You’ve heard the promises: Younger-looking skin. Healthier joints. Collagen is gaining a reputation as a miracle worker — and products containing it seem to be everywhere. But what exactly is collagen? And do we need to take supplements?
To learn more, we talked with Brittany Kingry, a registered dietitian at CoreLife Novant Health - Ballantyne. She explained how our bodies use collagen, whether supplements offer benefits and gave suggestions for making sure our bodies have enough to stay healthy.
CoreLife, which has several locations in the Winston-Salem region, plus one each in Greensboro and Salisbury, is expanding to Charlotte with the opening of two locations this month in Pineville and Ballantyne. The program is built for patients needing enhanced individualization, attention, care, education, and accountability. Each clinic team includes a nurse practitioner, registered dietitian, exercise specialist, and licensed clinical social worker who collaborate to deliver compassionate, comprehensive care plans for patients. To learn more about the program, or schedule an appointment, patients can call (800) 905-3261 or visit www.corelifemd.com.
What is collagen?
To put it simply, collagen is a protein our bodies use to build and repair tissues. It provides structure to our skin, blood vessels, arteries, muscles and internal organs.
Collagen is also found in our bones and teeth, connective tissues (like ligaments and tendons) and also in the cartilage that lines our joints and forms our noses and ears. As we age, the collagen in our bodies breaks down, which can affect our skin and joints.
Is it true that collagen is good for our skin?
Some studies have shown that collagen can help wounds heal faster. Protein overall is very important in helping our skin repair itself, but collagen has been known to add a little bit of an extra boost to it.
If you're into skin care, you probably know collagen is a huge buzzword. A number of studies have shown that when we take in collagen through food or supplements, it can improve skin elasticity and hydration, creating that firmer appearance and bouncy, glowy look people want.
However, when it comes to collagen-infused serums and moisturizers … we are unable to absorb collagen that’s applied topically, because the molecules are just too big to seep into our skin.
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Does it also help with joint pain?
Just like it helps heal our skin, collagen can also help our bodies heal from joint problems. It’s especially helpful for load-bearing joints like knees and hips and is also important for supporting spine health.
Studies have shown that collagen could reduce the risk of joint deterioration and pain in high-risk populations, including athletes and other highly active people who put a lot of pressure on their bodies. Research also suggests collagen may help with osteoporosis and osteopenia by improving bone mineral density and may be helpful in treating osteoarthritis.
How can we make sure our bodies get enough collagen?
Meeting your protein needs — which, generally, means eating about 56 grams a day for men and 46 grams for women — and adding a variety of fruits and vegetables is key to staying healthy overall. Foods that help support collagen production include:
- Chicken, beef, fish and other meats.
- Bone broth.
- Egg whites and dairy products.
- Beans and legumes.
- Quinoa and chia seeds.
Vegetarians and vegans who take in a variety of different plants can meet their bodies’ collagen needs perfectly well. However, those who repeatedly eat the same four or five foods are probably getting less collagen than those who eat a little of everything.
Also, getting an adequate amount of vitamin C throughout the day will help increase your absorption of collagen and protein. Vitamin C is available in foods like oranges, bell peppers, berries and broccoli. Zinc (from foods like oysters, whole grains and beans) and copper (found in organ meats, cocoa powder and nuts) also play important roles in collagen production.
Do you recommend collagen supplements?
I think of most supplements as an insurance policy — just in case we’re missing something in our diet — rather than a necessity. But I think taking a collagen supplement is completely fine, if you follow the dosing instructions and don’t overdo it. And, as is the case with all supplements, check with your doctor first.
One caveat: Collagen supplements are made mostly from animal bones, which tend to collect a residue of pesticides, heavy metals and antibiotics those animals ingested. So, it’s important to look for products labeled “grass fed” and “organic.” This will help alleviate any worries about consuming toxins with your supplement.