Taking collagen for the skin and joints: anti-aging miracle or fashion effect?

Currently very trendy, the consumption of collagen helps reduce the signs of aging, improves the elasticity of the skin and relieves the joints. What is it really ? Decryption with Dr Nina Roos, dermatologist and Dr Laurent Grange, rheumatologist at CHU Grenoble-Alpes.

“  My skin is plumped  ,” Patricia wrote in a comment. “  I've been taking it for about a month and I see a difference in the appearance of my hair which is significantly shinier  than before,” assures Anne. Could collagen be the new panacea? Actress Jennifer Aniston adds a dose to her coffee every morning and influencer Lena Situations has made it HER summer drink! After the United States and its “collagen drinkable parties”, this food supplement supposed to compensate for the loss of elasticity of the dermis is being emulated in France.

What is collagen? What is it used for in the body?

Collagen is a protein found in the skin but also in muscles, tendons, bones, cartilage... even the arteries! “  Collagen contributes to the thickness and elasticity of the dermis ,” explains Dr. Nina Ross straight away.  The youthfulness of the skin, its ability to withstand shocks and to repair itself come from collagen and its cells, fibroblasts, which produce it.  » From the age of 30, collagen production decreases .

Over the years, we produce less collagen and destroy more of it, which will lead to a loss of density in the tissues. Dr. Nina Ross, dermatologist.

In addition to aging, certain external factors also increase the destruction of collagen. “  This is particularly the case with UV ,” confirms Dr. Nina Roos.  Cigarettes, poor lifestyle and stress also accentuate the phenomenon.  »

Conversely, it is possible to preserve your fibroblasts by protecting yourself from the sun , adopting a healthy diet , practicing regular physical activity and above all by limiting your intake of fast sugars. “  The glucose will bind around the collagen fibers which will stiffen over time or even break ,” assures the specialist.  Little by little, the phenomenon of glycation damages the subcutaneous substance which supports the dermis. The glycated fibers, trapped by sugar, are no longer functional and no longer play their role as shock absorbers or support tissue. Result: the skin loses elasticity and tone.  »

What are the different types of collagen in the body?

There is not one… but collagens: 28 types have been identified in the human body. For example, type I collagen is mainly found in bones, skin, tendons, cornea and internal organs while type II collagen is a component of joint cartilage.

Food supplements: where does collagen come from?

Collagen in dietary supplements is made from animal bones and skin or fish skin and bones (marine collagen) which undergo processing to increase the bioavailability of their amino acids and/or peptides. Different formulations of collagen have been developed depending on the degree of hydrolysis, with the most common being undenatured collagen and hydrolyzed collagen.

Is it useful to take food supplements containing collagen for the skin?

Collagen is popular among beautyistas who swear by its anti-aging properties.

However, it is clear that currently in dermatology, the studies are not convincing. The collagen that we ingest is a protein that will be digested by the body. It is illusory to think that the body is capable of assimilating it in this form. Dr. Nina Roos.

 And added: “  Moreover, nothing in the reviews points in this direction and the studies carried out internally on small numbers by the manufacturing laboratories are often biasedOn the other hand, these food supplements can be enriched with antioxidants or essential fatty acids which have a proven and recognized action on the skin. So, if there is an improvement, it is perhaps less due to collagen than to what is associated with it… 

What are the benefits of a collagen treatment for osteoarthritis and joints?

A common joint disease, osteoarthritis affects nearly 10 million people in Franceaccording to Inserm and 65% of those over 65. However, there is currently no medication to cure it or slow its progression. In the absence of effective treatment, many patients turn to food supplements, particularly collagen derivatives . Does it work ?

“  Several studies suggest the effectiveness of collagen in relieving pain related to osteoarthritis . It could improve quality of life, reduce pain and joint stiffness , answers Dr Laurent Grange, rheumatologist. Undenatured type II collagen  - often derived from chicken cartilage - has immunomodulatory properties, meaning it will reduce inflammation and could act on osteoarthritisWhile hydrolyzed collagen would boost the production of natural collagen by cartilage cells.  The problem is that these studies involve a small number of people and are not rigorous enough for us to be sure that collagen really has any benefit.  »

What dose is recommended per day?

According to studies, it appears that the recommended dose is 40 mg/day of undenatured type 2 collagen and 5 to 10 g/day of hydroxylated collagen. The collagen treatment must be carried out for two to three months. “  We continue if we notice an effect and we stop if there is no improvement ,” insists the rheumatologist.

Taking collagen: what are the dangers for health?

Although the evidence of the effectiveness of collagen is still insufficient both in the skin and in the joints, it is rather well tolerated. “  The positive side is that there do not seem to be any notable adverse effects ,” confirms the rheumatologist.  On the other hand, depending on the manufacturer, the formulations can vary greatly. This is why I advise my patients who wish to take supplements to avoid buying them on the internet and to prefer food supplements manufactured by well-established laboratories.  »

Where to find natural collagen in food?

Bone broths”, or chicken bone broths , are on the rise. “  It’s a way of upcycling bones and making them into a virtuous broth  ,” assures a brand of food supplements on its website. All you have to do is simmer a chicken carcass for several hours accompanied by herbs and vegetables: carrots, celery... A grandmother's remedy accessible to all budgets and ecological to stock up on collagen? “  It doesn't hurt... but to say that it works and that the collagen will be absorbed, nothing is less certain!  », concludes the rheumatologist.