Whats Does the Science Say Behind the Use of Collagen Supplementation for Anti-Ageing
Collagen supplementation is highly marketed on social media platforms as being beneficial for anything from gut health to joints to anti-aging and whilst product marketing can convince you that it is beneficial for all of these, the science isn’t always there to back it up either. In the case of acne for example, there is no science that collagen is beneficial and in this article I am reviewing the use of collagen, specifically for the purpose of anti-ageing and wrinkle reduction.
As a Nutritionist, I am frequently asked whether collagen supplements are a worthwhile expense, because let's face it, they aren’t cheap, so let's see what the science says.
What is Collagen and Why do we Need it
Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and connective tissues and is the most abundant protein in the body. It is an essential building block and gram for gram, type 1 collagen is stronger than steel and provides strength and structure to the skin.
There are at least 16 known types of collagen and 80-90% of collagen in the body consists of types 1, 2 and 3. Type 1 is the important one in this review.
Glycine, proline and hydroxyproline is the most commonly used amino acid combination found in collagen. These amino acids are non-essential meaning that our body can can create it for us without it having to be sourced through diet. Collagen synthesis unfortunately declines as we age and to fully create collagen, vitamin C is an important nutrient to the process.
What does the Research say About Collagen?
I researched articles specific to the top of anti-aging and there is a mix of both human and animal research and for the basis of my review, I have reviewed the human trials only and where possible included the amount of collagen quoted in the research article.
A 2014 research study (a product specific one) founds that porcine collagen at a dose of 2.5g or 5g increased skin elasticity. There were no significant improvements in skin hydration or roughness. This trial tested the skin of the inner forearm of females. After 4 weeks of supplementation there were significant improvements in skin elasticity and the results were increased in females aged over 50. There was little difference in the outcome of doses at 2.5g or 5.g and its worth noting that product specific trials will always look for an outcome in their favour.
Marine collagen was used in another product specific review in 2016 evaluating a dose of 570 mg twice daily for a period of 60 days. Again, this trial was conducted on females and digital sound imaging was used for assessment. There was a significant improvement in skin elasticity, sebum and improved hydroxyproline plasma (blood) levels.
In 2015 a study assessing wrinkle depth, elasticity and hydration indicated positive results. One dose daily was given participants and there was no information shared in the study about the dosage amount or type of collagen used. There was an 8% reduction in wrinkle depth and the greater the depth of wrinkle, the greater the reduction. Skin hydration and elasticity also showed significant improvements and results were measured using inner forearm skin on postmenopausal females.
So, my thoughts on collagen? The evidence is positive and shows that it can be beneficial for skin elasticity, wrinkle depth and sebum. The results were beneficial across all ages, but the research highlights that results are greater for females aged over 50.
Things to Look for in Supplements
Collagen is available in three forms; bovine (cow), porcine (pig) and marine (fish) and choice is really down to personal preference - collagen is collagen.
I recommend looking for a hydrolysed powder form (hydrolysed means is it easier to absorb as it has been broken down into smaller molecules) making it easier to absorb through the digestive process.
Review the dose and type of collagen in the product. Not all companies openly share this and you can always email them to ask for specific details to ensure you are getting a quality product.
Review the ingredients. As with most ingredient labels, less is often more and look for products that don’t have added flavourings. If you don’t know what the ingredient is, you probably don’t want it and there are products available that are 100% collagen.
Good quality collagen supplements generally aren’t cheap. I recommend researching brands before purchasing. Review company websites, reviews and if they have any specific scientific research to support their product claims.
This is important. The creation of collagen needs vitamin C and this is an essential part of the process. Ensuring adequate intake through diet is sufficient and if diet is low in vitamin C, you are less likely to reap the benefits of a supplement.
Food sources that are high in vitamin C include oranges, lemons, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, capsicum, broccoli and spinach.
This review is supported by scientific evidence and hopefully answers some of the questions you might have around using collagen as a supplement for the purpose of anti-ageing/wrinkle reduction.
Note: I always recommend taking advice from a qualified practitioner before taking supplements.
Amy Savage is a qualified Nutritionist BHSc (Nutritional Medicine). Amy is available for Nutrition Consultations at her Mobile Nutrition Clinic and online.
Amy's core areas of focus are:
- Gut & digestive health
- Weight management
- Skin health
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Choi, FD et al. 2019, 'Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications', Journal Drugs Dermatology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
De Luca, C et al. 2016, 'Skin Anti Aging and Systemic Redox Effects of Supplementation with Marine Collagen Peptides and Plant-Derived Antioxidants: A Single-Blind Case-Control Clinical Study', Oxidative Medicine & Cellular Longevity, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
Molecular Cell Biology, 4th Edn.
Proksch, E et al. 2013, 'Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides has Beneficial Effects on Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study', Skin pharmacology & physiology, https://www.researchgate.net/
Tortora, G & Derrickson, B 2014, Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, 14th Edn.