March 2020

Collagen Supplements Surge in Popularity: The Hype vs The Evidence

Interest in collagen supplements is booming. People take them for a variety of conditions, including aging skin and joint conditions. And a lot of celebrities are promoting these products in the beauty industry. It’s important to understand that there are different types of collagen, and not all of them have the same effects.

Collagen Type I: Collagen is a major structural protein in the human body - different types play different roles. Collagen type I is the main collagen in skin, tendon, ligaments, and bone. It plays a major role in wound healing. Natural collagen production decreases with age, so there’s interest in using collagen supplements to improve skin health, particularly for aging skin. Unfortunately, there's no good evidence that it works. Make sure patients know that most collagen type I supplements come from cows. This might not sit well with some patients. Tell them to look for products that source collagen from eggshell membrane instead.

Collagen Type II: Collagen type II is the main structural protein in cartilage. For this reason, there’s interest in using it for arthritis. And there’s some evidence that it might be beneficial. Taking a specific supplement (UC-II) 40 mg by mouth daily for up to 6 months can reduce knee osteoarthritis symptoms. And it might work better than commonly used chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine combinations. Make sure patients know that most collagen type II supplements come from chickens.

Collagen Peptides: Collagen peptides are short chains of amino acids formed by degrading native collagen. These peptides are more water soluble and believed to be better absorbed orally than native collagen. Taking collagen peptides by mouth might modestly reduce wrinkles and improve skin hydration and elasticity in older people. But it’s unclear if taking these products will really offer any cosmetic benefits. Collagen peptides are also often promoted for joint pain. Taking collagen peptides by mouth might modestly reduce pain in people with knee osteoarthritis. And there’s some early evidence that they may reduce joint pain caused by exercise in younger athletes. It’s unclear if they reduce joint pain during exercise in the elderly. Don't confuse collagen peptides with gelatin. Gelatin is made of partially-hydrolyzed collagen, while collagen peptides are fully hydrolyzed.

If patients want to give these products a shot, there aren’t any major safety concerns. Let patients know that some collagen supplements may cause mild stomach upset. Also make sure patients know there are a lot of misleading marketing claims out there. Synovia by ASResearch recently settled with the FTC for making misleading claims that their product can treat arthritis and alleviate joint pain. And keep in mind that there isn’t ANY evidence supporting topical products for any uses. Collagen products are generally very expensive, especially topical products marketed for beauty, but oral ones as well – one container or bottle can cost hundreds of dollars. Until we know more, it’s best to save your money.

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