You may have heard of collagen (bone broth?), but if you’re a little unclear on what exactly collagen actually is, we’re here to clear a few things up.
“Collagen is a fibrous protein that provides structural support for the skin, joints, tendons, bones, and other connective tissues. It’s essentially the glue that holds the body together,” says Kim Yawitz, RD, a gym owner of CrossFit 26 in St. Louis, Mo., of the role of collagen in our bodies.
“More specifically collagen is used to make skin, bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, joints, muscles, and blood vessels.” Ahead, a look at why some people may benefit from collagen supplements, and four of Yawtiz’s top picks for collagen supplements.
Your body makes collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids, then repackaging those amino acids with some help from vitamin C, copper, and zinc, explains Yawitz. “Unfortunately, this process slows down with age, starting as early as our 20s. There’s not a great way to test collagen levels in your body, but crow’s feet and creaky joints are good clues that you might be producing less than you used to,” she says, noting that the demand for collagen supplements has grown exponentially in the past few years, though the research hasn’t quite caught up to that demand yet.
“Studies have shown that supplementing with collagen peptides can help compensate for age-related collagen loss,” she says, adding that some research suggests that collagen supplements can decrease skin wrinkles while also improving skin hydration, elasticity, and density.
Collagen supplement benefits
“Collagen has become a staple in my daily routine since having knee surgery last year,” Yawitz says. “There’s also some evidence that collagen supplements could help improve joint health. In one study, adults taking collagen supplements improved joint pain and mobility by 43 percent and 39 percent, respectively.”
It’s also worth highlighting that smoking, eating too much sugar, and spending too much time in the sun can all decrease the amount of collagen in your skin, says Yawitz. “Nipping these habits in the bud are a great first step toward smoother skin and better health, even before taking supplements.”
Before you add a new supplement to your routine, always consult with a trusted healthcare professional like your primary care physician or a registered dietitian.
Below, the registered dietitian weighs in on her top picks for collagen supplements, from powders to capsules.