As we get older everything starts to sag - this is because the production of collagen - a natural protein that gives our skin and bones structure - begins to slow down. Collagen supplements may make up some of this shortfall to keep joints pain-free and skin looking youthful.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It provides the sponge-like scaffold on which cells build our nerves, bones and skin, ultimately giving support and structure to our skin, internal organs, cartilage, bones and all the connective tissue in between.
Collagen is available in supplements (often derived from cow cartilage) - as pills, liquids, in anti-ageing creams, as fillers and in injectable form.
Collagen supplements are sometimes combined with glucosamine or chondroitin which are also good for joint and bone conditions. Creams that contain collagen aim to improve the firmness and texture of the skin and to stimulate the body’s own production of collagen.
Why do I need Collagen?
Collagen gives support and structure to our skin, bones and ligaments. As we get older collagen production naturally starts to slow. Over time, sun exposure and pollution also play their part, allowing free radicals (damaging substances in our bodies) to cause cell damage until our skin becomes less elastic and more wrinkly. A depletion in collagen also leads to deterioration in conditions of the joints. This is because the cartilage around the joints starts to weaken causing pain. Our gums also suffer, with less support, they make us more vulnerable to periodontal disease.
Collagen supplements may help compensate for collagen lost naturally through the ageing process. A 600mg dose, for example, may help reduce joint pain and stiffness, alleviate some symptoms of arthritis and perk up the appearance of your skin.
In a recent study collagen supplements were found to be effective in reducing stiffness and pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.* A second study found it improved joint pain in athletes.*
Natural collagen also promotes blood clotting and helps wounds to close and form scar tissue. In one study collagen implants were effective in treating receding gums in patients who would normally require dental surgery.
Can too much Collagen be harmful?
Because most collagen products are derived from animals there can be a risk of collagen containing infectious agents or injected collagen being rejected by the body. To overcome this scientists are starting to develop collagen derived from plants.