Dear Dr. Roach: Could you please address the benefits and safety of taking an oral collagen supplement. I am confused, as there are so many collagen products on the market professing miraculous results with regard to diminishing or preventing wrinkles, strengthening the nails and hair, and helping with joint pain. I have been taking a supplement for the past several months and have not seen improvement in any of these areas. Some salespeople in the health stores seem to be of the opinion that you need to take supplements that contain collagen itself, while others believe you need a supplement to promote the formation of collagen. I am wondering if any of these supplements really work or if they are all a waste of money. I have been treated for cancer in the past and am concerned about the safety element as well, so that is why I chose a supplement that is not derived from animals. Anon.
Answer: Collagen is a structural protein found in connective tissue of all animals. Like all proteins, collagen is made up of amino acids, which are broken down in the stomach and absorbed in the intestines. Without adequate amino acids (particularly proline and arginine), the body cant make collagen optimally. Thus, collagen itself is sold as a supplement. Other co-factors are needed to make collagen, including vitamin C and copper. There are several different types of supplements that contain these or other micronutrients purported to help collagen synthesis.
Taking in adequate amounts of the building blocks of collagen is important in order for the body to make it; however, the clinical benefit on improving hair, nail or bone strength, or for improving joint symptoms, has not been proven.
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