Are Collagen Supplements Worth It?

5 min read  |  March 25, 2024  | 

You’ve probably seen all those ads touting the power of collagen supplements. They may be the newest trend promising firm, youthful skin. But do they work? Can popping a pill provide the benefits of the mythical Fountain of Youth?

First, let’s dig into the who-what-where of this protein, which accounts for about 30% of all the protein in our bodies. Collagen is everywhere, serving to give structure and support to bones, skin, cartilage, tendons, and other tissues.

“Collagen is a key component of connective tissue,” says Shelby Birdwell, M.S., R.D., L.D., a registered dietician with the University of Miami Health System.

You can think of collagen as the “building blocks” of the body’s skin, muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, and cartilage. Its main function is to provide support, strength, and elasticity to structures in the body.

Though 29 different types of collagen have been identified, five of those can be considered the stars because of what they do and where they are in the body.

  • Type 1, which makes up 90% of our body’s collagen, provides structure and support to skin, tendons, ligaments, and bone.
  • Type 2 is found in joints and supports the joint.
  • Type 3 in muscles, arteries, and organs, such as the tissue that lines the digestive tract.
  • Type 4 in various layers of the skin.
  • Type 5 collagen is found in skin, hair, the corneas in your eyes, and even placenta tissue.  

As we age, our bodies slow their production of collagen and the collagen we already have begins to break down, too. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that women lose about 30% of their skin’s collagen in the five years after menopause. This, adds Birdwell, “can lead to joint pain and osteoarthritis due to collagen’s role in connective tissue health.”

You may also notice decreased mobility due to stiffening joints and less flexible tendons and ligaments.

However, there are other telltale indicators of this age-related collagen drop. “The most obvious signs of decreasing collagen typically occur in the skin,” Birdwell says. When the skin loses collagen, its structural integrity decreases, causing wrinkling, sagging, or crepey-looking skin. You may also see hollowing around the eyes due to thinning skin.”

No one likes wrinkles, so manufacturers of collagen supplements — from tablets to powders to creams — have rushed in to claim their product turns back time.

However, Birdwell says the results are not definitive. Yes, randomized controlled trials have found that collagen supplements can help with skin elasticity and improve joint pain and mobility, but “most of the research on collagen supplements is funded by industries that benefit from positive study results, such as the cosmetic industry,” she says.

It is important to consider potential conflicts of interest when reviewing the literature on collagen supplementation.

Shelby Birdwell, registered dietitian at UHealth

And one more thing to note: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not review supplements for safety and efficacy, nor are there any regulations on nutrition supplements. In short, you’re on your own when taking a supplement.

“Consumers should be careful when selecting a product,” Birdwell says. “If you are unsure, a registered dietitian can help you determine if a supplement has had third-party lab testing, which can guarantee the product contains what the label says it contains.”

More non-industry-funded human studies are needed to determine if collagen supplements are helpful and worth the money. That said, you can take plenty of preventative measures that don’t cost a penny.

“Avoid smoking. Getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet can make a big impact on the body’s collagen production,” she adds. Specifically, stay away from sugar and refined carbohydrates, aiming instead for a Mediterranean diet of fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts, seafood and whole grains. Also, limit your exposure to ultraviolet violet —sunlight breaks down collagen — and wear sunscreen every day.

If you want to be proactive about pumping up your collagen production, try bone broth, which contains more collagen and nutrients than stock broth. If meat’s your thing, go for “tougher cuts” like brisket, chuck roast, steak or “any meat coming from muscle or connective tissue versus organ meat.” 

Birdwell also suggests adding nutrients in your diet that can support the production of collagen — namely proline, glycine, zinc, and sulfur. Eat fish, poultry, dairy, legumes, and soy. Zinc and sulfur can also be found in generous amounts in beans, broccoli, onions, and garlic.

In addition, Vitamin C, found in fruits (citrus especially) and leafy greens, serves as an “important co-factor in collagen production and functions as an antioxidant to counteract the effects of toxins that damage existing collagen.”

Headshot of Ana Veciana, author (2023)

Ana Veciana-Suarez is a regular contributor to the University of Miami Health System. She is a renowned journalist and author who has worked at The Miami Herald, The Miami News, and The Palm Beach Post. Visit her website at or follow @AnaVeciana on Twitter.


Balasubramanian, P., Prabhakaran, M.P., Sireesha, M., Ramakrishna, S. (2012). Collagen in Human Tissues: Structure, Function, and Biomedical Implications from a Tissue Engineering Perspective. In: Abe, A., Kausch, HH., Möller, M., Pasch, H. (eds) Polymer Composites – Polyolefin Fractionation – Polymeric Peptidomimetics – Collagens. Advances in Polymer Science, vol 251. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

      Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology. 2014;27(1):47-55.

Kim DU, Chung HC, Choi J, Sakai Y, Lee BY. Oral intake of low-molecular-weight collagen peptide improves hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling in human skin: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrients. 2018 Jul;10(7):826.

Tags: aging process, loss of collagen, nutrition care in Miami, Shelby Birdwell, structural protein

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