Should I Take Collagen Supplements?

Should I Take Collagen Supplements?

Collagen can do wonders for your skin, but some sources are better than others for your health.

In the 2009 film Julie & Julia, a blogger played by Amy Adams attempts to cook her way through Julia Child’s iconic tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When she encounters a recipe for aspic, she says, with a touch of sarcasm, “Aspic is sort of a beef-flavored Jell-O mold. Doesn't that sound delicious?” But whether you like it or not, there’s one aspect of aspic that neither Julia nor Julie seemed to realize: A protein in this dish—collagen—may do wonders for your skin.

Although aspic isn’t on menus very often these days, folks are gobbling up collagen—the main structural protein of skin, connective tissues, tendons and cartilage—in supplement tablets, gummies and powders (98 million dollars’ worth this year).

The trend is fueled by small studies linking collagen supplementation to improved skin appearance, less brittle nails and reduced pain from osteoarthritis. And folks hope it will reverse age-related collagen loss that causes wrinkles, crepey skin and weaker joints and muscles.

But your best bet, says the Cleveland Clinic, is to:

  • Eat foods containing the amino acids that are the building-blocks of collagen in your body—chicken (skinless), fish, egg whites and nonfat diary. The powdered collagen may not make it through your stomach acid, but food’s building blocks of collagen will!
  • Get collagen-building vitamin C from fruits, red and green peppers, and greens; and zinc and copper from nuts, whole grains and beans.

If you do take supplements, use hydrolyzed collagen powder—and make sure it’s sourced and manufactured reliably.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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