With all of the vitamins and supplements out there, it can be hard to know what actually works. Collagen — the most abundant protein in your body — is something your body naturally produces. As you age, the amount your body makes can decrease. But worry not, your collagen levels can be restored by taking a supplement.
Collagen is found in skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, and teeth, and provides structure to the connective tissue throughout your body. Some people take collagen as a supplement to keep their skin looking young by helping it hold its structure. High levels of skin elasticity allow you to furrow your brow, smile, and yawn — without causing wrinkles every time you move. It allows your skin to return to normal once you stop stretching or moving it. This all requires collagen because it keeps the skin cells together.
Studies have shown collagen pills or powder supplements improve levels of skin elasticity after just four weeks — particularly in already-aged skin. And it may also be able to increase levels of skin moisture, which can make your skin look healthier and more youthful.
But collagen may be able to help with more than that. The word collagen comes from the Greek word for glue, appropriately, because it keeps your cells “glued” together. If your collagen levels drop, your skin may start to lose its shape, leading to things like facial wrinkles, bags under your eyes, and loose skin on your body. But, the same goes for internal parts of your body, too: low collagen levels can loosen your cartilage and tendons — meaning your joints can be more easily injured..
Here are four issues collagen can help with that you might not have known before:
1. Ease Osteoarthritis-Related Knee Pain
Osteoarthritis — the most common form of arthritis which affects an estimated 31 million Americans — breaks down the cartilage in your joints. This causes the bones to rub together, leading to pain and swelling.
“Osteoarthritis in the knees can be especially painful and debilitating and can limit your ability to perform everyday activities. Collagen may have the ability to keep muscles and tendons together and even rebuild your cartilage. In turn, it may help fight the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee with few side effects,” explains Louise Vlachos, DO, physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Cherry Hill.
2. Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can make it difficult to do a lot of things — exercising, standing upright for extended periods of time, and even sleeping through the night. All parts of the lower back — bones, muscles, and tendons — contain collagen.
Studies have shown that taking collagen may help ease lower back pain. If you don’t have enough collagen to keep those parts of the spine intact, that can cause pain, so increasing the amounts of collagen through supplements may be a possible fix.
3. Prevent Bone Loss
“Your bones are mostly made of collagen, which keeps them strong and healthy. If your collagen levels are low, it can cause your bones to become weak and risk breaking,” says Dr. Vlachos.
Taking collagen may help to improve bone density and keep your bone strength.
4. Build Muscle Mass
Collagen is also a major part of your muscle tissue. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in your body. So if you’re looking to build muscle mass, collagen supplements might help.
Collagen also has glycine in it, which is an amino acid that’s in creatine. Creatine is known to give you an extra boost to get through tough workouts, such as high-intensity interval training. The result? More efficient workouts and more muscle mass.
Do you have questions about collagen or other supplements? Request an appointment with a primary care physician at Penn Medicine online or by calling 800-789-7366 to discuss how supplements — including collagen — can boost your overall health and wellness.