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Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?

If you’re planning to jump onto the collagen bandwagon, these are the questions you need answers to before adding them to your diet.

Shweta Vepa Vyas

Collagen–if the word on Instagram is to go by--there’s nothing it can’t fix. It boosts your hair growth, aids skin regeneration and maintains its youthful appearance, strengthens bones and joints and repairs muscles. Its wondrous benefits no doubt had us reaching out to the experts. From what collagen is in the first place to how exactly it should be consumed—we answer all your questions before you include collagen in your diet.

What is collagen?

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To begin with, it’s important to understand what collagen is in the first place. Collagen can be referred to as the 'building blocks' of the body. “When it comes to our joints and tendons, in simplest terms, it’s the ‘glue’ that helps to hold the body together. It’s what gives our skin strength and elasticity while also helping it replace dead cells,” shares Sudha Nair, naturopathy manager, Dharana at Shillim.

Why does the body need collagen in the form of supplements?

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While collagen is naturally found in the body, it starts breaking down as we age, in turn making our skin and hair lose their elasticity. Aaditya Sheth, Partner, INJA Wellness further explains: “The production of collagen in our body slows down in our 20s. Naturally, we start losing 1% collagen after the age of 30. Other factors like a diet rich in sugar, excessive smoking and consumption of alcohol and over-exposure to UV rays further accelerate this process.” While bone broth is a food source of collagen, we don’t really get direct collagen from other food sources—which is why it becomes important to consume collagen in a powdered supplement form.

Are collagen supplements non-vegetarian? 

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Yes, collagen is non-vegetarian. Sheth lists the sources of collagen as bovine, porcine, poultry and marine. "Collagen is a nutrient found only in fauna and not in flora, which is why there is no vegetarian source. However, there is research being conducted on extracting collagen from algae and kelp. It is still not established as a product as it is in the research and development stage," he says. He further points out that marine collagen is 1.5 times more bioavailable than other sources, which means that is it more easily absorbed by the body, making it the preferred ‘type’ of collagen.

What are the long-term benefits of consuming collagen? 

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Call it glue or building blocks, but collagen is literally what ‘keeps the body together’. It impacts different parts of the body right from the skin to the joints. From the point of view of skin, it has tremendous anti-ageing benefits as it reduces fine lines and improves suppleness and smoothness. Similarly, it strengthens and improves the texture of the hair and nails. Collagen supplements are also often prescribed to athletes and sportsmen owing to their ability to repair and regenerate muscles and joints. The powder can either be consumed with water or even be added to soups and smoothies to improve their nutrient value. The ideal time to consume collagen is night as this is the time the body goes into its repair and regenerative mode.

How can one go about selecting the right supplement? 

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Nair suggests buying your collagen from a reputed source and brand. “It’s important to know that type 2 collagen is usually chicken, while types 1 and 3 can be bovine, fish or egg whites. If you are allergic to any of those proteins, then steer clear,” she adds. Sheth on the other hand recommends marine collagen as it is absorbed more easily by the body. 

Are there any risks involved with the consumption of collagen?

As long as you’re assured of the source of your collagen, there is no risk of side effects. That being said, it’s always advisable to get a clearance from your family physician. “The only time you should not be consuming collagen is when you’re either pregnant or lactating,” warns Sheth. Online deals on supplements like collagen may often be enticing. However, with collagen or any other supplement, it’s the quality that matters; the results on your body will follow. 

Photo: Shutterstock
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