Topics » Nutrition Science » Collagen Supplements: Does Science Support the Alleged Benefits?
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

Collagen is popping up everywhere—in protein powders, snack bars, supplements, and more. But what are its effects? Can you get healthier skin, nails, and more by consuming collagen peptides or using other collagen products?

Let’s look at what collagen is, how our bodies make it, and what the research says about using collagen supplements.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is a group of “hard, insoluble, fibrous” proteins that give structure to connective tissue and constitute about one-third of your body’s protein. Over two dozen types of collagen have been identified; these are the three most prominent types:

  • Type I, found in the skin, tendons, teeth, internal organs, and bones
  • Type II, found in the eyes and cartilage
  • Type III, found in the skin, muscles, bone marrow, lymphoid tissue, and blood vessels

Ligaments, hair, and protective membranes around organs also contain collagen.

The body forms collagen from amino acids, mainly proline, glycine, lysine, and hydroxyproline, and other nutrients, including vitamin C, zinc, copper, and manganese.

Are There Scientifically Proven Benefits to Consuming Collagen?

Some research suggests that collagen supplements confer benefits:

  • improved skin health and appearance, including better elasticity, increased hydration, and fewer wrinkles[1][2]
  • less joint pain and stiffness for osteoarthritis patients[3]
  • faster wound healing[4]
  • increased muscle mass when paired with resistance training[5]
  • increased bone mineral density[6]

However, not all studies have found similar benefits, and many (if not most) of the studies that report benefits are funded by companies selling collagen supplements. It’s also not uncommon for studies like these to include additional supplements that muddle the results. For example, in one of the studies on skin referenced above, the treatment group received a blend of collagen peptides, acerola fruit extract, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, and biotin.[1] The placebo, however, contained no nutrients. How are we supposed to know the extent to which the collagen supported the observed outcomes, if it did at all?

As reported in a 2022 systematic review, several studies have also reported adverse effects and low efficacy compared to routine treatments.[7] They conclude, “risk of bias assessment showed that most of the studies had poor quality. Further studies are needed to reach a final decision.”

Because the body breaks collagen down into its constituents, including amino acids, it’s also unclear whether the apparent benefits of collagen supplements come from the collagen as a whole or merely from its amino acid components, which can be obtained more effectively from whole foods.

is collagen healthy

What about Vegan Collagen Products?

Although most collagen supplement manufacturers use animal products, some companies are harnessing a combination of bacteria, enzymes, and yeast or using fermentation to create vegan collagen.[8] These ingredients are found in beauty and personal care products at this time, but they may become more widely available in supplements and foods in the future. We need more research to determine how these animal-free collagen options compare to animal collagen in function.

Another thing you may have seen is collagen boosters, which are supplements containing the building blocks your body uses to produce collagen. Putting aside the obvious fact that you can get all the necessary building blocks from whole foods, these collagen boosters are not without their risks. Like all supplements in the US, they are barely regulated by the FDA. They may not contain the amounts and types of nutrients listed on their labels; they may be contaminated with heavy metals and other environmental toxins; and because toxins accumulate higher up the food chain, animal-derived collagen peptides may have even more toxins than the average supplement.

How Can I Increase Collagen Production Naturally?

Eating foods containing the amino acids and nutrients from which collagen is formed provides your body with the raw materials for making more collagen without supplements. You can find these raw materials in whole plant foods: legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Most likely, you do not need to concern yourself about collagen production if you take the following steps:

  • Consume enough protein for your activity level (this will not be a challenge if you get enough calories).
  • Eat leafy greens and other colorful fruits and vegetables for plenty of vitamins and minerals.
  • Add hemp and pumpkin seeds, cashews, and other high-zinc nuts and seeds to your meals.
  • Enjoy plenty of beans, root vegetables, and whole soy products in your diet to increase your intake of hyaluronic acid, a component of the collagen in the skin.

Additionally, you can preserve the collagen you already have by avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices and non-WFPB foods, including oils, that increase free radical production or inflammation. Avoid excessive UV exposure and don’t smoke.

If you follow these recommendations and eat a wide variety of whole plant foods, your body should produce all the collagen it needs without any of the risks associated with collagen supplements. If you have an underlying condition affecting your collagen production, speak to a qualified physician to address the root cause.


  1. Bolke L, Schlippe G, Gerß J, Voss W. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2494. Published 2019 Oct 17. doi:10.3390/nu11102494
  2. de Miranda RB, Weimer P, Rossi RC. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol. 2021;60(12):1449-1461. doi:10.1111/ijd.15518
  3. Lugo JP, Saiyed ZM, Lane NE. Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutr J. 2016;15:14. Published 2016 Jan 29. doi:10.1186/s12937-016-0130-8
  4. Bagheri Miyab K, Alipoor E, Vaghardoost R, et al. The effect of a hydrolyzed collagen-based supplement on wound healing in patients with burn: A randomized double-blind pilot clinical trial. Burns. 2020;46(1):156-163. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2019.02.015
  5. Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810
  6. König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women-A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):97. Published 2018 Jan 16. doi:10.3390/nu10010097
  7. Jabbari M, Barati M, Khodaei M, et al. Is collagen supplementation friend or foe in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis? A comprehensive systematic review. Int J Rheum Dis. 2022;25(9):973-981. doi:10.1111/1756-185X.14382
  8. Reisdorf A. Here’s what you need to know about vegan collagen. Healthline. Updated March 8, 2019.

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