With increasing age, the body's own collagen production decreases. The result: The skin becomes increasingly wrinkled and the muscles lose their elasticity. What are the benefits of the much advertised collagen preparations?
Collagen is the most common protein in the human body, accounting for 30 percent. As a so-called structural protein, the body's own collagen provides support to bones, joints, muscles and tendons - similar to a framework.
In addition, it keeps skin and connective tissue elastic. The body constantly produces collagen itself, primarily from the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. But with increasing age, collagen production decreases. The result: The skin becomes increasingly wrinkled, the muscles lose elasticity, the tendons become less flexible, the bones become brittle and the joints cause problems. This is particularly noticeable when a joint has to be immobilized for a long period of time due to an injury: This leads to a shortening of the collagen fibers of the capsular ligament apparatus. As soon as the joint is mobilized and loaded again, the fibers lengthen again because the mechanical stress on the connective tissue increases its collagen content.
What are the benefits of collagen preparations?
Industrially produced collagen is heavily promoted, especially on the Internet. In the form of powders, capsules, drinking ampoules or creams, it is intended to compensate for age-related collagen deficiency and maintain youthfulness. The manufacturers promise more beautiful skin, healthy cartilage and stronger ligaments and joints.
The collagen contained in the creams should be able to penetrate into the top layer of skin (epidermis), expand there and thus pad out wrinkles. But experts attribute this effect primarily to the water contained in the creams, because collagen supplied from outside does not reach where it is actually needed.
Drinking ampoules with collagen are also said to be able to smooth out wrinkles - from the inside. In fact, there are studies that have measured the absorption of collagen into the body. But that doesn't mean that a recognizable and noticeable effect is achieved.
Collagen powder or capsules: What gets into joints?
In powder or capsule form, collagen is said to not only reduce wrinkles but also lead to healthier joints, bones, cartilage and muscles. Some manufacturers advertise that their collagen is so similar to human collagen that the body can incorporate it directly. It is obtained from slaughterhouse waste such as pork rinds, chicken skin and fish leftovers.
In fact, studies show that this canned collagen arrives in bones and joints - but in its individual components: The body breaks down the collagen into the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, from which it could then produce the body's own collagen. But whether this actually happens is completely unclear. The statement that the body incorporates the collagen it takes directly into muscles, tendons and joints is not true.
Long-term collagen intake is not recommended
Experts therefore consider the statement that such a collagen powder can improve or prevent joint problems to be untenable. Since these are dietary supplements, the manufacturers do not have to prove their effectiveness in studies. In addition, there is no long-term experience and no studies on the possible consequences of an overdose. Therefore, long-term use is not yet recommended.
Important amino acids are also found in many foods
The amino acids required for collagen production are not only found in expensive powders, but also in many foods: glycine is contained in beef and salmon, but also in soybeans, peas, lentils, oat flakes, pumpkin seeds, rice and peanuts and wheat germ. Lentils and tofu provide proline. Hydroxyproline is not found in plant foods, but in bone broth and gelatin. But the body can produce it itself from proline. For this he needs vitamin C as a coenzyme. Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production, similar to copper, zinc and other trace elements. While these micronutrients are usually missing from the powders, their supply is ensured through a balanced diet.