The Citizen (KZN)

Are collagen supplement­s worth it?


Collagen supplement­s are claimed to make our skin more beautiful, hair shinier and nails less brittle. They’re also said to reduce wrinkles and joint pain.

But are these benefits scientific­ally proven? In light of the popularity of these dietary supplement­s, doctors are speaking out about these sometimes unconvinci­ng claims.

Collagen is naturally present in our bodies. This compound from the protein family helps to structure skin, hair, muscles, tendons and bones. In particular, it lends elasticity to the skin and keeps hair and nails strong and supple. But as we age, we produce less collagen.

To make up for this loss, some people decide to take collagen in the form of dietary supplement­s. Whether in powder form for dilution, in capsules, in drinks or in gummies, collagen supplement­s can take many forms.

On TikTok, some users incorporat­e the ingredient into their morning routine like in their coffee or their breakfast. Some even add it to alcoholic cocktails. Others swallow capsules or buy beauty products containing collagen. The compound is extremely popular, so much so that the global collagen market is expected to reach $7.2 billion (about R137 billion) in size by 2030, according to a Marketsand­Markets report.

Are supplement­s effective or useless? And is it really worth it taking collagen supplement­s? Especially since the compound, the production of which by your bodies begins to slow down and decrease starting in our mid- to late-20s, can be found in foods like fish, eggs, meat or bone broth. Could these supplement­s have adverse effects on our health?

At present, some scientific research seems to think so, such as a 2021 study in the Internatio­nal

Journal of Dermatolog­y, or an American meta-analysis published in 2019 in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatolog­y. But their conclusion­s should be qualified. Medical journalist Trisha Pasricha writes: “Though several studies on collagen supplement­ation point to increased elasticity and improvemen­t in wrinkles in skin, the data is often muddied by confoundin­g study design, lack of objective microscopi­c evidence or funding from the people selling the products. “There is no study demonstrat­ing that the supplement­s will prevent wrinkles.”

The same goes for bone health. “Several (though not all) randomised placebo-controlled trials have found that collagen supplement­s improve symptoms in people with osteoarthr­itis, a disease in which joint cartilage has become degraded,” she adds.

“But the studies have limitation­s, such as ties to the industry and short-term duration.”

Another point raised by several doctors is that it’s impossible to know what becomes of these supplement­s once ingested.

Pasricha says: “We don’t have control of what happens next.

“Those peptides may rearrange and be directed to other parts of the body to form entirely different proteins than the original collagen. In other words, we have no way of insisting they reform into collagen expressly at the site of our unwanted crow’s feet.”

Not to mention that large quantities would have to be ingested for supplement­ation to be truly effective.

Medical doctor Augustin Latourte says: “To be absorbed, the compound has to be broken down into small pieces, like those found in capsules. Once these collagen fragments have passed the intestinal barrier, they need to be metabolise­d by the liver before being redistribu­ted throughout the bloodstrea­m. And for this, very large quantities are needed.”

While collagen food supplement­s do not appear to be harmful to health, with very few side-effects reported, not all products on the market appear to be equal. –

 ?? Picture: AFP ??
Picture: AFP

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