Experts weigh in.

By Deanna deBara
January 07, 2020
Getty / Yulia Lisitsa

Health trends come and go, but there's one in particular that has gained major traction in the wellness sphere recently, and that's collagen peptides. Devotees of these supplements claim that they are complete game-changers for everything from skin to joint health. But what, exactly, are they, and do they really live up to the hype? Ahead experts explain the science behind this buzzy supplement and share why they think collagen is ultimately worth taking.

Related: Should You Take a Dietary Supplement?

What is collagen?

"Collagen is a main structural protein found in skin, connective tissue, and bone. It plays a lot of roles in our bodies, ranging from helping with skin to have its elasticity, to helping blood to clot," says Nicole Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. But as you age, collagen production slows down. "As we get older, just like all our hormones start to decline, collagen production also starts to decline," says Dr. Anna Cabeca, physician and author of The Hormone Fix ($12.99, amazon.com).

That's where collagen peptides come in. "Collagen peptides are formulations that you can consume that contain 90% protein, and are developed from bovine, marine, or porcine sources," says Avena. They most often come in powder form, and are essentially collagen that's been broken down through a process called hydrolysis. Because their molecular structure is smaller, collagen peptides are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream—which makes them that much more beneficial, fans of the supplement say.

Why are they so popular?

The supplement has gained popularity because it rectifies a slew of issues, asserts Avena: "Many people take it for beauty purposes, to help with skin elasticity and as an anti-aging supplement." In addition, collagen peptides can also promote "less stiffness in the joints, less arthritic complaint, and less aching when you wake up in the morning," adds Dr. Cabeca. They're also east to incorporate into your regimen—which makes them extremely attractive to people who want major benefits with minimal hassle. "[Collagen peptides] are easy to take, [and] flavorless powders are available that you can dissolve into just about anything," explains Avena.

Final verdict: Are they worth the hype?

According to the experts, the answer is yes. "I think it is worth it to take them, especially if you have age-related joint pain," says Avena. "Studies suggest that they can reduce joint pain, and they are a great protein source." Just make sure to do your research; because they're nutritional supplements, collagen peptides aren't regulated by the FDA—so it's important to make sure you're buying yours from a reliable source. "You really have to trust the source of the collagen that you're getting—like with anything you eat," says Dr. Cabeca.

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Comments (1)

mjames13031
January 12, 2020
Isn't this what we get from a well simmered bone stock/ broth? The "medicine" of chicken soup for example is directly linked to the collagen that is extracted from the bones. Same with Beef bone broth, and why a good stock "gels" when cooled. Adding apple cider vinegar (which I do with every bone-based stock or soup) leeches the marrow and collagen from the bones. Why buy a powder supplement?