Collagen is supposed to tighten the skin – at least that’s what some face cream advertising slogans promise. But what does collagen do when you take it in powder form? In addition to rejuvenated skin, it is said to strengthen muscles, cartilage, nails and hair and, among other things, to be able to help against cellulite because it is said to be able to support the connective tissue. Nutritionist Julia Sausmikat from the consumer center NRW explains to the star what collagen powder can really do and what you should consider when taking such dietary supplements.

First of all, it is important to know what collagen actually is – and that there are different variants of it. Julia Sausmikat says: “Collagen is a structural protein, i.e. a protein that occurs in different variants in the body, depending on whether it is collagen in the skin, in the cartilage or in other tissues.” Biochemically, 28 different types of collagen are distinguished, according to the expert. “Human skin consists mainly of collagen type I, cartilage contains collagen type II. The respective tissue cells produce the appropriate collagen themselves.”

The nutritionist explains: “Collagen molecules consist mainly of the amino acids proline and glycine. These two amino acids are not essential either, so they do not have to be ingested through food, but can be produced by the body itself.” In dietary supplements such as collagen powder, collagen is usually used as a water-soluble collagen hydrolyzate, which is obtained from slaughterhouse waste such as the skin or bones of pigs and cattle. During hydrolysis, the collagens are already broken down into smaller fragments, so-called collagen peptides, says the expert. But there is also collagen powder with additives made from poultry and fish leftovers on the market.

If the body produces collagen itself, what good are products like collagen powder? Sausmikat explains: “As we age, the collagen structures in the deeper layers of the skin degrade, resulting in a loss of stability. The collagen-containing cartilage tissue in the joints is also subject to natural wear and tear.” Products such as collagen powder, which can be mixed into foods such as yoghurt or consumed as a smoothie or shake, promise that the collagen they contain will be used as a building block for repairs in “defective” areas of the body (such as skin or joint cartilage). But it’s not that simple, as the expert explains.

“In the digestive tract, collagen is broken down into its components just like other proteins that we consume in the form of food. The body absorbs these amino acids, di- and tripeptides – whether it produces complex collagens from them again and places them in the right place, is on a completely different page.” There are studies that show an improvement in wrinkle depth and skin elasticity through the intake of collagen (hydrolyzate). It cannot therefore be ruled out that dietary supplements such as collagen powder can have an effect. According to the expert, however, it is questionable whether these changes can be seen with the naked eye.

Julia Sausmikat continues: “Dietary supplements with collagen hydrolyzate are often advertised as being able to alleviate damage to joint cartilage and symptoms caused by osteoarthritis. However, such disease-related advertising claims are prohibited for dietary supplements. High-quality scientific studies that support skin or cartilage through collagen intake in healthy occupy people, are missing.” After an examination by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the EU rejected health claims about collagen in food that refer to improved skin structure and joint health due to a lack of scientific evidence, explains the consumer advocate.

The products are not harmful. But Julia Sausmikat explains what to look out for when buying collagen powder: “If you don’t want to use pork products, you should pay particular attention to the product labeling – the majority of collagen is obtained from pork rind. And: There are no vegan collagen products that are labeled as vegan usually contain a mix of the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and L-lysine and no collagen.”

“Food supplements with collagen are legally food and must be safe in principle. The manufacturer must specify a dosage that should not be exceeded,” explains the nutritionist. But there are possible side effects: “Products with collagen can trigger allergic reactions and intolerances, this is especially true for people with a fish allergy if the collagen was made from fish skins.” Such allergens must be labelled.

Furthermore, the frequently added substances such as nicotinamide or nicotinic acid (vitamin B3) can also be problematic, which can trigger intolerance reactions such as facial redness and hot flashes if taken in excess. “Products should not contain more than four milligrams of nicotinic acid, 160 milligrams of nicotinamide or 4.4 milligrams of inositol hexanicotinate (inositol niacinate) per daily dose.” In addition, dietary supplements with collagen sometimes contain absorption enhancers such as piperine, an extract from black pepper, according to Julia Sausmikat. “According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), adults should not take in more than two milligrams of isolated piperine per day via food supplements. The BfR advises pregnant women not to use such substances.”

If you want to take collagen powder, you can do so without any problems if you follow the instructions. However, the expert finds: “An additional supply of collagen or collagen hydrolyzate is not necessary at all. If you eat a varied diet, you absorb all the important protein building blocks, from whose amino acids the body then produces the collagens.” Various authors have explicitly listed in books, such as the title “Collagen – The 28-Day Diet”, with which foods collagen can be consumed through nutrition. Julia Sausmikat’s personal conclusion: “Dietary supplements with collagen powder cannot stop skin aging. Sun protection, renunciation of nicotine and a healthy lifestyle, on the other hand, can.”

Source used: “JDD”

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