Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that accounts for about one-third of the protein content in your body.
Derived from the Greek word “kólla” (meaning glue), collagen is a major building block of bones, skin, muscles and more.
Collagen is famous for improving skin, but can it help you lose weight and what’s the best way to take collagen for weight loss?
Because collagen is a vital component of skin cells, many manufacturers add it to cosmetics and supplements to improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and increase overall skin health. However, a growing number of people have started to take collagen supplements for weight loss, but do they really help you shed the pounds and what is the evidence behind these claims?
To date, there hasn’t been much research on the link between collagen supplements and weight loss, though there is some evidence that collagen may indirectly help you lose weight. But before we take an in-depth look at the evidence recommending collagen for weight loss, it’s worth going over the composition and effects of this protein.
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Collagen is what’s known as a structural protein and makes up 25 to 30 percent of the proteins in your body whilst providing structure to connective tissues such as:
While your body naturally produces collagen, environmental factors and lifestyle choices – such as smoking and sun exposure – can deplete your collagen levels. As a result, you should try to get collagen from outside sources, including supplements and certain foods, if you want to use collagen for weight loss purposes.
Because collagen is a naturally occurring protein, there are many food sources, including many that are compatible with calorie-restricted weight-loss diets. Furthermore, some of these food sources are so common in Western diets that you may already eat them regularly!
However, since collagen is only produced in the connective tissue of animals (including humans), there are no known vegetarian sources, though there are ways to increase your natural production of collagen for weight loss and other reasons. To help you get plenty of healthy collagen in your diet, we’ve compiled a shortlist of foods naturally high in collagen below:
Stock – which some call bone broth – is traditionally made from slowly simmering meat and bones in water, releasing flavour and collagen to create a nutritious, gelatinous foundation for all kinds of tasty soups, stews and risottos.
Because chickens contain a lot of connective tissue, they are very high in collagen, especially if you use the whole carcass: Try making stock from the leftovers of a roast chicken dinner and thank us later.
While the bones and scales of marine animals are rich in collagen, their ‘meat’ is comparatively lacking, so unless you’re willing to make fish stock, there are better dietary sources of collagen for weight loss.
As the major component of connective tissues such as tendons, skin, and muscles, collagen – like its ancient Greek namesake – is the glue that holds your body together. Along with other proteins like elastin and fibrillin, collagen provides vital structure to your skin, muscles and joints, helping to keep your body in good condition and reducing age-related damage.
While there are at least 16 types of collagen, four of them have the most significant roles in your body, which are:
As collagen’s primary role in your body is to support cell structure, there is some evidence that it could support weight loss as part of a healthy diet, so let’s look into the science behind collagen for weight loss now.
RELATED: Our Best Elastin Supplements article includes tips on how to improve your skin health and boost your natural elastin (and collagen) levels.
As of writing, there is very little research on the direct link between collagen and weight loss, despite a large number of studies on the benefits of collagen supplements. However, the side effects of supplementing with collagen (or eating a high-collagen diet) may support your weight loss goals.
For these reasons, as well as the fact that collagen supplements are widely considered safe with very few cases of harmful side effects, we believe that taking collagen for weight loss is likely to improve your overall health AND waistline. Read on to learn about the different forms of collagen supplements and the benefits they offer.
When making collagen supplements, collagen is extracted from the bones and tissues of animals – like chicken, cows or fish – processed into a usable form, then poured into capsules, mixed into lotions or sold as-is. The main goal of these supplements is to help your body regenerate collagen, and some common types of collagen supplements include:
Capsules are one of the most portable and convenient ways to take collagen, though many people taking collagen for weight loss choose to incorporate collagen powder into food and drinks since it doesn’t gel. Whether you prefer the convenience of a pill or the flexibility of adding collagen to your meal prep plans, there are plenty of reasons to add collagen to your diet.
Because it makes up so many crucial parts of your body, collagen is not just beneficial but essential for maintaining a healthy body. In addition to supporting the structure of your tissue, collagen contributes to healthy skin, helps reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and studies show that it may provide benefits for the following areas:
Satiety – or the feeling of fullness – helps people limit portion sizes and control their calorie intake, both of which are vital on a weight-loss diet. It’s believed that collagen supplements cause satiety because they are protein-based, and high-protein diets increase satiety hormones much more than low-protein diets, helping make a case for collagen for weight loss.
Building muscle is a vital part of losing weight, as muscle burns more calories at rest, increasing the total number of calories you burn in a day. As the main structural protein in muscle, collagen supplements help you build muscle and lose weight faster than you would otherwise, as was demonstrated in a 2015 study.
Studies have found that collagen supplements (such as collagen peptides) help reduce joint pain caused by cartilage damage and osteoarthritis, helping people exercise longer and more frequently. Therefore, collagen supplements could provide massive benefits if you want to take collagen for weight loss and happen to have symptoms of joint pain or osteoarthritis.
Although there is limited research on the adverse side effects of collagen supplements, the lack of widespread reports or bans indicates that they are generally safe. That being said, many people have made anecdotal reports that collagen supplements may cause side effects like:
To get the best results from taking collagen for weight loss, you should always choose your supplements carefully and read the label to ensure that you’re getting a trustworthy product. Because the FDA doesn’t regulate collagen supplements, you may end up getting a low-quality product from an unscrupulous company if you’re not careful…
Before choosing a collagen supplement, you need to consider several factors to find an ideal supplement for your needs. As collagen supplements come in all shapes, sizes and strengths, you should narrow down your choice based on:
Collagen is water-soluble and highly versatile, meaning it can be turned into capsules, gummies, tonics and powders – how you use it is up to you. Whether you want a travel-sized pill bottle of collagen capsules or prefer to mix it into your smoothies, there are more ways to take collagen for weight loss than you can shake a celery stick at.
More critical than debates over pills versus powdered collagen is the strength of your supplement because if you’re not getting enough of the active ingredient, you won’t see the benefits. Although there aren’t any official guidelines on the recommended daily amount of collagen, studies show that doses of 2.5-15g of collagen per day are generally safe and effective.
Many collagen supplements contain additional ingredients to boost their intended benefits, such as anti-aging creams with collagen and hyaluronic acid. If you plan to take collagen alongside other supplements, read the label to make sure that you don’t double-dose on vitamin C, for example, when you want collagen for weight loss.
While it’s uncertain if collagen directly affects weight loss, the beneficial side effects (such as reduced appetite and muscle loss) are sure to help you stick to your diet. What’s more, you can easily add natural sources of collagen (such as chicken stock) to a calorie-restricted diet to increase your collagen intake whilst losing weight.
Collagen supplements are widely considered safe, adverse effects are rare, and there’s a good chance that they’ll help you look and feel better about yourself, so there’s hardly any downsides to taking collagen for weight loss. But before you run to your local drugstore, you should consult a medical professional before adding collagen supplements to your daily routine and always follow our guidelines when buying supplements to make sure you get the best, safest possible results.