the price (per weight) in the baking and condiment section of any supermarket. This is ordinary GELATINE intended for jelly and other goodies that need a gelatinous consistency. You can even buy collagen very economically in gummy bears and other similar treats.
    Collagen is the stuff in gelatine and it is one of the most copiously produced food additives in the world.
    Even the capsules containing my arthritis medication are made out of collagen. On the package it is named “gelatin”.
    Maybe that is the truly active component in my medicine?? 😀

    *Hydrolisation is what happens to the collagen in your food when you ingest it and the digestion breaks it down.

    So if you want to try collagen for your skin or joints. Don’t buy expensive food supplements marked “Collagen”. Just chew on much bacon or a gummy bear, you get a much higher dose for very much less.

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