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Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

Health + Wellness
Yulia Lisitsa / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Brianna Elliott, RD

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body.

It is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, skin, and muscles.


Collagen has many important functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones.

In recent years, collagen supplements have become popular. Most are hydrolyzed, which means the collagen has been broken down, making it easier for you to absorb.

There are also several foods you can eat to increase your collagen intake, including pork skin and bone broth.

Consuming collagen may have a variety of health benefits, from relieving joint pain to improving skin health.

This article will discuss 6 science-backed health benefits of taking collagen.

1. Can Improve Skin Health

Collagen is a major component of your skin.

It plays a role in strengthening skin, plus may benefit elasticity and hydration. As you age, your body produces less collagen, leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles.

However, several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help slow the aging of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness.

In one study, women who took a supplement containing 2.5–5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks experienced less skin dryness and a significant increase in skin elasticity compared with those who did not take the supplement.

Another study found that women who drank a beverage mixed with a collagen supplement daily for 12 weeks experienced increased skin hydration and a significant reduction in wrinkle depth compared with a control group.

The wrinkle-reducing effects of collagen supplements have been attributed to their ability to stimulate your body to produce collagen on its own.

Additionally, taking collagen supplements may promote the production of other proteins that help structure your skin, including elastin and fibrillin.

There are also many anecdotal claims that collagen supplements help prevent acne and other skin conditions, but these are not supported by scientific evidence.

You can buy collagen supplements online.

Summary

Taking supplements that contain collagen may help slow the aging of your skin. However, stronger evidence is needed from studies examining the effects of collagen on its own.

2. Helps Relieve Joint Pain

Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints.

As the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you get older, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases.

Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall.

In one study, 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks experienced a significant decrease in joint pain while walking and at rest, compared with a group that did not take it.

In another study, adults took 2 grams of collagen daily for 70 days. Those who took collagen had a significant reduction in joint pain and were better able to engage in physical activity than those who did not take it.

Researchers have theorized that supplemental collagen may accumulate in cartilage and stimulate your tissues to make collagen.

They have suggested this may lead to lower inflammation, better support of your joints, and reduced pain.

If you want to try taking a collagen supplement for its potential pain-relieving effects, studies suggest you should start with a daily dosage of 8–12 grams.

Summary

Taking collagen supplements has been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen synthesis in the body. This may help promote pain relief among people with joint disorders like osteoarthritis.

3. Could Prevent Bone Loss

Your bones are made mostly of collagen, which gives them structure and helps keep them strong.

Just as the collagen in your body deteriorates as you age, so does bone mass. This may lead to conditions like osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone density and linked to a higher risk of bone fractures.

Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may have certain effects in the body that help inhibit the bone breakdown that leads to osteoporosis.

In one study, women took either a calcium supplement combined with 5 grams of collagen or a calcium supplement and no collagen daily for 12 months.

By the end of the study, the women taking the calcium and collagen supplement had significantly lower blood levels of proteins that promote bone breakdown than those taking only the calcium.

Another study found similar results in 66 women who took 5 grams of collagen daily for 12 months.

The women who took the collagen showed an increase of up to 7% in their bone mineral density (BMD), compared with women who did not consume collagen.

BMD is a measure of the density of minerals, such as calcium, in your bones. Low BMD is associated with weak bones and the development of osteoporosis.

These results are promising, but more human studies are needed before the role of collagen supplements in bone health can be confirmed.

Summary

Consuming collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of bone disorders like osteoporosis. They have the potential to help increase BMD and lower levels of proteins in the blood that stimulate bone breakdown.

4. Could Boost Muscle Mass

Between 1–10% of muscle tissue is composed of collagen. This protein is necessary to keep your muscles strong and functioning properly.

Studies suggest that collagen supplements help boost muscle mass in people with sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass that happens with age.

In one study, 27 frail men took 15 grams of collagen while participating in an exercise program daily for 12 weeks. Compared with men who exercised but did not take collagen, they gained significantly more muscle mass and strength.

Researchers have suggested that taking collagen may promote the synthesis of muscle proteins like creatine, as well as stimulate muscle growth after exercise.

More research is necessary to investigate collagen's potential to boost muscle mass.

Summary

Research has shown that consuming collagen supplements increased muscle growth and strength in people with age-related muscle mass loss.

5. Promotes Heart Health

Researchers have theorized that taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions.

Collagen provides structure to your arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries may become weak and fragile.

This may lead to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by the narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis has the potential to lead to heart attack and stroke.

In one study, 31 healthy adults took 16 grams of collagen daily for 6 months. By the end, they had experienced a significant reduction in measures of artery stiffness, compared with before they started taking the supplement.

Additionally, they increased their levels of HDL "good" cholesterol by an average of 6%. HDL is an important factor in the risk of heart conditions, including atherosclerosis.

Nevertheless, more studies on the role of collagen supplements in heart health are needed.

Summary

Taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk factors associated with heart conditions such as atherosclerosis.

6. Other Health Benefits

Collagen supplements may have other health benefits, but these have not been studied extensively.

  • Hair and nails. Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness. Additionally, it may stimulate your hair and nails to grow longer.
  • Gut health. Although there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, some health practitioners promote the use of collagen supplements to treat intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome.
  • Brain health. No studies have examined the role of collagen supplements in brain health. However, some people claim they improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
  • Weight loss. Some believe that taking collagen supplements may promote weight loss and a faster metabolism. There have not been any studies to support these claims.

Although these potential effects are promising, more research is needed before formal conclusions can be made.

Summary

Collagen supplements have been claimed to promote brain, heart, and gut health, as well as help control weight and keep hair and nails healthy. However, there's scant evidence to support these effects.

Foods That Contain Collagen

Collagen is found in the connective tissues of animals. Thus, foods like chicken skin, pork skin, beef, and fish are sources of collagen.

Foods that contain gelatin, such as bone broth, also provide collagen. Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen after it has been cooked.

More research is needed to determine whether eating collagen-rich foods helps increase collagen in your body. There have not been any human studies on whether collagen-rich foods have the same benefits as supplements.

Digestive enzymes break down the collagen in food into individual amino acids and peptides.

However, the collagen in supplements has already been broken down, or hydrolyzed, which is why it's thought to be absorbed more efficiently than the collagen in foods.

Summary

Several foods contain collagen, including animal foods and bone broth. However, its absorption is not as efficient as that of hydrolyzed collagen.

Collagen Side Effects

Currently, there are not many known risks associated with taking collagen supplements.

However, some supplements are made from common food allergens, such as fish, shellfish, and eggs. People with allergies to these foods should avoid collagen supplements made with these ingredients to prevent allergic reactions.

Some people have also reported that collagen supplements leave a lingering bad taste in their mouth.

Additionally, collagen supplements have the potential to cause digestive side effects, such as feelings of fullness and heartburn.

Regardless, these supplements appear to be safe for most people.

Summary

Collagen supplements may lead to side effects, such as a bad taste in the mouth, heartburn, and fullness. If you have allergies, make sure to purchase supplements that aren't made from collagen sources you're allergic to.

The Bottom Line

Taking collagen is associated with a number of health benefits and very few known risks.

To start, supplements may improve skin health by reducing wrinkles and dryness. They may also help increase muscle mass, prevent bone loss, and relieve joint pain.

People have reported many other benefits of collagen supplements, but these claims haven't been studied much.

Although several foods contain collagen, it's unknown whether the collagen in food offers the same benefits as supplements.

Collagen supplements are generally safe, quite easy to use, and definitely worth trying for their potential benefits.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.