Collagen is a supplement that is believed to provide many health and beauty benefits for women. Some of the potential benefits include improved skin health and appearance, better hair growth, and preservation of muscle mass and bone density.
While there is some research that supports these claims, more evidence is needed to provide conclusive results in larger populations long-term.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a protein produced by the human body. It is important for maintaining the structure and function of skin, bones, cartilage, and connective tissue. Collagen also plays a significant role in many cellular processes including communication between cells, tissue repair, and immune response.
Cells in the connective tissue, called fibroblasts, produce collagen. With age, fibroblast function becomes impaired and collagen production decreases. This decrease in production begins in a woman’s mid-20s and continues to decrease by 1% each year.
Causes of collagen loss
Changes in collagen production, as well as a decrease in another structural protein called elastin, cause the visible signs of aging including wrinkles and sagging skin. While decreased collagen production is a natural and unavoidable part of aging, there are some things that hasten this process.
Cigarette smoking can reduce collagen integrity and promote visible signs of aging, loss of elasticity, and wrinkles. Excessive alcohol intake has been shown to produce similar results.
Eating a diet that is high in refined sugars and highly processed foods contributes to a process called glycation. Glycation causes sugar molecules to adhere to the collagen and elastin proteins. This impedes collagen’s function and can reduce skin firmness and elasticity.
Too much sun exposure can also impede collagen production, so wearing sunscreen daily and avoiding prolonged sun exposure can prevent premature signs of aging.
Benefits of a collagen supplement for women
Improved skin health
One of the most popular reasons for taking a collagen supplement is to promote skin health. Some research has shown that taking a collagen supplement may improve the health and appearance of the skin.
A review of 19 studies showed that women ages 20-70 who took a hydrolyzed collagen supplement experienced better skin hydration, elasticity, and reduced wrinkles.
Some claim collagen supplements may improve acne and other skin conditions, however, this is based largely on anecdotal evidence with no scientific research to support these claims.
Prevention of bone loss and reduced joint pain
Bone loss is a common concern in aging women as the risk for osteoporosis increases with age. Bones are made of mostly collagen, giving them structure and strength. Much like collagen production decreases over time, so does bone mass.
Some research suggests that supplementing with collagen may impede the breakdown of bone that causes osteoporosis.
Decreased collagen production can also affect the health of your joints. Age-associated decrease in collagen production is linked to an increased risk of degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis. Studies have shown that collagen supplementation can relieve joint stiffness and joint pain in osteoarthritis.
Collagen supplements have gained popularity in the health and wellness industry over recent years. Women can particularly benefit from collagen supplementation as it may support improved skin health and appearance, as well as preserve bone mass and decrease joint pain.