Image of a woman holding collagen supplements

What Are the Benefits and Side Effects of Taking Collagen Supplements?

by Cole Matthews - Last Updated March 21, 2017

If there’s a possible positive effect on health, there’s usually a supplement for it. Of course, supplements for your hair and skin exist, as well as supplements for your muscles. Collagen is a popular supplement that exists in the grey area between health supplement and cosmetic product. Most people take collagen to help with their appearance, but there are a few other benefits. However, are the benefits worth the side effects? The side effects of collagen supplementation are rarely discussed, and thus can affect many people due to the lack of education on this supplement. What are the benefits vs. the side effects, and is taking collagen really worth it?

What Is Collagen?

Before we dive in to the benefits and risks of collagen supplementation, let’s define collagen. Collagen is a protein; in fact, it is the most abundant protein in your body. Think of the tissues in your body – bones, organs, muscles, etc.; what holds them together? Collagen, of course! Collagen is responsible for all of your connective tissue and physical elasticity, whether it be in your skin or other tissues. Collagen also gives structure and strength to your hair and nails. When considering a single nutrient that has a hand in hair growth, skin elasticity and other aspects of interior and exterior body processes, it’s no wonder there is an interest to supplement for it.

Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

There are several benefits to supplementing with collagen, as you’d expect. Collagen levels can deplete as you age, which can lead to wrinkly skin, cellulite appearance and thin hair. Here is a list of the benefits of collagen, and how they work:

Blood Circulation

Since collagen controls the elasticity of pretty much everything in your body, it’s no surprise that it controls the dilation and flexibility of your blood vessels. If your blood vessels are more flexible, more blood can move through them. Not only is this good for weight training (blood takes the nutrients to your muscles to give you that “pumped” feeling), it can lower blood pressure and help to regulate it. Blood pressure can be a serious concern for those over 40, or those with a history of high blood pressure.

Reduction of Wrinkles

Speaking yet again of elasticity, your skin loses elasticity with age just like your blood vessels. When you lose elasticity in your skin, gravity takes over and wrinkles form. Supplementing with collagen can slow the formation of wrinkles by supplying some elasticity back into your skin. This alone is enough for many people to start taking collagen supplements.

Hair Thickening

Thinning hair can be one of the most embarrassing and difficult parts of getting older. This is also a side effect of decreased collagen levels. Supplementing with collagen will make your hair grow, but not in the way that most people think. Instead of new hairs popping up all over your head, supplementing with collagen actually thickens the strands (hair follicles) that you already have. This, in turn, gives the hair a thicker texture and appearance, which can be a huge confidence booster.

Arthritis Relief

Having limited joint mobility is a huge side effect of arthritis, and can be the source of a significant amount of pain throughout your day-to-day life. Taking a supplement that contains the protein necessary for joint mobility and elasticity makes perfect sense, and it works pretty well according to several studies that have been conducted.

Injury Recovery

Collagen, because it is responsible for connective tissues and their flexibility, do a lot as far as healing bones and ligaments. If your collagen levels are getting low, your body’s ability to heal and rebuild those tissues becomes limited, this is where the collagen supplementation comes in. Bringing your body’s collagen levels back to normal will speed up recovery and get you back in the gym, back in the office or just back on track more quickly.

Side Effects of Taking Collagen Supplements

Most, if not all supplements have at least 1 or 2 negative side effects, it’s just the name of the game. You take in a surplus of whatever nutrient and you get benefits, but it may cost you momentary stomach discomfort, or you have to drink more water to process the supplement, then drink more water than you normally would throughout the day. The benefits almost always outweigh the risks, which is why there is still a market for these supplements. But is collagen of that same camp? Do the benefits really outweigh the side effects? Let’s take a look at the side effects now and you can best decide if supplementing collagen is a good choice for you.

High Calcium Levels

One of the possible side effects of collagen supplementation is that calcium levels could get too high. Doesn’t sound like much of a problem, does it? Calcium is good for us; but, not in extremely high doses. If our bodies’ concentration of calcium is too high, symptoms include vomiting, bone pain, fatigue, nausea and constipation. Some pretty rough symptoms for ingesting too much of a good thing. Generally, when your body has too much of anything (except calories), it will try and discard it as waste, which can be very uncomfortable, depending on the severity of the nutrient or compound concentration.

Hypersensitivity Reactions

Collagen supplements generally obtain their collagen from food products – mainly shellfish and eggs. If you have an existing food allergy to either one of these foods, the collagen supplement very well may trigger a reaction. Make sure to check the source of collagen on the package and check for any ingredients in ANY supplement that could interfere with your allergies.

Final Thoughts

For many, supplementing with collagen can be something of a mild fountain of youth in how it affects the body. Somebody with skin starting to wrinkle, hair starting to thin, arthritis pain and poor circulation will benefit greatly from collagen supplementation. Even if few health benefits are gained by the user, cosmetic improvements can boost confidence, which will not only transfer over and be reflected in the person’s performance at the gym, but will reflect in their day-to-day life. So – is collagen worth it? As long as the supplementation is monitored and the supplementation is done safely, collagen is definitely worth it.

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