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September 27, 2021


Lindsay Delk, RDN
Collagen and Aging

Fact Checked By Lindsay Delk, RDN
 September 27, 2021

Collagen And Aging

With the recent popularity of collagen supplements, you may wonder what collagen is and how it can benefit you.

Understanding what collagen is and how it can affect aging can help you decide if getting extra collagen from a supplement is the right decision for you.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein that is present in many parts of your body, including your bones, skin, joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles.

It provides the connective structure to these parts of our body and gives them the ability to withstand wear and tear, especially as you get older.

You can get collagen in your diet from bone broth, meat, chicken, and fish (especially with bones and skin).

Likewise, collagen supplements are made from the cartilage, bones, and skin of animals and fish.

If you cook a whole chicken, collagen is the jelly-like substance that forms when it cools.

Our bodies can make collagen, but it makes less and less as we get older.


Collagen as You Age

You have a lot of collagen in your body when you're young, which probably plays a big role in looking and feeling youthful.

But your body doesn't make as much collagen as you get older.

This leads to the signs of aging in your skin and the feeling of aging in your joints and muscles.

As you age, you break down collagen faster than you replace it (1).

Starting in your mid-20s, you begin to lose about 1% of your collagen each year.

And women lose up to 30% during the first five years of menopause.

Collagen for Aging Skin

One of the most popular reasons for taking a collagen supplement is to slow the signs of aging, especially in your skin.

Collagen can reduce the signs of skin aging (such as wrinkles and sagging skin) by improving skin elasticity and hydration.

Your skin does a lot of hard work to protect your body, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the first places to show the signs of aging.

As you age, you may notice a decrease in elasticity and moisture in your skin as well as a noticeable increase in wrinkles (2).

This gradual loss of skin elasticity leads to sagging skin (3).

Collagen is a major component of your skin. It provides your skin’s integrity and elasticity (4).

Collagen supplements may offer a proactive way to keep your skin looking smoother, firmer, and healthier for longer.

  • One study found that taking a collagen supplement reduced eye wrinkles after four weeks and then eight weeks. The positive effects were still seen four weeks later (5).

  • Another study found that women who took one gram of a collagen supplement daily for three months had 76% less dryness, 12% fewer visible wrinkles, better blood flow in the skin, and a 6% higher amount of collagen in the skin (6).

  • A 2019 study found that taking a daily collagen supplement improved skin elasticity, hydration, and the amount of collagen in the skin (7).

Collagen for Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and your risk of heart disease increases as you age (8).

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are all heart-healthy practices.

Taking a collagen supplement may be another practice you can do to keep your heart healthy.

  • Collagen provides structure to your blood vessels, and it may help keep your cardiovascular system healthy in several ways.

  • Research shows that collagen can help prevent stiffened arteries, increase your HDL levels (good cholesterol), and lower your blood pressure (9, 10, 11).

Collagen for Your Bones

Collagen is a major building block of your bones. It provides structure, flexibility, and strength.

If your collagen levels are low, your bones may become brittle and weak. Taking a hydrolyzed collagen supplement can improve your bone mineral density (BMD).

A higher BMD score means your bones are stronger and less likely to break.

  • One study on postmenopausal women showed that taking a collagen supplement along with calcium and vitamin D reduced bone loss (12).

  • Another study on postmenopausal women showed that taking a collagen supplement increased BMD (13).

Collagen for Your Muscles

Collagen makes up about 1–10% of your muscle mass. As you age, you usually lose muscle mass and muscle strength (14).

This muscle loss is called sarcopenia.

  • Research shows that hydrolyzed collagen supplements help boost muscle mass and strength.

  • One study on elderly men with sarcopenia showed that taking a collagen supplement combined with strength training increased muscle mass and bone mass more than strength training without a collagen supplement (15).

Collagen for Your Joints

Your joints are made up of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Joint problems can be painful as the bones rub together and cause swelling.

Collagen supplements are a safe, natural option to keep your joints healthy and pain-free.

  • Several studies have shown that taking a hydrolyzed collagen supplement can reduce hip pain, improve mobility, ease lower back pain, reduce knee pain, and improve quality of life (16, 17, 18, 19, 20).

  • Individuals with the most joint damage and the least amount of protein in their diet saw the most benefit as collagen also increases your protein intake (21).

Aging and Protein Intake

As you age, you may start eating less protein.

But protein is essential in the proper functioning and repair of your body (22).

Research shows that older adults need more protein in their diets than younger adults, especially to maintain their muscle function (23).

Collagen is a protein, so taking a collagen supplement will increase your intake of protein.

Collagen Supplements

You can get collagen supplements in the form of pills, capsules, liquid, gummies, gelatin, or powder.

Collagen powder is usually hydrolyzed, which means it is broken down into smaller protein pieces.

Hydrolyzed collagen powder is also called collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptides.

Hydrolyzed collagen powder is easier to use because it dissolves in hot or cold liquids or soft foods.

A hydrolyzed collagen powder with no added flavor or sweetener is more versatile because it can be added to your food or drink without changing the taste.

While hydrolyzed collagen powder has many benefits for aging and very few safety concerns, always check with your doctor before using any supplement.