All You Need to Know About Collagen Supplementation

Key points

  • Even small dosages of collagen can improve skin elasticity and hydration and reduce wrinkles.
  • Collagen is likely to reduce joint pain, improve mobility, and reduce inflammation.
  • Collagen might also be effective for reducing muscle soreness, improving aspects of performance, and increasing muscle mass.
  • Collagen might help to support fat-loss
  • The effects of collagen might be maximised by coingestion with vitamin C (and perhaps other nutrients)

Collagen has long been touted as an anti-aging, skin, hair, nail, joint, and gut-supporting supplement. This has led to collagen hydrolysate becoming one of the fastest-growing areas of health and sports supplementation with a market size forecast to reach over 6.6 billion US dollars within the next four years. [1] Most collagen supplements are derived from waste from beef production (skin, hair, cartilage) but more recently marine collagen from fish waste (which is rich in bioactive collagen peptides [2]) has become popular, in part due to around 75% of fish material being discarded, [3, 4] and there is a growing industry devoted to the creation of collagen peptides from fish, [5] along with yeast, bacteria, insects, plants, and in vitro mammal cells. [1]

Reviews of the evidence for collagen supplementation

Reviews of the evidence show that collagen hydrolysate has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and joint-supporting properties. [6, 7] When taken orally collagen hydrolysate can enter the body and accumulate in cartilage, where it increases the synthesis of connective tissue, [8] and almost all studies conducted show improvements in various parameters of skin-health. [9] Peptides from collagen that are beneficial to skin health have also been shown to be able to enter the bloodstream, [10, 11] and effectively reach the skin as a result of oral collagen supplementation. [12] Reviews on the efficacy of collagen supplements show that both short and long term use of collagen supplements can reduce skin ageing and improve skin elasticity and hydration, wound repair and skin collagen density. [13]

The effects of collagen on skin health

Supplementation with 10 g of marine collagen (also included 400 mg ornithine and vitamin C) significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity, and IGF-1 levels compared to a placebo. [14]

A trial on 56 women aged 30–55 years, showed a significant improvement in skin hydration and elasticity in those taking just 2.5 g of collagen hydrolysate daily vs placebo.15 This effect is dose-dependent, with results improved significantly with higher doses (5 g and 10 g). [16]

A mixed supplement of 500 mg collagen peptides along with hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulphate taken twice daily for 12 weeks resulted in significantly reduced facial lines and wrinkles, increased skin elasticity, and skin collagen content compared to placebo. [17]

In another controlled trial, 5 g of oral collagen hydrolysate supplement taken daily for 4 weeks resulted in a significant improvement in skin elasticity in areas exposed to sun and this effect remained on follow-up 4 weeks after the study ended. [18]

The effects of collagen on joint pain & mobility

As little as 1200 mg per day of collagen significantly improves joint pain after 6-months. [19] Effects, similarly to skin health, are likely to be dose-dependent. A 10 g dose of collagen, taken daily reduces pain, and improves joint mobility and function in people with arthritis, [20, 21] and reduces joint pain and inflammation in athletes. [22]

A recent trial in older people (~63 years of age) found no significant effect of collagen on inflammatory, cartilage, or bone markers, and did not significantly reduce knee pain. [23] However, a placebo-controlled, randomised trial in university-age runners found that pain and stiffness in the knees were significantly lower in the collagen group than in the placebo group after 4 weeks. At this time, the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and 3-methylhistidine were significantly elevated in the placebo group but not in the collagen group. [24]

The effects of collagen on muscle soreness and performance

20g of collagen supplementation either before or after exercise resulted in a large reduction in muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours post-exercise and jump performance recovered more quickly in the collagen-supplemented group. [25] [Note: it is unclear from this study’s methods whether the isoenergetic control was a protein source but overall, there was little meaningful difference in protein intake between groups.]

Is collagen effective for strength and muscle gain?

I remember when I started working in the health and performance field back in the 1990s, people thought of collagen as a cheap and ineffective ‘filler’ protein. More recent evidence suggests that collagen can help to improve body composition and strength.

