Collagen supplements have gained popularity as a way to counteract the effects of aging. From wrinkles to joint stiffness, these supplements can help you avoid some of the most common signs of low collagen levels.
Although collagen supplements are usually considered safe, going over the recommended dose could result in several side effects, such as diarrhea. Furthermore, some people should avoid collagen supplements altogether due to natural intolerance. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein that’s present in most of your body’s connective tissues. From bones to skin, collagen is essential in forming several structures that rely on it to be strong, resilient, and flexible. Other parts of your body that use collagen include (1):
Surprisingly, collagen is only found in animal products, as it’s not present in plants or other natural sources of nutrients. Experts haven’t concluded on whether or not the body can absorb collagen directly — instead, it synthesizes it after collecting the necessary elements (1, 2).
The main ingredients your body needs to make collagen are called amino acids — the building blocks for any protein. Foods that provide these amino acids range from bone broth to citrus fruits (2, 3, 4).
There are 28 different types of collagen, each serving its own individual purpose in the body. However, the first five are the most common, with type I collagen making up almost 90% of your body’s collagen. Here’s a brief description of each one (2):
Type I Collagen
Collagen type I is primarily present in tendons and ligaments, as it provides them with their load-bearing capabilities. Yet it’s also present in the skin, blood vessels, basal membranes, and other connective tissues in your body (5).
Type II Collagen
Type II collagen is also found in tendons and ligaments, although in zones closer to the bones. This enrichens their mechanical properties, allowing them to support your weight. Plus, it’s also present in the skin (6).
Type III Collagen
Type III collagen isn’t as present in connective tissues — instead, it’s found in your blood vessels, bowel, and uterus. It also plays a crucial role in blood clotting, making it essential for a healthy wound-healing process (7).
Type IV Collagen
Collagen type IV gives structure and protection to the cells of your organs and skin. Among its other functions, it also acts as a barrier against cancer and tumors. It also forms a mesh-like network that provides support to its surrounding cells (8).
Type V Collagen
Finally, type V collagen is found in connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons. Yet, it’s not as prevalent as the previous collagens — although a slight mutation in its related gene causes a severe condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (9).
What Are Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements have been getting increasingly popular over the years as a way to stop the signs of aging. Yet, collagen was used in supplements way before this trend appeared. For example, skin creams and serums containing collagen have been on the market for a long time.
The problem with collagen topicals is the lack of research — dermatologists often argue that their fibers are too large to get to the deepest skin layers. So instead, oral collagen supplements have taken their place as the ideal choice to provide this protein to your body (1).
Oral collagen supplements are composed of collagen peptides — small pieces of animal collagen. These allow for easier absorption, which is a common problem when eating collagen-rich foods. Plus, collagen supplements usually pack a small number of amino acids to further boost collagen production in your body (2).
However, picking one brand may seem challenging if you’re new to collagen supplements.
Related: If you’re interested in boosting your collagen levels, take a look at our top collagen supplements on the market today.
Can You Take Too Much Collagen?
Although more research is needed, experts usually regard collagen supplements as safe products. There are no known interactions with other supplements, medications, or herbs, and most people will be able to tolerate it as long as they’re following the recommended dosage (10).
However, like most other supplements, it’s possible to take too much collagen and end up getting side effects. In a controlled study that used collagen supplements, some participants reported having the following symptoms (11):
- Excessive gas
- Stomach pain
These symptoms may appear whenever taking too much collagen, so always check the recommended dosage on the label. The usual dose used by adults ranges from 2.5 to 10 grams a day for up to six months (10).
If you find that even low doses of collagen supplements make you feel any of these symptoms, it might be time to check with a doctor. Although rare, some people are intolerant to collagen peptides due to allergic reactions.
Why Should You Take Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements are a popular way to counteract the effects of low collagen levels, which cause signs like wrinkles and joint stiffness. There are many causes for low collagen, but the four leading ones are aging, sunlight, stress, and smoking.
