You’ve probably heard the hype about collagen supplements. While collagen material can be used medically to treat burns or serious wounds, should you be taking collagen in supplement form?
Amy Eichner, PhD, the Special Advisor on Drug Reference and Supplements at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, weighs in with the hard truth that collagen powders aren’t necessarily as effective as you might believe.
1. Collagen is everywhere
Collagen is the main structural protein in your body and makes up much of the cartilage in joints, as well as tendons and ligaments and other kinds of connective tissue in the body. It’s really important for the basic structure of the body, says Eichner. In addition to joints and other connective tissues, it’s in our lungs, gums, eyes, organs, blood vessels, and many other tissues — collagen is the reason these tissues are strong, yet flexible and stretchy.
2. You may have already used collagen without realizing it
Collagen is useful as a scaffolding for all kinds of wound healing. “Collagen is used in internal sutures, so people who have surgery may receive collagen sutures (stitches) that dissolve inside the body,” says Eichner. “For instance, if you have a tendon surgery or muscle surgery, such procedures often require several layers of tissue suturing. Sutures used on the innermost layers are often made from a collagen because the material is very strong, accepted by the body, and will just gradually be replaced or dissolved by the body.”