Collagen for Weight Loss: How Supplements May Help

Collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in the body. In recent years, it has become a popular dietary supplement.

Collagen supplements are primarily known for their skin health benefits. But if you’re looking for ways to lose weight, you might have heard that collagen supplements can help.

To date, not much research has been done on collagen supplements and weight loss. However, there is some evidence that collagen can indirectly aid your efforts.

If you want to use collagen for weight loss, read on. This article explains the science behind this effect as well as safety precautions that you should be aware of.

Collagen is an important structural protein that makes up 25 to 30 percent of the proteins in your body. It gives structure to connective tissue like:

  • skin
  • cartilage
  • Tendons
  • Tapes
  • Muscles
  • bone
  • Blood vessels

Natural collagen

Collagen is made up of amino acids that are considered to be the building blocks of protein. The amino acids glycline, proline and hydroxyproline make up 57 percent of the total amino acids in collagen.

Amino acids are in the form of chains. In collagen, the amino acids are tightly twisted like a rope, which makes collagen extremely strong and stable.

In the body, collagen is naturally produced by cells called fibroblasts. Optimal collagen formation requires a sufficient intake of high-quality protein and vitamin C from the diet. You can also get collagen directly by consuming certain foods and taking supplements.

Collagen supplements

Collagen supplements are made from the bones and tissues of animals such as cows, horses, pigs or fish. The goal of these supplements is to help your body rebuild collagen. The types of collagen supplements include:

  • Gelatin. Gelatin, or cooked collagen, is made by heating collagen for a long time. The heat breaks down collagen and forms smaller proteins.
  • Hydrolyzed. If the proteins are broken down further into amino acids, one speaks of hydrolyzed collagen. This form is also called hydrolyzed gelatin, collagen peptides or collagen hydrolyzate.
  • Undenatured. Undenatured collagen is intact and has not been broken down.

Collagen supplements are available in several forms:

  • Tablets
  • gummy bear
  • powder
  • liquid
  • in packaged foods or beverages

To date, there has been little research into the direct link between collagen supplements and weight loss. Most studies are small, out of date, or involve animals.

Although more research is needed, existing studies on the broader benefits of collagen show how these supplements can indirectly help with your weight loss goals:

Promote satiety

Collagen supplements can increase the feeling or feeling of satiety. This could aid weight loss and management by reducing hunger and therefore the number of calories you consume in a day.

Collagen could have this effect because it is a protein. High protein diets increase satiety hormones like glucagon-like peptide-1 and cholecystokinin, according to a 2020 review. They also suppress ghrelin, a hunger hormone.

According to a 2008 study, increased protein intake can also increase thermogenesis, which affects feelings of satiety and energy expenditure. The study also found that a higher protein diet can stimulate muscle protein anabolism, “helps maintain lean muscle mass while improving metabolic profile”.

Also, in a small study from 2009, gelatin was found to reduce hunger by 44 percent more than casein, the protein found in milk.

It’s worth noting that gelatin is an incomplete protein, which means that it is missing all of the amino acids the body needs. You cannot meet your protein needs with gelatin or collagen supplements alone. However, dietary supplements can increase your overall protein intake and potentially improve feelings of satiety.

Increase muscle mass

Building muscle is an essential part of weight loss. This is because muscles burn more calories when at rest, which increases total calorie expenditure.

Taking collagen supplements can aid your efforts by increasing muscle mass. Remember that collagen is the most important structural protein in your muscles.

In a 2015 study of older adults, participants with sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) completed 12 weeks of strength training. Half of the participants were taking collagen peptide supplements while the other half were taking a placebo.

Those who took collagen peptides experienced greater improvements in muscle mass and strength. They also lost more fat mass than the placebo group.

These results suggest that collagen supplements can aid in body fat loss by increasing the effects of strength training on muscle mass.

Reduce the accumulation of fat

There is some evidence that collagen can reduce the development and accumulation of adipocytes or fat cells.

A 2019 study found that collagen from rays, a species of fish, reduced human body fat. The amount of fat lost was small but suggests potential weight loss benefits.

Similarly, in a 2018 animal study, collagen peptides from skate had anti-obesity effects in mice. The researchers linked this effect with improved fat metabolism and reduced fat accumulation.

A 2016 animal study also found that collagen hydrolyzate (also called collagen peptides) reduced fat cell size and weight gain in rats.

Relieve joint pain

Collagen supplements can indirectly help you lose weight by reducing joint pain. Healthy joints are needed to be able to move comfortably during exercise and daily activities. In turn, more regular physical activity could help with weight management.

A 2015 study found that collagen peptides can treat osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when your articular cartilage wears out, causing joint pain and stiffness.

Also, in a 2017 study of athletes, collagen peptides reduced knee joint pain associated with physical activity.

If joint pain is preventing you from exercising, these collagen benefits can help.

Collagen supplements have other potential health benefits. Collagen can:

  • Improvement of skin elasticity
  • reduces the appearance of skin wrinkles
  • increase skin moisture
  • Reduce bone loss
  • improve brittle nails
  • strengthen hair health
  • Support heart health

There are no studies on the negative side effects of collagen preparations. But according to anecdotal reports, collagen supplements can have side effects such as:

  • feeling of fullness
  • heartburn
  • bad taste in the mouth

Like other dietary supplements, collagen supplements are not regulated by the FDA. That means the agency cannot tell how safe or effective they are.

Again, it’s difficult to know if a collagen supplement contains the ingredients it is supposed to contain. It’s also possible that collagen supplements may contain:

  • Heavy metals (such as cadmium)
  • Allergens (such as hydrolyzed collagen from fish)
  • microbial contamination
  • other dosages than indicated on the label

When buying nutritional supplements, look out for products that have a USP Verified Mark on the label. This symbol indicates that the product:

Collagen supplements can indirectly promote weight loss by:

  • increasing feeling of satiety
  • Regulation of fat metabolism
  • Increase the effect of strength training on muscle mass

Collagen supplements could also relieve joint pain and make exercise more enjoyable.

But collagen supplements are not a silver bullet or a substitute for healthy habits. Eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep is still important for sustainable weight loss.

If you want to try taking collagen supplements for weight loss, use them as part of a holistic regimen rather than a substitute for healthy habits. It’s also a good idea to speak to a doctor to make sure collagen supplements are safe for you.

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