How Long Does It Take for Collagen Supplements to Work?
Improvements in skin, nails, muscle and joint health may become noticeable after three to six months of regular collagen supplementation, but results varied across scientific studies. Results may take longer depending on personal factors including age, nutritional status and overall health.
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What Results Can Be Felt When Taking Collagen?
People taking collagen report improvements in signs of skin aging, joint, knee and arthritic pain, osteoarthritis symptoms, muscle mass and strength.
Scientific studies have reported varying results on the effectiveness of collagen supplementation. Most of the studies on collagen supplementation have been conducted on a small number of participants, which means researchers do not have a lot of data to support claims of health benefits.
Researchers haven’t determined how much of a collagen supplement is absorbed and to what degree it is effectively used by the body to generate more collagen. More research is needed to confirm the health benefits that may result from collagen supplementation.
“I tell patients that the jury is still out on taking collagen,” says Cedars-Sinai dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz. “If they pick a safe collagen product, there’s probably very little harm from trying it.”
What Factors Determine When You May See Results?
Research is lacking in the factors that influence the effectiveness of collagen supplementation. Studies thus far have paid little attention to the factors affecting outcomes and instead focus on collagen benefits.
Researchers use the term bioavailability to refer to the proportion of a drug or substance that is absorbed and used by the body. How much a supplement is absorbed and used is impacted by several factors including dietary choices, nutrient concentration, individual nutritional status, personal health, and age.
Personal Health and Lifestyle Factors
Certain personal health and lifestyle factors are known to interfere with nutrient absorption.
Age, overall diet, nutritional status, medications, certain medical conditions and metabolic issues may interfere with nutrient absorption including collagen. For example, a vitamin C deficiency will limit collagen production because it is vital to collagen synthesis.
Lifestyle factors that may decrease bioavailability of nutrients include smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, stress, sun exposure and substance abuse.
Researchers of a 2021 meta-analysis on collagen for skin aging reported that “Patients with healthy lifestyle habits such as a balanced diet and adequate water intake could present more evident and faster results in improving the appearance of the skin with collagen supplementation than patients with unhealthy lifestyle habits.”
Ingredient and Manufacturing Factors
At least 28 types of collagens have been defined, and types I, II and III account for roughly 90% of collagen found in the human body. Most collagen pills or powders include these types because these are the types most used in the human body.
Research on collagen supplements shows the body can digest and absorb collagen into the bloodstream, especially hydrolyzed collagen. Also known as collagen peptides, hydrolyzed collagens are short chains of amino acids that form the building blocks of collagen.
How effectively the body uses these compounds to make collagen is less understood. A 2017 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a significant increase of collagen synthesis markers in blood samples after taking 15 grams of collagen with vitamin C one hour prior to exercise.
Collagen supplements can vary in quality based on the source of the collagen and manufacturing practices used by different companies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have authority to review or approve dietary supplements before they are sold on the U.S. market.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 made manufacturers responsible for determining the safety of their products. It also holds manufacturers responsible for any claims they make about the supplement that are false or misleading.
Unfortunately, without any oversight from the FDA, many supplements containing harmful ingredients have reached the market. Many false and misleading claims are promoted by supplement manufacturers because there’s little accountability in the current system of self-regulation.
To find a safe collagen supplement, look for a third-party verification seal. For example, the U.S. Pharmacopeia seal is a sign that the ingredients have been verified. NSF International is another organization that certifies a product’s ingredients match the label.
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Which Collagen Results May Be Felt First?
Consumers of collagen report changes in nails and skin among the initial effects of collagen supplementation. This is considered anecdotal evidence, which is information derived from personal experience that cannot be independently verified like scientific evidence.
It may take longer for collagen regeneration to occur in joints, bones and muscles, but research on this topic has been mostly conducted in small studies that provide limited data.
Scientific studies have not reported data on which results participants felt first from collagen supplementation. More research is needed to understand what benefits of collagen may be felt first.
How Long Do Skin Benefits Take?
According to recent research, skin benefits may be seen within three months of taking collagen supplements daily.
In 2021, a meta-analysis of the effects of collagen supplementation on skin aging pooled data from 19 studies involving 1,125 participants. The study, published in the International Journal of Dermatology, found taking collagen supplements for 90 days reduced wrinkles and improved elasticity and hydration.
Consumers must continue taking collagen to see benefits because the body produces an enzyme that constantly breaks down collagen.
How Long Do Joint Results Take?
According to a 2021 white paper on collagen and joint health published in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a study of 250 patients with knee pain who took collagen daily for six months reported a significant improvement in knee joint function and pain.
The white paper also included a study that used MRI scans to detect changes in knee cartilage following collagen supplementation. After six months of daily supplementation with hydrolyzed collagen, MRIs detected improvements in knee cartilage among participants taking collagen compared to a placebo.
Overall, research is mixed with some studies failing to find significant improvements. Collagen supplements may help prevent early bone and joint degeneration, but more research is needed to determine if it is effective at treating or reversing advanced joint disease.
How Long Might Any Additional Benefits Take?
Additional benefits of supplementing with collagen may take anywhere between two months and a year to become noticeable.
Improvements in skin elasticity and hydration were reported following daily ingestion of 2.5 to 10 grams of collagen for eight to 24 weeks, according to a 2019 review published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology.
Twenty runners with Achilles tendon injuries reported greater improvement in pain after three months of taking 2.5 grams of collagen twice daily, according to a 2019 study published in Nutrients. They were also able to return to running sooner than participants taking a placebo.
A more pronounced increase in body mass was reported among men who consumed 15 grams of collagen peptides daily an hour before training sessions for 12 weeks, according to a 2019 study published in Nutrients.
In 2017, a small study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found increased collagen synthesis in ligaments in participants taking a vitamin-C enriched collagen supplement, followed by 6 minutes of jump roping.
“Exercise is what helps deliver the amino acids into the ligaments,” says Keith Baar, PhD, professor of molecular exercise physiology at the University of California, Davis.
Improvement in nail health was documented among 25 participants taking 2.5 grams of collagen daily for six months, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Participants reported a 12% increase in nail growth rate, a 42% decrease of broken nails and a 64% improvement in brittle nails.
Taking collagen supplements may reduce bone collagen breakdown and regulate bone cell turnover, but studies have focused on how this occurs and not the time it takes to see results.
Overall, the research on how long it takes collagen supplements to work is mixed and varies based on what kind of supplement is used, the dosage and overall health of participants.
It is important to consult a doctor before beginning a supplement regimen to discuss potential side effects and drug interactions.
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