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Benefits of Collagen: Everything You Need to Know

Discover the benefits of the most abundant protein in your body.

Walk through your local health or grocery store, and you’re bound to see shelves of products touting collagen’s benefits — ranging from anti-wrinkle creams to protein powders promoting increased muscle mass.

But if you’re wondering what exactly collagen is, you’re not alone. We turned to OhioHealth Registered Dietitian Michelle Mills for answers.

Illustration of protein molecules in the human body

The Basics

Collagen is a complete protein composed of amino acids, including glycine, proline, arginine and hydroproline, Mills says. Collagen makes up 25 to 35 percent of protein found in humans and other mammals, making it the second most-abundant molecule in the body (after water!).

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Collagen’s Role in the Body

“It provides additional strength to various structures of the body and also helps protect our skin,” Mills explains. “Collagen is found throughout the body, specifically smooth muscle tissue, blood vessels, connective tissue, as well as a majority component of our hair and nails.”

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Food Sources of Collagen

Collagen is found in lean animal protein and gelatin. However, Mill says certain foods may help in collagen production: soy, beans, flaxseed and fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C. One of vitamin C’s primary roles is to make collagen, while vitamin A stimulates collagen renewal.

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Collagen in Older Adults

Ever wondered why skin wrinkles as we get older? Our body produces 1 less percent of collagen each year after the age of 20. Collagen keeps skin firm, and this reduction as we age contributes to thinner and more fragile skin. But the reduction in collagen affects other parts of our bodies too, especially our joints.

Spoon full of collagen supplement powder

Should I Supplement?

“The supplementation of collagen is still being researched for potential health benefits,” Mills says. “At this time, clinical research does not support the full need of supplementation of collagen as our body utilizes the foods we eat to make collagen.”

Want to learn more about nutrition? Join us for nutrition classes at OhioHealth!