Read this before you decide to take a collagen supplement

You might have noticed collagen supplements occupying a bigger space on store shelves lately, and maybe you’ve also heard that collagen is behind the current bone broth trend. There are indeed benefits to taking collagen, but that doesn’t mean you should grab the first or cheapest one you see and expect to get results. If you’re thinking of jumping on the collagen bandwagon, here’s what you need to know.

As the most prevalent protein in your body, collagen makes up the connective tissues in your skin, muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is tasked with giving your bones strength and your skin its structure, and it essentially holds your body together.

First, it’s useful to know that not all collagens are the same. In fact, there are more than 12 different types, each made up of different amino acids or peptides. Many of the collagen peptides powders for sale contain a hydrolyzed form of type 1 collagen extracted from the scales of fish or the bones or hides of animals. These options can be added to anything from soup or hot coffee to a cold smoothie, and it also gives you a generous protein boost.

You should have realistic expectations about what a collagen supplement will do for you. It can reportedly help with a vast array of conditions, but not all are backed by science. Much of the concrete evidence we have relates to its efficacy in enhancing joint health. One study saw four out of five people with osteoarthritis note an average reduction in pain of 26 percent. It’s also believed that these supplements can reduce inflammation.

There is also some evidence that an amino acid in collagen known as glycine could decrease GI inflammation and help with digestion, but these findings involved specific amino acids in a lab rather than collagen supplements.

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When it comes to beauty, however, don’t expect any miracles. Collagen peptides have been linked to healthier skin and a reduction in wrinkles, and there’s also anecdotal evidence that collagen powder can benefit your hair and nails. However, it’s unlikely to survive the pH changes in your gut long enough to have an effect on your hair and skin.

Which collagen should you take?

Choosing the right collagen supplement is essential. First of all, you’ll want one with just a few very simple ingredients, like collagen protein isolate, collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen hydrolysate.

You might have encountered flavored options in your research, but keep in mind that these often contain added sugars. This could mean additional calories or GI tract upset. If you’re concerned about the taste, get the plain version and add it to naturally sweet foods. The FDA doesn’t regulate collagen supplements, but you can look out for credible third-party certification from bodies like UL, ESP, or the NSF.

You might not even need supplements if you can enhance your collagen intake through your diet. Your body uses amino acids from protein-rich foods like eggs, beans, fish, chicken and beef to make collagen, and you’ll also need some vitamin C from citrus fruits or tomatoes to help the process along. Zinc and copper are also needed for the process, so turn to nuts, beans and shellfish to get your fill.

You can also consume bone broth for collagen, but be sure to look for organic options from sources you trust as tests have shown non-organic varieties can contain pesticides, insect repellents, pharmaceuticals and antibiotics. If you can make your own bone broth with organic ingredients, that should be your first choice.

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