How Do Collagen Supplements Work? What the Science Says
By: Rebecca Paredes
December 18, 2019
- Collagen is a protein that forms connective tissue throughout your body, from your bones to your skin. It’s the glue that holds you together — so, yeah, it’s pretty important.
- Your body naturally produces collagen every day. But over time, that production slows down. A collagen protein supplement like Bulletproof Collagen Protein is an easy way to add more collagen to your diet.
- Hydrolyzed collagen protein, also known as collagen peptides, is broken down into smaller parts so it can be easily absorbed and used by your body.
- Collagen protein has been shown to reduce wrinkles, keep joints strong and flexible, support strong bones, and increase skin hydration.
Collagen protein is the glue that holds your entire body together. That’s not just an expression — this protein powerhouse literally forms the connective tissue for almost all of the structures in your body, from your bones to your skin.
But do collagen supplements work? Read on to learn how this essential building block can support your health, and the best ways to get it into your diet.
What is collagen protein?
It’s an important building block for whole-body health — which explains why people are stirring collagen protein supplements into their coffee to get an added protein boost. Collagen protein reduces wrinkles, increases skin hydration, and supports strong joints.
Your body naturally produces collagen every day. But over time, that production slows down. “There is an enzyme in our skin called collagenase, which breaks down collagen,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.”
“After the age of 25, we break down more collagen than we make, so that’s why we start to see fine lines and wrinkles,” she says.
How collagen supplements can help
You can add more collagen to your diet by regularly consuming foods like bone broth and organ meats.
If these foods aren’t in your usual rotation, you probably don’t have enough naturally occurring collagen in your body. Collagen protein supplements are an ultra-convenient way to reap the benefits of this powerful protein.
It’s easy to add a supplement to smoothies, soups, baked goods, and your favorite drinks. To get the most bang for your buck, look for a flavorless formula that blends in quickly without clumping.
“Like any supplements, some brands and forms of collagen protein are better than others. Look for product labels that indicate the collagen protein is from a grass-fed product with no added fillers,” says nutrition expert Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN, founder of the holistic practice Kelly Schmidt Wellness.
But do collagen protein supplements really work? Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to what the research says.
How do collagen protein supplements work?
Your body is filled with cells that have specific jobs to keep your engines running. Fibroblasts have an important job: they produce collagen.
In order to make the magic happen, fibroblasts need access to amino acids — namely, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Collagen protein supplements supply your fibroblasts with amino acids so they can continue to do what they do best.
Hydrolyzed collagen protein, also known as collagen peptides, is a form of collagen protein that most effectively delivers these amino acids to your body. Collagen is hydrolyzed in a process that breaks down the protein into a smooth, light powder.
Hydrolyzing makes the amino acids more bioavailable — a fancy way of saying “actually able to be used by your body.”
That means your body has an easier time digesting, absorbing and distributing the amino acids throughout your entire body.
Collagen protein supplements and digestion
One critique of collagen protein supplements is that your stomach acids break down the collagen peptides before they can start doing any good stuff. In reality, collagen protein supplements are digested into amino acids and peptides in your gut.
In order to be used by your body, those amino acids and peptides absorbed by the small intestine then circulate into your bloodstream. According to Schmidt, collagen protein is a large molecule — but once it is hydrolyzed into collagen peptides, “we are capable of digesting the compound.”
The research backs this up. Research has shown that after ingesting collagen protein in the hydrolyzed form, collagen levels in the blood increase, Schmidt says.
A 2018 study investigated the effects of ingesting hydrolyzed collagen protein over a four-week period. The results found changes in the levels of hydroxyproline peptides in the bloodstream.
Other studies also found higher levels of collagen peptides in the bloodstream after ingestion.
The bottom line: Collagen protein supplements provide important building blocks for your body to make more collagen, and they’ve been shown to work.
“Like any supplements, there are some brands and forms of collagen protein better than others. Look for labeling to indicate the collagen peptides do not have fillers and that it’s from a grass-fed product,” Schmidt says.
What does collagen protein do?
According to Anne Kelly, MD, medical director at the Holland Biomedical Clinic and Minnesota Hyperbaric Treatment Center, “I think of collagen protein as another ingredient in the recipe that delays aging, but it’s not just a beauty product for the skin. It is the brick-and-mortar foundation for multiple functions in the body.”
Here’s a quick look at the slew of benefits that collagen protein supplements provide.
“Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin. It makes up 75 to 80 percent of your skin,” Jaliman says. “The middle layer of the skin is called the dermis, and that is where we find the collagen and elastic tissue. This is the layer that gives skin its fullness and plumpness.”
Studies have shown that taking hydrolyzed collagen protein regularly can support overall skin health and combat the effects of aging. “Collagen protein consumption can increase skin elasticity and can help your body’s skin repair process, thus encouraging your body to form new collagen,” Jaliman says. It can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, increase skin hydration and smoothness, and support skin elasticity.
For radiant skin and targeted beauty support, try delicious Collagen Protein Beauty Boost. Berry lemonade flavor meets ingredients that work as hard as you do, like hyaluronic acid, keratin, and antioxidant vitamin C.
Strong joints and bones
This is a big deal for collagen’s anti-aging benefits, but it’s also good news for people who work out: a 2008 study of 147 athletes at Penn State University found that their joint pain was reduced when they took collagen protein supplements.
You deserve to feel your absolute best. Collagen protein supplements are effective and versatile, and they benefit your body from the inside-out.
For flexible joints and strong bones, try our Collagen Protein Joint Boost. It’s made with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and Boswellia extract, plus it tastes like blueberry acai. Yum.
Ways to use collagen protein
Here are a few of our favorite ways to use Bulletproof Collagen Protein powder. Get even more recipes on the Bulletproof Recipes page.
- Keto Pumpkin Pancakes
- Low-Carb Raspberry Smoothie Bowl
- Savory Sweet Potato Waffles
- Keto Chocolate Noatmeal
- Keto Low-Carb Bread
- Easy Homemade Collagen Bone Broth
- Creamy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Paleo Cauliflower Fritters
- Keto Peppermint Mocha
- Bulletproof Matcha Latte
- Keto Green Lemon Smoothie
- Low-Carb Swirled Blueberry Vanilla Smoothie
- Paleo Pumpkin Muffins with Collagen Protein
- Keto Brookies (Brownie Cookies)
- Easy Keto White Truffles
- Currant Meyer Lemon Scones
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