Young skin, joints, and bones share one common characteristic: plenty of collagen. As we get older, collagen levels gradually decline, resulting in wrinkles, stiff or achy joints, and weaker bones. But luckily, supplements can help reverse this trend.
Why Care About Collagen?
Collagen gets its name from "kólla," the Greek word for glue, because it makes up connective tissue. Technically, it is a type of protein, making up about one-third of all proteins in the human body. It's estimated that there are approximately 29 different types of collagen, but three of these, types I, II, and III, make up between 80 and 90 percent of the total. Supplements generally contain either type II collagen or a combination of types I and III. Some forms are unique, patented formulations.
A naturally occurring combination of type II collagen, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid, BioCell is a patented ingredient used in many supplement brands. Chondroitin is found in the cartilage and lubricating fluid of our joints. Hyaluronic acid is also naturally present in our bodies and in skin, where it captures and retains moisture that produces a youthful, plumped-up appearance.
BioCell has been tested in more than 20 studies, for anti-aging skin benefits and improvement in joints among older people and athletes. These are some highlights:
- A study of 26 women whose skin showed sun damage and signs of aging tested 1,000 mg of BioCell daily, for 12 weeks. The results, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, included visibly moister skin and diminished lines and wrinkles. Levels of collagen in the skin were measurably higher after the first 6 weeks.
- Among 80 people with osteoarthritis of the knee and/or hip, half took 2 grams daily of BioCell while the others took a placebo for 70 days. The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that after the first 35 days, those taking BioCell had significantly less pain and were able to be more active.
- Another study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, compared the effect of a placebo or 3 grams of BioCell, taken for 6 weeks, on recovery from an extreme weight-lifting routine. Both performance and objective tests showed that with BioCell, there was significantly less muscle damage and better recovery.
UC-II Undenatured Type II Collagen
A dozen studies have tested another patented form, undenatured type II collagen, known as UC-II. In both animals and humans, researchers have found that this form can reduce pain and inflammation in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And, it can relieve pain among healthy people who experienced joint discomfort when doing exercise.
Type I and III Collagen
The combination of types I and III collagen (which occurs in nature) is often referred to as collagen hydrolysate, or hydrolyzed collagen, meaning that the molecules have been broken down into smaller ones for better absorption. Another name is collagen peptides, and some of these are patented forms of collagen. The exact processes used to produce types I and III collagen vary among brands, as do uses of these terms.
Skin Benefits: Brazilian researchers found that the degree of aging in skin of women after age 60 depended upon levels of collagen, rather than their chronological age. In other studies, different collagen hydrolysate supplements improved skin elasticity among women age 35 or older, and one improved hydration.
Joint Benefits: Studies of both healthy athletes and people over age 50 with joint pain found that taking a collagen hydrolysate supplement for approximately 6 months significantly reduced both sports-related pain and arthritic pain.
Bone Benefits: Animal studies have found that collagen hydrolysate improves bone health for young and old. And, in a study of 39 older women, a patented combination of calcium and collagen (KoAct) was about three times as effective as calcium plus vitamin D in reducing bone loss during a one-year period.
Collagen Shopping Guide
The different types of collagen are found as individual supplements and in formulas
designed for specific benefits. It's best to take collagen on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. Here's a cheat sheet for buying collagen supplements:
- For Skin: BioCell (1,000 mg) or a skin-health collagen product, which may be combined with hyaluronic acid to improve hydration.
- For joints: BioCell (2,000 mg), UC-II, or a joint-health collagen product or formula.
- For bones: Products containing KoAct.
Dr. Venessa's Anti-Aging 3 Collagen Type I, II & III was formulated by a research scientist (Titus Venessa, PhD, ScD). One scoop mixes easily in water or juice. Take on a empty stomach for best results.
NeoCell Derma Matrix Collagen Skin Complex, which just hit store shelves, undergoes a proprietary micronization process that allows the collagen to instantly dissolve in water.
Reserveage Nutrition Collagen Booster pairs patented BioCell collagen with youth-promoting hyaluronic acid and resveratrol from organic French grapes.