One of the most talked about supplements this year is collagen, with a market estimated to be $3.71 billion and growing. People take collagen supplements in powder or pill form to help with aging, joints and muscle mass. But does supplementing with collagen really work or is it another fad?

Collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals, can be found in the layer of skin called the dermis that provides strength and elasticity, as well as in bones, muscles and tendons. It constitutes 90% of the dry weight of skin, according to research published in the journal Nutrients. New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Health Matters blog notes that collagen helps skin cells adhere to one another but production decreases with age, contributing to skin wrinkling and sagging. 

In one study, researchers from the University of California Irvine and the University of California Riverside, reviewed published data on collagen supplementation to analyze its treatment efficacy regarding skin quality, anti-aging benefits, and potential application in medical dermatology. Eleven studies with a total of 805 patients were included for review.

The researchers found that the studies they reviewed had promising preliminary results for both the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging. The researchers also suggested that collagen supplements could increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density while being generally safe to use. These findings were published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.  

Another study conducted by researchers in India and published in the Journal of the Science of the Food and Agriculture studied the use of collagen peptides to control the progression of knee osteoarthritis. The study concluded that collagen could have therapeutic benefits in the management of osteoarthritis and the maintenance of joint health.

While there is certainly evidence that collagen supplements may have benefits, are ways to get it through food? According to The Cleveland Clinic the body makes collagen when proteins are combined with vitamins like vitamin C and minerals like zinc and copper. For a simple food that combines all of these ingredients, check out bone broth.

More studies need to be done to conclusively determine the full effectiveness of collagen supplements, their proper dosing and their safety. A medical professional can provide personalized advice as to whether or not collagen supplements may work for an individual’s particular concern.

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