Collagen Supplements - Are They Worth It?

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Each year UBC students who are training to become dietitians have a class assignment to write for the public. Back in 2016 I asked students to look into the evidence behind supplements and foods to help prevent skin aging (see the article here). Since then there's been new research conducted. So, I asked two students to write a follow-up post that reflects the current evidence. If you want to reduce the signs of aging (um, who doesn't?), read on to see what students Pearl and Christine found (because my advice has changed). 

 

What is Collagen?

Collagen - the ever-present buzzword that invades the minds of beauty gurus, health experts and all who pursue the path of attaining soft and supple skin. As our skin’s support structure, this protein plays a crucial role in providing our skin with integrity, firmness, elasticity, and overall functioning. Despite collagen's vital role, the aging process triggers the progressive decline of collagen in the body. This decline leads to the weakening of skin and the development of wrinkles. As today’s beauty standards value younger-looking skin, it is no wonder that this protein is sought after by so many people.  

 

Collagen Supplements: Are They Worth It? 

In recent years, collagen supplements have gained popularity. While these products are good sources of collagen, it is important to consider current research literature before emptying our wallets. In other words, does taking collagen supplements improve our skin? 

The effectiveness of collagen supplements on skin is a relatively new topic in the field of dermatology, but there is compelling evidence to suggest that oral supplementation has benefits. There is evidence that a “hydrolysate” form of collagen may be the most effective version regarding its ability to improve skin moisture and elasticity.  Currently, there isn't sufficient scientific evidence to support a specific dose of collagen. Most of the studies have looked for results after 4 - 8 weeks.   

When collagen is combined with antioxidants the increase in skin elasticity may be amplified. Antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10, selenium, and astaxanthin have been investigated. Interestingly, collagen and astaxanthin are present in fish, especially sockeye salmon. 

 

Collagen Alternative To Improve Skin?

Aloe Sterols

Consumption of aloe vera plant sterols have been shown to increase skin elasticity and moisture, even in sun damaged skin. When aloe sterols are consumed everyday they have a positive effect on the skin. They can be consumed in a pill, powder form or the aloe vera drink. 

 

Our Conclusions

Pearl: 

There is a lot of literature and research out there and it is not always valid or reliable, so it is important to critically think about what you read on the internet. The research above is from reliable sources. Personally, I like to promote the consumption of foods over supplements, so finding alternatives like the ones mentioned above was reassuring.  I would encourage all of you to try some of the alternatives to collagen supplements and see if they work for you.

Christine:  

Although there are many exaggerated claims surrounding the topics of collagen supplements, there is also a lot of promising, bona fide research pointing towards the benefits. Since the greatest effects are found in populations with low collagen, it’s worthwhile to move your attention away from supplements and more towards optimizing your own body’s collagen-making machinery. In other words, it’s better to focus on getting adequate amounts of protein from your diet. If you are keen on taking supplements, I would recommend talking with your go-to medical professional prior to starting a supplement routine.

Kristen:

A big "Thank you" to students Christine and Pearl for reading the literature and writing this post. Being 40-something, I'm very interested in these results. I certainly will continue to eat sockeye salmon (my favourite salmon). And, I'll continue eating tofu, foods rich in vitamin C, and drinking green tea - which we discussed in the 2016 article. I'll give collagen and aloe vera supplements a try for a couple of months to see if I can notice a difference in my skin. I echo Christine's advice (which I covered in this article) about making sure that you talk with a health professional who knows your health history before taking any supplements.   

Photo credit: Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash