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Should you take a collagen peptide supplement?

Collagen is the body’s most plentiful protein and is found in the hair, skin, nails, bones, joints and ligaments. Naturally produced by the body, collagen is responsible for keeping skin firm and smooth, bones and joints healthy, digestion regular, and hair and nails strong. The body becomes less efficient at producing collagen as it ages, which is why some people take collagen peptide supplements.

Why is everyone talking about collagen supplements?

Collagen supplements come in powder or capsule form. Most are made from cowhides or fish scales, so they are not considered vegetarian or vegan.

While more research is needed, there are some promising studies that have linked oral collagen supplementation to:

Another study found that collagen was present in blood samples of study participants who consumed collagen supplements. This could suggest that collagen supplements can be transported throughout the body where they can be put to good use in the skin, bones and joints, rather than passing through the body unused.

That said, “diet is a major contributing factor to our overall well-being,” says Lena Beal, MS, RDN, LD, a licensed and registered therapeutic dietitian at Piedmont.  “Extra supplements, while necessary for some, are not essential if you eat a well-balanced diet.”

If you decide to take a collagen supplement, look for one that is “hydrolyzed,” suggests Beal. This means the collagen has been broken down into small peptides, which are easy for the body to digest and transport to cells via the bloodstream.

As with all vitamins and supplements, collagen supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Do your research and always consult your physician before taking a supplement.

How to naturally boost collagen production

There are plenty of natural ways to reduce collagen loss with age.

  • Consume vitamin C, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian. Vitamin C is essential for producing collagen,” says Beal. You can find it in bell peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, kale, kiwis, potatoes, strawberries and sea buckthorn oil. Applying skincare products with vitamin C can also help. 

  • Avoid sun exposure. Damage from UVA and UVB rays breaks down collagen and promote faster skin aging.

  • Eat the right foods. Foods high in vitamin A, anthocyanins and proline promote collagen production. Find these nutrients in egg whites, bone broth, blueberries, nuts and cabbage.

  • Limit sugar. Sugar increases the process of glycation, which can weaken collagen in the body.

  • Address autoimmune disorders. Certain autoimmune diseases can damage collagen, so talk to your physician if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition.

  • Quit smoking. Tobacco smoke degrades collagen in the skin.

Check out more health and wellness tips from Living Better experts.