- Collagen is a popular supplement for its purported skin and overall health benefits.
- Research suggests it could reduce injury risk and joint pain, and improve bone density.
- However, collagen is not a complete protein source.
Collagen is becoming an increasingly popular supplement for its potential skin benefits, but also for its purported ability to help keep our bodies strong.
Some exercise fanatics and collagen brands claim adding a scoop of collagen powder (it’s most commonly consumed in powder form dissolved in water) to your daily diet can benefit your overall health as well as your skin.
Sophie Medlin, Consultant Dietitian and Director of CityDietitians, told Insider there is research to suggest the supplement can help limit injuries, reduce joint pain, and improve bone density.
Collagen could help reduce injuries
Collagen is the main component of muscles, tendons and ligaments and in theory, on a high protein diet, you should be able to generate plenty of your own collagen to protect and repair these tissues, Medlin told Insider.
However, a 2018 study on 60 athletes by the University of Freiburg suggests that taking collagen may help repair injuries to tendons and ligaments and reduce the risk of injury recurrence.
“This means that in the near future, we may be recommending collagen supplements for these types of injuries,” Medlin said.
Collagen may improve bone density
Collagen supplementation may improve bone health and density, according to another 2018 study by the University of Freiburg on 102 women.
“With joints being made up from bone, ligaments, and tendons and all these tissues being made primarily from collagen, it stands to reason that joint health could also be protected,” Medlin said.
She believes that as more research is carried out, it’s likely that more benefits will be discovered, such as potential strength and endurance improvements for athletes whose ligaments and cartilage are under a lot of pressure.
Collagen may reduce joint pain
Cartilage, the tissue that cushions and supports joints, is made up of collagen and elastic fibers.
However, as we age this can wear away, leading to joint pain and even osteoarthritis.
Collagen supplementation could help ease this pain though, research suggests.
A 2021 study on 180 men and women aged 18-30 by the University of Freiburg found that collagen supplementation led to a “statistically significant” reduction of activity-related joint pain in active adults who had knee pain.
Collagen is not a complete protein source
While collagen can be beneficial to your skin, hair, and physical health, it should not be seen a complete protein source, Medline said.
Most collagen powders provide around 35 calories and 9 grams of protein per scoop, but unlike whey protein, it doesn’t contain all nine essential amino acids, meaning it’s not a complete protein source.
While protein is important for muscle building, maintenance, and fat loss, dietitians recommend trying to get enough through whole food sources where possible.
Medlin said there isn’t any evidence at present that collagen supplementation will promote muscle-building or improve fitness.
“It may support ligament and bone strength, thus increasing power and stability when weight lifting, but this is just a hypothesis based on the data we have available at the moment,” she said.
Medlin recommends prioritizing eating a healthy, balanced, high protein diet over buying supplements.