Clinical studies suggest that continuous collagen intake could help reduce and prevent joint pain and the loss of bone density. According to a meta-analysis of five clinical studies of at least two months duration, collagen supplements may be effective in improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis by reducing joint pain and stiffness and increasing physical function. According to one study, collagen is more effective than glucosamine, which is one of the most commonly used supplements against osteoarthritis. According to another meta-analysis, collagen supplements may be effective in reducing joint pain in patients suffering from osteoarthritis in the hand, hip or knee for a short to medium time frame, but not in the long term, and the quality of evidence remains very low. Finally, although there is some evidence that collagen consumption could be effective in treating osteoarthritis, at least in the short term, its clinical effectiveness in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis remains controversial.
A systematic review including eleven clinical studies (for a total of 805 subjects) looked at the effects of dietary supplements of collagen on skin health. The studies lasted 4 to 24 weeks and used doses of 2.5 to 3g per day of hydrolyzed collagen or collagen tripeptide. The researchers concluded that collagen supplements may help increase skin elasticity and hydration, promote wound healing and slow skin aging in the short term. With regard to the effects of collagen on bone and hair health, there is very little scientific evidence.
The health of musculoskeletal tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones depends in part on their collagen content. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is required to promote collagen synthesis. Scientific evidence suggests that a collagen supplement taken with vitamin C may promote collagen synthesis and thus accelerate the healing of musculoskeletal injuries and post-workout recovery, but further studies are needed in order to confirm this. It is recommended to take 10 to 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen with 50 mg of vitamin C, 60 minutes before a workout or a rehabilitation session.
Claims that collagen can help regulate body weight are largely based on the assumption that proteins promote satiety. Apart from the fact that collagen consumption may help one to feel less hungry and therefore reduce their caloric intake, there is no evidence that it can contribute to weight loss. Collagen is also thought to be beneficial for muscle mass gain, but the supporting evidence comes mostly from studies in elderly subjects, who often have a low protein intake in general. The results cannot therefore be generalized to younger populations or athletes.
In conclusion, although it is possible that taking a collagen supplement may be beneficial for osteoarthritis, to prevent aging of the skin or to promote recovery post workout or from a musculoskeletal injury, there is not enough data available to be able to provide specific recommendations on appropriate intakes. Moreover, although some studies show benefits in consuming collagen, it is not clear whether collagen consumption in particular is necessary, or whether adequate protein intake in general would allow one to achieve the same results. It should be noted that many existing studies on the benefits of collagen have been funded by the industry.
Taking supplements is not without risks. Supplements made from animal bones or connective tissues may contain toxins or heavy metals. Improving lifestyle habits is often the best way to improve your health. For example, a high sugar intake, smoking and sun exposure can damage the body’s collagen. Finally, a varied and balanced diet provides all the nutrients necessary for health. Thus, it is always better to prioritize real and nutritious food rather than supplements.