Are collagen supplements safe? The 3 possible benefits of collagen supplements

This Morning's Dr Chris discusses collagen supplements

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Collagen supplements are recommended to people who want to reduce signs of ageing, as it is often thought that it’s better to take collagen rather than apply it to your skin. But are they actually safe to take? chatted to Dr Deborah Lee at Dr Fox Pharmacy to find out everything you need to know about taking collagen supplements.

Collagen is a protein produced in your body and it’s very important because it makes up about 30 percent of the body’s total protein content.

You may have heard of collagen in relation to the skin and ageing, but that’s not all it does.

Dr Lee explained: “Collagen is the major component of connective tissue – this is the scaffolding that holds us together.

“It is found in skin, hair, teeth, joints, ligaments, muscles and bone.
Without collagen, our bodies would literally fall apart.

“Your body synthesises collagen using amino acids from the food you eat.”

However, collagen production starts to drop when you’re in your late teens and continues to do so as you age.

You might think taking collagen supplements will reverse the damage and reduce wrinkles, sagging and lost elasticity, but this might not be the case.

Dr Lee said: “It’s important to realise that just because you ingest collagen, for example as a collagen supplement, this doesn’t necessarily mean your body will make more collagen.

“The collagen you take in will be digested in the gut, and broken down into amino acids, which are then used by the body for whatever it needs them for the most.

“This may or may not be, to make additional collagen.”

For your body to make collagen, you need to do more than pop a collagen tablet.

Dr Lee said: “You need to consume a variety of different proteins in your diet, along with plenty of the essential amino acid, tryptophan, for your body to make collagen.”

Collagen is found in meat, poultry, fish, gelatine, and bone broth, and tryptophan is found in milk, cheese, oats, canned tuna, peanuts, bread, chocolate and bananas.

Collagen supplements are made from marine sources, which means they’re not suitable for vegetarians and vegans. A vegetarian alternative is available made from yeast.

The 3 possible benefits of collagen supplements

There have been claims that collagen supplements might be good for:

  • Skin health
  • Hair and nail health
  • Joints, muscles and bones
  • However, the evidence to show collagen supplements make any appreciable difference for any of these is limited

Are collagen supplements safe?

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency has been critical of adverts which lead the consumer to believe collagen supplements result in younger-looking skin, as there is a lack of medical evidence that this is the case.

The European Food Safety Authority have also come to similar conclusions.

Dr Lee said: “Most of the studies on collagen and health are short term, include few participants, and often lack a control (placebo) group.

“Taking collagen supplements can result in side effects such as acid reflux, nausea, stomach pains and diarrhoea.

“They are derived from fish, so do not take them if you have a fish or seafood allergy.”

Otherwise, Dr Lee said collagen supplements appear to be safe to use.

The best way to supplement your own collagen isn’t necessarily through taking it in supplement form.

Dr Lee advised: “Eat a healthy diet with a sufficient quantity of high-quality protein.

“This is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and soya, as well as ingesting plenty of plant-based proteins from whole grains, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds.

“Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, so another way of boosting your own collagen levels is to eat more vitamin C.”

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