In a study of pre-menopausal women completing 3 weight-training sessions per week (over 12 weeks) and taking 15 g of collagen peptides per day gained more fat-free mass, increased grip and lower body strength, and lost more fat than those taking placebo. [26] In this study, the placebo was silicon dioxide however, there was no meaningful difference in protein or energy between the groups. However, in a comparison of whey protein and collagen in rested and exercised legs, whey was found to be superior for increasing muscle protein synthesis acutely and longer-term, with collagen appearing to be effective only for increasing MPS acutely in the exercised limb whereas whey was anabolic for both the exercised and rested limb. [27]

Could collagen support fat-loss?

In a recent Korean study, 2000 mg of a collagen peptide supplement resulted in significantly increased fat-loss compared to placebo control. [28]

Collagen and vitamin C

Coingestion of collagen with vitamin C or foods high in vitamin C is commonly suggested as a way to increase the efficacy of collagen supplementation. Preclinical evidence suggests that vitamin C taken alone can improve collagen synthesis and oxidative stress (which can reduce recovery post-injury) however, in human trials, even relatively high doses of ≥1000mg per day had no significant effect vs control on functional outcomes after injury. [29]

A crossover RCT of 10 recreationally active males compared 15 g of vitamin C–enriched gelatine or hydrolysed collagen, to a gummy containing equal parts of gelatine and collagen taken 1 hour before 6 minutes of jumping rope. The N-terminal peptide of procollagen levels tended to increase ∼20% from baseline in the gelatine and collagen interventions but not in the placebo or gummy. This suggests that vitamin C might improve the efficacy of collagen supplements or gelatine, but the results did not reach the threshold for significance.

Safety of collagen

The studies above observed no adverse effects from collagen supplementation and it is considered safe with no adverse effects reported. [13]

Marine, bovine, avian or marine?!

At this time, it’s unclear whether any of the sources or types of collagen are superior to others for functional outcomes.

Summary

Based on the evidence, collagen appears to be an effective supplement for improving skin and joint health, improving mobility, and reducing pain and inflammation however, other protein sources (such as whey or pea protein isolate) are likely to be superior for muscle gain and retention.

Dosage

A majority of studies show the greatest effect from ≥10 g of collagen hydrolysate per day. This can be taken before or after exercise (or at another time) and might benefit from taking with ~500 mg of vitamin C.

  • Even small dosages of collagen (< 2 g) can improve skin elasticity and hydration and reduce wrinkles.
  • ~10 g collagen taken daily is likely to reduce joint pain, improve mobility, and reduce inflammation.
  • Collagen might also be effective for reducing muscle soreness, improving aspects of performance, and increasing muscle mass.
  • Collagen also supports fat-loss compared to placebo.
  • However, more ‘anabolic’ proteins like whey or pea protein isolate are likely to be more effective for body composition effects than collagen.
  • The effects of collagen might be maximised by coingestion with vitamin C (and perhaps other nutrients)

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References

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2. Nasri M. Bioactive Peptides from Fish Collagen Byproducts. Byproducts from Agriculture and Fisheries2019. p. 309–33.

3. Bhagwat PK, Dandge PB. Collagen and collagenolytic proteases: A review. Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology. 2018;15:43–55.

4. Subhan F, Hussain Z, Tauseef I, Shehzad A, Wahid F. A review on recent advances and applications of fish collagen. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2020:1–11.

5. Ahmed M, Verma AK, Patel R. Collagen extraction and recent biological activities of collagen peptides derived from sea-food waste: A review. Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy. 2020;18:100315.

6. Song H, Li B. Beneficial effects of collagen hydrolysate: a review on recent developments. Biomed J Sci Technol Res. 2017:1–4.

7. Moskowitz RW. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2000;30(2):87–99.

8. Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders:a review of the literature. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2006;22(11):2221–32.

9. Barati M, Jabbari M, Navekar R, Farahmand F, Zeinalian R, Salehi-Sahlabadi A, et al. Collagen supplementation for skin health: A mechanistic systematic review. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2020;19(11):2820–9.

10. Shigemura Y, Kubomura D, Sato Y, Sato K. Dose-dependent changes in the levels of free and peptide forms of hydroxyproline in human plasma after collagen hydrolysate ingestion. Food Chemistry. 2014;159:328–32.