Aging, however, is by far the leading cause of low collagen levels. As your body ages, it progressively starts to produce less and less collagen while also breaking down existing proteins faster. Naturally, this causes wrinkles, loss of mobility, muscle degradation, and joint stiffness, among other things (12).
Sunlight is another common factor that causes low collagen. Exposure to UV light has similar effects as aging — reducing collagen production and accelerating breakdown rates. Plus, unmeasured sunlight exposure can lead to conditions such as skin cancer (12, 13).
Surprisingly, stress and other mental factors can also contribute to lower collagen production. This mainly affects the skin, as stress hinders the production of type I and III collagen — two of the essential collagens in your skin (14).
Finally, smoking can also lead to wrinkles and other skin-related problems. This is because smoking reduces your collagen production levels while also making it harder for blood vessels to provide nutrients to your skin (12).
Foods that Boost Collagen Production
Whether or not you use collagen supplements, it’s always a good idea to incorporate collagen-promoting foods into your diet. These provide your body with the following necessary building blocks for creating this protein (2):
- Vitamin C
Naturally, there are hundreds of foods that have multiple of these nutrients. Yet, some are better at promoting collagen production than others. Here are six food that are fantastic for increasing your collagen levels:
Bone broth is an easy-to-make recipe that allows you to reap an astounding amount of nutrients without much effort. It consists of simmering animal bones and cartilage in water and vinegar, and using the resulting broth as a soup or sauce ingredient.
Besides being a nutrient-dense food, bone broth also has the ability to boost collagen production in your body. Although researchers indicate these capabilities aren’t consistent, they agree that bone broth provides the necessary amino acids to increase collagen production (3).
After years of having a bad reputation, eggs are finally returning to the healthy dieting world. For example, researchers have started recommending them as a weight-loss food, thanks to their satiating properties (15).
Recent studies also show that egg yolks have significant amounts of collagen. After eating a yolk, your body is able to break those proteins down into the necessary elements for collagen production. Similarly, egg whites are filled with amino acids (16).
From oranges to lemons, citrus fruits turn out to be one of the best choices for boosting collagen production. However, unlike most foods that are usually categorized as collagen-promoting, citrus foods don’t actually contain any collagen (4).
Instead, these fruits have unparalleled amounts of vitamin C — a crucial nutrient for the skin. Vitamin C promotes the generation of collagen type I and IV, making it ideal for avoiding aging signs such as wrinkles (4).
Leafy greens such as spinach, arugula, and kale are a cornerstone of every healthy eating plan. Besides being packed with nutrients, these vegetables contain a nutrient called thylakoid that’s crucial for keeping you full throughout the day (17).
Leafy greens also have a unique component called chlorophyll that significantly boosts your body’s collagen production. Researchers suggest that it’s particularly good at reducing wrinkles while also combating some of the damage caused by sunlight (18, 19).
Garlic has long been known to have dozens of benefits for your health. Most notably, it can promote the production of type I collagen — the most abundant collagen in your body. Plus, it has anti-wrinkle properties that are great for delaying the signs of aging (20).
Yet, the big problem with garlic as a collagen-promoting agent is that experts don’t really know how much is needed to achieve these effects. Still, it’s a good idea to keep it in mind the next time you’re considering how to add flavor to a meal.
Chicken is one of the best alternatives for processed meats, thanks to the unusual amount of protein it provides. Plus, it’s good for preventing specific conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (21).
Although many people choose to avoid it, chicken skin is one of the best collagen sources. Similarly, its cartilages are rich in both collagen and amino acids — making them ideal for cooking a delicious and highly-nutritious bone broth (22).
Key Takeaways: Taking Too Much Collagen
Collagen supplements are usually regarded as safe by most experts as long as you follow the recommended dosage. However, going over the amounts indicated on the label could result in several gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea and stomach aches.
If you find yourself not tolerating collagen supplements at any dose, it might be time to check with a doctor. Some people are intolerant to collagen peptides due to allergic reactions, so it’s important to talk with a trained professional about other possible alternatives.