Esta proteína está en nuestros organismos y es un componente fundamental de nuestra piel, huesos, tendones y cartílagos. Can you benefit by taking it in supplement form?
Pills, powders, and potions made from collagen seem like they're everywhere these days. You can't scroll social media or hang out on the pickleball court without someone praising this protein for improving their skin or joints.
It makes perfect sense that older adults would be interested in the benefits of collagen supplements. Collagen helps our body form connective tissue and keeps our bodies more firm and elastic. The aging process causes collagen production to slow down, and lifestyle habits such as smoking, a lack of sleep, and not enough exercise also can speed up the decline.
If you want to try a supplement to smooth skin or soothe joints, collagen probably won’t hurt, and it might help, says Jessica Sylvester, R.D., L.D.N. She is the founder of FL Nutrition Group in Boca Raton, Florida.
Before you run off to buy expensive capsules or lotion, there are a few things you should know — both good and bad — about collagen supplements for older adults. Before adding collagen or any other new supplements to your health routine, have a conversation with your doctor about whether it’s really right for you and what other options you have to address your specific problem.
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The Pros of Collagen Supplements
Some of the hype about these products may be well-founded. Here's a rundown of collagen's potential benefits, according to experts and the current research.
Firmer skin. Collagen, abundant in young people, helps skin stay elastic, firm, and hydrated — all the things that give your complexion a glow. “In the body, collagen provides structure,” says Sylvester. Structure means firmer skin that doesn’t droop. As collagen production slows down with age, sagging starts and wrinkles set in. And collagen supplements may have the potential to reverse some of these signs of aging.
According to a 2022 review, collagen supplements can help reduce or delay skin aging. In another study published in the journal Nutrition Research, 120 people were randomly assigned to either an oral collagen supplement or a placebo. Those who used the collagen supplement saw a 40% higher increase in skin elasticity compared to the group that didn’t take it.
Better joint and bone health. Aches and pains often come with aging, and collagen supplements promise relief from soreness and stiffness. There is some science to back up these claims, too.
Collagen supplements may help reduce and prevent joint pain and bone density loss, found one published review of 60 scientific studies. And findings published in Nutrition Research showed that collagen supplements reduced joint pain by 43% and improved mobility by 39%. Those are encouraging findings for anyone struggling with joint issues.
A healthier heart. Collagen also helps provide structure and flexibility in the arteries. Although more research is needed, one study in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis found that collagen supplementation might help treat and prevent atherosclerosis, which is hardening of the arteries.
Recommended reading: Why It’s So Important to Consult Your Doctor Before Taking Supplements
The Cons of Collagen Supplements
For every benefit of collagen supplements, there's a downside to consider too. Factor these into your equation when you decide if you want to take them.
The research isn’t rock solid. We may want collagen supplements to work more than there’s proof that they do. “There aren’t enough clinical trials in humans,” notes Sylvester. Plus, many of those studies were conducted on a small number of people.
There's also some bias in play: A lot of collagen research is funded by skincare brands or supplement companies. This doesn't mean the science is invalid, but you should keep that in mind when deciding. More high-quality studies are needed to draw definitive conclusions. Until then, the jury is still out on what the iron-clad, science-backed benefits really are.
It’s not clear how much you should take. At this time, research hasn’t pinpointed the minimum effective dose. “Let’s say a study gave participants two spoonfuls of a supplement, but you only need a teaspoon to get the desired outcome,” says Sylvester. “The body doesn’t store collagen, so whatever isn’t needed is flushed out. There are still a lot of unknowns.” And on the flip side, you may not be taking enough to see any benefits either.
The effects don’t last forever. If you want to maintain any benefits you get from collagen supplements, you’ll need to keep taking them for the rest of your life. That’s because an enzyme in the body, collagenase, is constantly breaking down collagen. So as soon as you stop supplementing, your body, skin, and joints will return to the collagen levels you had before. That can be a bigger financial commitment than many people want to make.
The industry isn’t regulated. As with any supplement, collagen isn’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though you likely think of supplements as drugs, the industry isn’t as closely monitored as the pharmaceutical industry.
This is a particular concern for older adults who may need to consider the potential drug interactions, sensitivities, and allergies that could happen with an underregulated product. Supplements don't always list the source of the collagen, either. "If you're kosher, you don't want collagen that came from a pig or a horse," says Sylvester.
Supplements can also vary greatly in terms of quality and safety. It's up to you to research and choose a reputable brand. Your doctor might have specific types and brands to recommend that have worked well for other patients with issues similar to yours.
Topical collagen probably doesn’t work. A lot of collagen is sold in skincare products. Unfortunately, there is a lack of evidence that collagen applied to the skin has any effect at all. Collagen is primarily produced in the deeper layers of the skin, below the epidermis. It’s unlikely that a cream applied to the skin’s surface is going to penetrate into the skin’s deeper layers to provide benefits.
"Collagen is best absorbed as an oral supplement, something you swallow. Collagen is too large to penetrate the skin's outer layers," says Sylvester.
Other Ways to Get Collagen
The supplement aisle isn’t the only way to go. You can also increase your intake through your diet. Meat has a lot of protein and collagen-rich connective tissue, and foods like pot roast, brisket, and chuck steak are good sources.
Bone broth is also typically full of collagen. "Though some reports found that, because of the way it's boiled to remove the cartilage, it can contain lead," cautions Sylvester.
There are also foods that don't contain collagen, but they help your body produce more of it. Protein-rich foods like eggs and soy contain the amino acids your body needs to make collagen. Zinc and vitamin C are also needed for collagen production. Legumes, meat, dairy, shellfish, seeds, and nuts can all help you boost your zinc intake. You'll find vitamin C in citrus fruits, peppers, fresh parsley, and certain vegetables like kale and broccoli.
See our sources:
- Should you take collagen supplements? UCLA Health
- Skin aging: Dermatology Practical & Conceptual
- Skin elasticity: Nutrition Research
- Joint pain relief: Nutricion Hospitalaria and Nutrition Research
- Heart health: Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis
- Food sources of collagen: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
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