Collagen is part of almost every tissue in the human body. It is found in the connective tissue, which is virtually everywhere. It gives structure to the bones and creates the framework of the skin. The hair, muscles, tendons, and articulations all use collagen one way or the other.
Unfortunately, as we age our bodies naturally produce less collagen. For most of us, this process begins around the age of 30 and accelerates in our 40s. Collagen makes up 90% of our organic bone mass and 75% of our cartilage and our skin.
With less collagen, our bones and cartilage become more fragile. The result is discomfort, a higher risk of fractures, less agility and possible loss of independence.
The connective tissue in our muscles also consists primarily of collagen, so a similar effect occurs there. As age brings on a reduction in muscle mass, affecting strength, tone, flexibility and balance.
Collagen is a very resistant protein that creates very complex elongated fibers. Collagen is made of the same building blocks as the rest of the proteins. Amino acids. That’s why people often ask if collagen supplements are any better than consuming any other protein. What does the evidence say about this for older adults?
Collagen supplements for ageing, according to the research
Different sources and authors have widely studied collagen supplements. They have found that out of many types available, hydrolyzed collagen is one of the most effective. It stimulates a variety of tissues to produce collagen fibers and other components of the extracellular matrix. That’s why it is recommended for stronger bones and healthier joints.
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these benefits.
Joint health benefits
In older adults, hydrolyzed collagen improves joint function. It may reduce pain and increase the range of movement and therefore, quality of life. This was tested by double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that evaluated women with knee osteoarthritis. After receiving 8g of collagen powder every day for 6 months, the results were:
- A significant reduction (22%) of the symptoms, measured by the WOMAC score.
- A 7% increase in knee movement for everyday activities, measured by the Lysholm score.
The study also found significant improvement in the creation of cartilage in the participants.
Additionally, other studies have found that hydrolyzed collagen stimulates chondrocytes to create healthy cartilage using in vitro assays. Similar studies also report a reduction of inflammation and faster cartilage regeneration in cartilage treated with hydrolyzed collagen.
Bone health benefits
Collagen creates the base structure of the bone, where minerals are then deposited. In vitro, in vivo, and some clinical trials show that collagen supplements can stimulate the bone tissue as well. The production of collagen in the bone is increased, increasing the firmness and resistance of the tissue. For better results, it is recommended alongside with vitamin D and calcium.
After receiving hydrolyzed collagen for three months, an in vivo study that recreates osteopenia in postmenopausal women showed that the treatment group restored their bone mineral density to the standard values. Collagen does this by stimulating osteoblasts, cells that create bone tissue, and favor mineralization.
Muscle health benefits
The effects of collagen are also crucial for muscle health. A double-blind study evaluated older women who consumed either collagen supplements or whey protein. In the whey protein group, women lost weight and increased their excretion of nitrogen. In contrast, collagen supplements helped women keep a positive nitrogen balance and maintain their lean muscle mass.
So, the natural decline of collagen production affects our skin, joints, bones and muscles, making us painfully aware of the passing of the years. The good news is that this loss can be compensated for: numerous scientific studies have proven that taking collagen peptides can effectively support joint, bone and muscle health all at once.
Regular exercise, of course, has long been recognized as a leading contributor to our health and wellbeing. Today, we know that taking the right nutrients is equally influential. And that collagen peptides are a key – if not the key – nutritional ingredient that helps maintain skin health and mobility.
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