Collagen for Weight Loss: How Supplements Can Help

Collagen is a protein naturally present in the body. In recent years, it has become a popular nutritional supplement.

Collagen supplements are primarily known for their skin health benefits. But if you are looking for ways to lose weight, you may have heard that collagen supplements can help.

To date, little research has been done on collagen supplements and weight loss. But there is some evidence that collagen can indirectly help your efforts.

If you want to use collagen for weight loss, read on. This article will explain the science behind this effect, as well as safety precautions to keep in mind.

Collagen is a major structural protein, making up 25 to 30 percent of the protein in your body. It gives structure to connective tissue like:

  • skin
  • cartilage
  • tendons
  • ligaments
  • muscles
  • BONE
  • blood vessels

Natural collagen

Collagen is made up of amino acids, which are considered to be the building blocks of proteins. The amino acids glycline, proline and hydroxyproline represent 57 percent of total amino acids in collagen.

Amino acids have the form of chains. In collagen, amino acids are tightly twisted like a rope, which makes collagen extremely strong and stable.

In the body, collagen is naturally produced by cells called fibroblasts. Optimal collagen formation requires a sufficient supply of high-quality protein and vitamin C. You can also get collagen directly from eating certain foods and consuming supplements.

Collagen supplements

Collagen supplements are made from bone and tissue from animals, such as cows, horses, pigs, or fish. The purpose of these supplements is to help your body rebuild collagen. Types of collagen supplements include:

  • Gelatin. Gelatin, or cooked collagen, is made by heating collagen for a long time. Heat breaks down collagen, forming smaller proteins.
  • Hydrolysis. If proteins are further broken down into amino acids, it is called hydrolyzed collagen. This form is also called hydrolyzed gelatin, collagen peptides or collagen hydrolyzate.
  • Not denatured. Undenatured collagen is intact and has not been degraded.

Collagen supplements are available in several forms:

  • pills
  • gummy candies
  • powders
  • liquid
  • in packaged foods or beverages

To date, little research has been done on the direct link between collagen supplements and weight loss. Most of the studies are small, out of date, or involve animals.

While more research is needed, existing studies on the broader benefits of collagen show how these supplements can indirectly help you achieve your weight loss goals:

Promote satiety

Collagen supplements can increase satiety or feelings of fullness. It could help with weight loss and management by reducing hunger and therefore the number of calories you eat per day.

Collagen could have this effect because it is a protein. According to a 2020 review, high protein diets increase satiety hormones like glucagon-like peptide-1 and cholecystokinin. They also suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin.

According to a 2008 study, increased protein intake can also increase thermogenesis, which influences satiety and energy expenditure. The study also notes that high protein diets may stimulate muscle protein anabolism, “promoting retention of lean muscle mass while improving the metabolic profile.”

Also, in a small 2009 study, gelatin reduces hunger by 44% more than casein, the protein in milk.

It should be noted that gelatin is an incomplete protein, which means that it lacks all of the amino acids that the body needs. You can’t meet your protein needs with gelatin or collagen supplements alone. But supplements can increase your overall protein intake, potentially improving satiety.

Increase muscle mass

Building muscle is an essential part of weight loss. This is because muscle burns more calories while at rest, which increases overall calorie expenditure.

Taking collagen supplements can help your efforts by increasing muscle mass. Remember that collagen is the main structural protein in your muscles.

In a 2015 study involving older adults, participants with sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss) received 12 weeks of strength training. Half of the participants took collagen peptide supplements, while the other half took a placebo.

Those who took collagen peptides experienced greater improvement in muscle mass and strength. They also lost more body fat than the placebo group.

These results suggest that collagen supplements may promote body fat loss by enhancing the effects of strength training on muscle mass.

Reduce fat accumulation

There is some evidence that collagen can reduce the development and accumulation of adipocytes or fat cells.

A Study 2019 discovered that skate collagen, a type of fish, reduces body fat in humans. The amount of fat lost was small, but suggests potential weight loss benefits.

Likewise, in a animal study 2018, skate collagen peptides had an anti-obesity effect in mice. Researchers have linked this effect to improving fat metabolism and reducing fat accumulation.

A animal study 2016 also found that collagen hydrolyzate (also called collagen peptides) reduced fat cell size and weight gain in rats.

Relieve joint pain

Collagen supplements could indirectly help with weight loss by reducing joint pain. Healthy joints are necessary to move comfortably during exercise and daily activities. Engaging in physical activity more regularly could then in turn promote weight management.

A 2015 study discovered that collagen peptides can manage osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when your joint cartilage wears down, causing joint pain and stiffness.

Additionally, in a 2017 study involving athletes, collagen peptides decreased knee joint pain associated with physical activity.

If joint pain is keeping you from working out, these benefits of collagen can help.

Collagen supplements have other potential health benefits. Collagen can:

  • improve skin elasticity
  • reduce the appearance of skin wrinkles
  • increase skin hydration
  • reduce bone loss
  • improve brittle nails
  • boost hair health
  • support heart health

Research on the negative side effects of collagen supplements is lacking. But according to anecdotal reports, collagen supplements can cause side effects such as:

  • feeling of fullness
  • stomach pains
  • bad taste in the mouth

Plus, like other supplements, collagen supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means that the agency cannot say how safe or effective they are.

In turn, it is unclear whether a collagen supplement contains the ingredients that it claims to have. It is also possible that collagen supplements contain:

  • heavy metals (such as cadmium)
  • allergens (such as hydrolyzed fish collagen)
  • microbial contaminants
  • different doses from those indicated on the label

When buying supplements, look for products that contain a USP verification mark on the label. This mark indicates that the product:

Collagen supplements may indirectly promote weight loss by:

  • increased satiety
  • regulation of fat metabolism
  • increase the effect of resistance training on muscle mass

Collagen supplements might also relieve joint pain, making exercise more comfortable.

But collagen supplements are not a quick fix or a substitute for healthy habits. For sustained weight loss, it’s always important to eat right, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

If you want to try taking collagen supplements for weight loss, use them as part of a holistic diet rather than replacing healthy habits. It’s also a good idea to speak with a doctor to make sure collagen supplements are safe for you.

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