Have you heard about collagen supplements recently from places like the internet or social media? If so, you may be wondering what they are and if you can benefit from them.
Collagen is the main protein in the body. Different types of collagen are in our organs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin. It helps keep our body’s connective tissues strong and helps with healing, such as if you get a cut.
Our bodies make collagen naturally from protein, vitamins, and minerals that are in food that we eat. Collagen can also be found as a “supplement”, meaning a form other than food. There are many different kinds of collagen supplements on the market because it can come from different types of animals and plants. Most collagen that you can buy in a supplement comes from animals such as cows, sheep, pigs or fish. Once the collagen is obtained from an animal or plant, it can be turned into the powders, beverages, pills, and lotions you see on a shelf.
Collagen supplements are usually marketed towards bone, joint and muscle health. If your body does not have enough collagen, a supplement may help to keep your bones, ligaments, tendons, skin, and nails strong. However, research suggests little benefit if your body has enough collagen already. Ingesting too much collagen from supplements is unlikely to cause harm. However, too much probably won’t help either because our bodies can only absorb a certain amount.
Bottom line: Most teens who eat a varied diet already get enough protein, vitamins, and minerals from food, so you probably don’t need a collagen supplement.
In the case that you do not get enough protein, vitamins, and minerals in your diet or your body is unable to make collagen on its own, here are some things to consider about collagen supplements:
- Remember that collagen supplementation is not helpful when our bodies already have enough
- Choosing foods that naturally contain collagen, such as meat, are more likely to be beneficial than a supplement because they naturally contain other nutrients as well
- Choose a hydrolyzed form. The term “hydrolyzed” means that the collagen has already been broken down so that your body will be better able to absorb it.
- Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which means that sometimes supplements on the market are not safe or effective. Choosing a supplement that has been tested by a credible third party (indicated by a special symbol on the packaging) is important to ensure your money is going to a product that truly contains the supplement you intend to purchase.
- Always ask a medical professional before starting a new supplement