Health and Fitness

What They Can and Can’t Do for Real

Another day, another supplement taking over the internet. There’s so many skin care options to comb through, you can give yourself crow’s feet just thinking about it.

Products claim that collagen peptides can strengthen your nails, reduce joint pain, and slash cellulite… but are any of those labels legit? Let’s get under the skin of this increasingly popular beauty supplement.

Collagen’s a structural protein that’s found throughout human and animal bodies. It’s pretty much the glue that holds all your bits together. As you age, you’ll start to produce less collagen.

Having less of this important glue means your skin gets less elastic (which equals more wrinkles). It can also lead to some of the other stuff that typically goes along with getting older, like stiffening joints.

In theory, adding more collagen to your diet sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to have fewer wrinkles and less joint pain? But do these supplements really make a difference?

Collagen peptides are a form of collagen — that’s not a big surprise. But it might be surprising to learn that collagen and gelatin are almost exactly the same. Gelatin’s just the processed version of this common protein.

Yep. The new supplement craze sweeping the world off its feet is basically just the stuff you use to make Jell-O shots.

The biggest difference between peptides and gelatin is how they dissolve. Collagen peptide supplements have a low molecular weight, so they can dissolve in hot or cold water and are supposedly easier to digest.

But gelatin only dissolves in hot water (something all of you Jell-O shot veterans already know). Eating undissolved gelatin can also be a little harsh on your stomach — not to mention gross.

Since collagen peptides can dissolve easily in any temperature water, and don’t come with all the added sugar as Jell-O, collagen peptides have become the life of the skin party.

Just keep in mind that collagen peptides generally aren’t vegetarian. Manufacturers derive most collagen products from animal bones or fish scales. However, we looked at how a vegan diet can improve your skin health anyway.

If you look at enough websites, you’d think collagen was some kind of miracle powder that cures almost everything. Most supplements have enthusiasts, but more often than not, it’s too good to be true. So what can collagen peptides really do for you?

  1. It’s a good source of protein. In one scoop of peptide powder, you typically get 10 grams of protein and 40 calories, which is not a bad trade-off.
  2. It may help hydrate your skin. One study found that skin hydration and collagen density increased after 8 weeks of taking oral collagen.
  3. Could help decrease your skin’s signs of aging. It’s only one study, but it provides a little hope for collagen peptide enthusiasts all the same.

Not sure how to find the right supp for you? Check out our guide to protein supplements.

The other collagen claims are a little harder to nail down. The studies out there have conflicting results. Here are a few instances in which collagen might really play a role in keeping your skin on fleek.

  1. It could ease joint pain. A study from Penn State University found that athletes had significantly less joint pain during rest and movement after taking collagen peptides.
  2. It *might* help support healthy nails. A 2019 review suggests changing the amount of collagen peptides in the diet can support different health goals, such as improved nail health.

FYI: Weak nails might be a sign of an underlying health problem, so if you’re noticing a big change in your nails, it might be time to call your doctor.

There are claims that collagen can help with digestion and fix “leaky gut.” The debate continues around whether leaky gut phenomenon is even real.

  1. It’s unclear whether collagen peptides can fix “leaky gut” — or if that’s even a thing. Many gastrointestinal experts deny its existence entirely.
  2. It probably won’t make a difference for your sleep. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing reliable out there to suggest that it will stamp your visa for the land of nod. Check out our top tips for sleep instead.

That said, if your joints are less achy because of supplements, or if you’re so filled with glee over your collagen-induced, wrinkle-free skin, you might sleep pretty well.

I added collagen peptides to my morning smoothie for a month, so I could have some firsthand experience with the collagen craze.

Was my skin transformed? Were my nails healthy and long? Did my joints feel 10 years younger? Can I harness the power of the sun and conquer planets now?

No. No to all of it.

Now, I didn’t notice any worrying side effects. On the flip side, I also noticed absolutely zero difference in my skin, hair, nails, joints, sleep pattern, or cellulite.

(A lot of folks are hawking it as an anti-cellulite cure, but… there’s no real evidence. Don’t believe the snake oil hype.)

Of course, I only tried it for a month, and I’m only one person. Its lack of effects on my skin may not mean it won’t help yours.

Will I still take collagen supplements? Weirdly, yes! I don’t get a lot of protein, and I don’t like the taste of most protein powders. But the collagen blended easily into smoothies without adding any texture or flavor whatsoever.

Even in thin juices, I could never tell it was there. So for that alone, I’m willing to keep up my collagen intake.

As far as supplements go, collagen peptides seem pretty promising. Though the science to prove its efficacy is in the early stages, there are good signs pointing toward increases in skin and joint health when you add collagen to the mix.

Will it change everything overnight? Of course not.

But if you’re looking for an easy protein powder that might do some other good things for your body along the way, collagen peptides are worth a try.



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