11. Sugihara F, Inoue N, Kuwamori M, Taniguchi M. Quantification of hydroxyprolyl-glycine (Hyp-Gly) in human blood after ingestion of collagen hydrolysate. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering. 2012;113(2):202–3.

12. Yazaki M, Ito Y, Yamada M, Goulas S, Teramoto S, Nakaya M-a, et al. Oral Ingestion of Collagen Hydrolysate Leads to the Transportation of Highly Concentrated Gly-Pro-Hyp and Its Hydrolyzed Form of Pro-Hyp into the Bloodstream and Skin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2017;65(11):2315–22.

13. Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz MLW, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019;18(1):9–16.

14. Ito N, Seki S, Ueda F. Effects of Composite Supplement Containing Collagen Peptide and Ornithine on Skin Conditions and Plasma IGF-1 Levels — A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Marine Drugs. 2018;16(12):482.

15. Sugihara F. Clinical Effects of Ingesting Collagen Hydrolysate on Facial Skin Properties―A Randomized, Placebo — controlled, Double — blind Trial―. 薬理と治療. 2015;43(1):67–70.

16. Ohara H, Ito K, Iida H, Matsumoto H. Improvement in the moisture content of the stratum corneum following 4 weeks of collagen hydrolysate ingestion. Nippon Shokuhin Kagaku Kogaku Kaishi = Journal of the Japanese Society for Food Science and Technology. 2009;56(3):137–45.

17. Schauss A, Schwartz S, Hammon K, Hardy AG, Guttman N, Fong M, et al. The Effects of Skin Aging Associated with the Use of BioCell Collagen: A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial (P06–122–19). Current Developments in Nutrition. 2019;3(Supplement_1).

18. Sangsuwan W, Asawanonda P. Four-weeks daily intake of oral collagen hydrolysate results in improved skin elasticity, especially in sun-exposed areas: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2020:1–6.

19. Bruyère O, Zegels B, Leonori L, Rabenda V, Janssen A, Bourges C, et al. Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: A 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2012;20(3):124–30.

20. Zuckley L, Angelopoulou KM, Carpenter MR, McCarthy S, Meredith BA, Kline G, et al. Collagen hydrolysate improves joint function in adults with mild symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2004;36(5):S153-S4.

21. Benito-Ruiz P, Camacho-Zambrano MM, Carrillo-Arcentales JN, Mestanza-Peralta MA, Vallejo-Flores CA, Vargas-López SV, et al. A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolysate, for improving joint comfort. International journal of food sciences and nutrition. 2009;60(sup2):99–113.

22. Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, et al. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2008;24(5):1485–96.

23. Bongers CCWG, Haaf DSMT, Catoire M, Kersten B, Wouters JA, Eijsvogels TMH, et al. Effectiveness of collagen supplementation on pain scores in healthy individuals with self-reported knee pain: a randomized controlled trial. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2020;45(7):793–800.

24. Kimira Y. The Effects of Collagen Peptide Supplementation on Knee Joint Health―A Double — blind, Placebo — controlled, Randomized Trial in Healthy University Students Belonging to a Running Club―. 薬理と治療. 2019;47(9):1455–62.

25. Clifford T, Ventress M, Allerton DM, Stansfield S, Tang JCY, Fraser WD, et al. The effects of collagen peptides on muscle damage, inflammation and bone turnover following exercise: a randomized, controlled trial. Amino Acids. 2019;51(4):691–704.

26. Jendricke P, Centner C, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A, König D. Specific Collagen Peptides in Combination with Resistance Training Improve Body Composition and Regional Muscle Strength in Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):892.

27. Oikawa SY, Kamal MJ, Webb EK, McGlory C, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Whey protein but not collagen peptides stimulate acute and longer-term muscle protein synthesis with and without resistance exercise in healthy older women: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2020;111(3):708–18.

28. Tak YJ, Kim YJ, Lee JG, Yi Y-H, Cho YH, Kang GH, et al. Effect of Oral Ingestion of Low-Molecular Collagen Peptides Derived from Skate (Raja Kenojei) Skin on Body Fat in Overweight Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Marine Drugs. 2019;17(3):157.

29. DePhillipo NN, Aman ZS, Kennedy MI, Begley JP, Moatshe G, LaPrade RF. Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2018;6(10):2325967118804544.

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