By Erica Garza
Though collagen has proven popular in the beauty industry for the past few decades, this important protein also has several health benefits. Present in the body’s connective tissues, skin and muscles, collagen has many key functions, including providing your skin with structure and strengthening your bones. It contains 18 amino acids, including eight essential ones, helping to maintain healthy muscle, organ and joint function. While collagen occurs naturally in the body, sun exposure and aging can cause production to slow over time, which is why taking supplements can be helpful. Here are six great collagen benefits to think about.
- Improves Skin Elasticity
Aging and sun exposure can cause collagen production to decrease, resulting in fine lines, dryness and low elasticity. Taking a supplement can strengthen your skin by promoting hydration and increasing elastin. While studies have shown that collagen supplements have significantly reduced wrinkle depth, there is still more scientific evidence needed to show its positive effects on acne and similar skin conditions.
- Reduces Inflammation
Collagen is one of the main features of gut tissue, and when the gut experiences damage from inflammation, stress and disease, supplementation can help restore balance. One of the key amino acids found in collagen is glycine, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Taking a collagen supplement can help to build up the tissues that line the gastrointestinal tract and reverse the negative effects of a modern diet.
- Relieves Joint Pain
Collagen is a crucial component to cartilage, the rubber-like tissue that protects the joints. When the body’s collagen supply begins to decline, there may be joint and bone degradation, which can then lead to arthritis and other degenerative disorders. Supplementation helps to rebuild bones and joints, alleviating pain and stiffness while improving mobility and flexibility.
- Strengthens Bones
Bones rely on collagen for strength and structure. As we age and collagen decreases, bones become can more fragile and prone to fracture and injury. Increasing collagen in the body through supplementation improves bone mineral density and may even reduce the risk of disorders such as osteoporosis.
- Promotes Sleep
By relieving daytime fatigue, collagen improves sleep quality and overall mood, thanks to the amino acid glycine. According to Jenn Randazzo, MS, RD, CLT, when people take collagen supplements before going to bed, they “will experience that it’s easier for them to fall asleep” and “feel like their sleep is deeper.”
- Supports Heart Health
Collagen delivers structure to the arteries, the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When taken as a supplement, it can lower cholesterol, reduce arterial stiffness and prevent the buildup of plaque, which can result in heart disease.
When taken in moderation, collagen can be a powerful addition to your diet, benefiting your health inside and out. Keep in mind that collagen should not be your only source of protein as it contains only eight of the nine essential amino acids. And remember to protect the collagen your body makes naturally by limiting sun exposure, eating clean and refraining from smoking.
Erica Garza is writer from Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health and VICE.