What Happens to Your Body When You Take Collagen Supplements Every Day?

  • Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body, providing support for skin, bones, and connective tissue.
  • Collagen supplements, usually either in pill or powder form, are increasing in popularity, with many individuals adding the supplement to coffee and recipes.
  • Experts recommend assessing the quality of any collagen supplements you may consider taking; look for a reputable manufacturer, as well as options that have been independently tested and certified by third-party organizations for purity and potency. 

Collagen is a hot topic in the health world, but the real question is: does it work and should I take it every day?

From pills to powders and even to baked goods, collagen is popping everywhere. Collagen has gained attention. Influencers are adding it to morning coffee or different recipes while touting its health benefits. While popular on social media, collagen also seems to be a rage on grocery store shelves as well.

The collagen market is expanding and is expected to continue to rise in popularity between now and 2030.

Believed to help improve hair, skin, and nail appearance and quality and support strong joints and bones, are collagen supplements really all they are cracked up to be?

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Woman scooping collagen powder

Getty Images / Yulia Lisitsa

What Are Collagen Supplements?

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body and it plays a key role in forming the structural framework of cells and tissues. It provides support, strength, and elasticity to skin, bones, and connective tissue. Collagen also plays an important role in cellular processes including immune response, cellular communication, and tissue repair, and is involved in the processes necessary for tissue repair and maintenance.

“Collagen supplements are thought to work by providing the body with the building blocks it needs to produce more collagen, as well as stimulating the body’s natural production of collagen,” said Pam Hartnett, MPH, RDN, owner of The Vitality Dietitians and nutrition writer.

Collagen supplements are sold in pill, powder, and topical forms to treat wrinkles, joint pain, and skin dehydration. 

Types of Collagen Supplements

There are several different types of collagen found in the body with slightly different structures and functions. The most common types of collagen are types I, II, and III, which make up about 80-90% of the collagen in the body.

“Collagen supplements can contain various types of collagen, but the most common types found in supplements are types I and III,” Kathryn Piper, RDN, LD, NBC-HWC, owner of The Age-Defying Dietitian told Health.

Scanning the grocery store shelves, you’ll find three different types of collagen supplements—bovine, marine, and vegan—and each serves a different purpose in the body.

Bovine collagen primarily comes from cow bones and other byproducts that are boiled down. The collagen is then extracted and dried and powdered to form the supplement. Bovine collagen is shown to be most useful for skin health, including promoting elasticity, reducing wrinkles, and increasing skin moisture.

Marine collagen comes from the skin of fish. Studies show that marine collagen has benefits for cartilage, skin health, bone regeneration, anti-wrinkling effects, and wound healing. Additionally, marine collagen may have a higher absorption rate than bovine collagen. 

For those plant-based eaters, animal-based bovine and marine collagens don’t fit the bill. That’s where vegan collagen comes in. By definition, collagen comes from animals so there is no natural source of plant-based collagen. Vegan collagen is typically a marketing term for vegan ingredients that help build up your own natural collagen production. These ingredients include amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, such as vitamin C and copper.

How Often Should You Take Collagen?

When you start taking collagen every day, you may notice improved skin health and appearance, since collagen is a primary building block of your skin’s connective tissue. It also plays a role in skin elasticity, strength, and hydration—think “plumpness.” 

According to Pam Hartnett, MPH, RDN, “Collagen is generally considered a safe supplement to day daily. In fact, most studies that found a benefit to collagen supplementation looked at consistent daily intake and none of these studies found significant side effects.”

There is growing evidence for collagen’s role in alleviating joint pain and stiffness. Collagen is high in amino acids that play an important role in building cartilage. There is also some evidence that collagen may reduce inflammation in joints.

Hartnett noted that “collagen supplementation may slow age-related bone loss and prevent osteoporosis. Collagen levels naturally decline as we age. Studies show that adding collagen to your diet can significantly slow the rate of bone loss as we age.”  

Beyond bones and joints, there is some evidence that suggests that collagen supplementation may improve heart health. As we age, the collagen in our arteries may decrease leading to inflexible arteries and an increased risk of heart disease. When the walls of your arteries are stiffer and less elastic, the amount of blood that is able to flow through them is reduced and this can increase your risk of blood pressure, stroke, and, kidney disease.

There are a few things to keep in mind before making collagen supplements a part of your daily routine as there are potential negative consequences associated with taking them. “Collagen supplements may cause digestive discomforts, such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea,“ explained Kathryn Piper, RDN, LD, NBC-HWC.

Taking too much collagen may cause bloating as well. Always check with a doctor before starting a collagen supplement as they may react with certain medications, such as blood thinners, and may increase the risk of bleeding. Additionally, some collagen supplements may be contaminated with heavy metals, such as lead or mercury, especially if they are derived from fish or other marine sources.

Piper emphasized that “it is unclear whether there are potential risks or negative effects associated with long-term collagen use.”

What to Consider Before Taking Collagen Supplements

Before taking collagen supplements, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider and consider your own medical conditions, allergies, and medications. It is also important to evaluate the supplement’s quality. When assessing a supplement’s quality, look for a reputable manufacturer, as well as options that have been independently tested and certified by third-party organizations for purity and potency.

According to a 2021 review, collagen was deemed one of the most important supplements for aging people. Piper noted, “individuals struggling with joint pain or arthritis, individuals with skin aging concerns, and athletes or those looking to increase muscle mass” should consider taking a collagen supplement. 

Collagen is safe for almost anyone to take. You may want to steer clear of it if you have histamine intolerance or mast cell activation syndrome. Most collagen is fermented and the fermentation process can increase histamine levels.

While there is good evidence in support of including collagen in your daily routine, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of collagen supplements is still being studied. Collagen may not make you look 10 years younger, however, you may notice improvements in the quality of your skin. Finally, collagen supplements don’t replace a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular physical activity are all important for maintaining overall health.

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