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Do collagen supplements improve skin quality?


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Analysis: These supplements are often touted as a way to slow some of the symptoms of aging, but research studies and clinical trials have not been conclusive.

By marina navas, Trinity College Dublin

Collagen is a protein present in our skin, bones and cartilage. Production decreases with age, resulting in the appearance of wrinkles as well as a decrease in skin elasticity and hydration. With this in mind, collagen supplements are touted as a way to slow down some of the signs of aging – but can supplementation really help replenish this lost collagen?

Collagen supplements are made from animal bones, cartilage, and skin. Collagen can be processed to obtain smaller protein fragments called collagen hydrolysates, which are easier to digest and absorb than unprocessed collagen proteins. These hydrolysates are the main components of collagen supplements on store shelves.

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From CBS New York, Dr. Alexis Livingston Young, a dermatologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, on the ins and outs of collagen

But clinical studies conducted with humans present some major limitations that should be considered before making a purchase. Originally scientists thought that when you eat a protein like collagen, the amino acids it contains would be separated in the intestine and absorbed individually, but this is not entirely true. In addition to individual amino acids, we can absorb groups of two and three amino acids, called peptides, which may have beneficial activities in our bodies.

When we take collagen hydrolysates, these peptides are absorbed into our blood. In studies in animal and cell models, these peptides can reach the skin and stimulate collagen production. These results are promising but studies conducted on animal and cell models are not sufficient to say that collagen supplements can improve skin quality in humans. We need large, reliable clinical trials with human participants.

Clinical trials divide people into two groups, one receiving a treatment (in this case, collagen supplements) and the other receiving a placebo (a tablet or drink that does not contain collagen). The group that receives a placebo is called the control group. This way, scientists ensure that participants don't know whether they are getting collagen or just a placebo. In one collagen study, the control group did not receive a placebo. So, people who were receiving collagen knew what they were receiving, and this may have affected the results. The more reliable studies are those where both the participants and the doctors do not know whether they are receiving or receiving a treatment or a placebo.

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Dermatologist Andrea Suarez on the 7 Big Myths About Taking Collagen

At the beginning of any clinical trial, both the treatment and placebo groups should be as similar as possible in order to isolate the study variables. For example, imagine you wanted to test a pill to see if it could make people run faster. If you make the control group run a marathon first, the treatment group is likely to run faster. The results cannot be attributed to the effect of the pill, but rather to the fact that the control group started out at a disadvantage.

In some collagen studies, the skin quality of the group receiving supplements was initially significantly worse than that of the control group, and so they had more room for improvement. In this case, the two groups are not comparable, and we should interpret any positive results from these studies with caution.

It is also important to ensure that both groups are as similar as possible in terms of age. In a recent study, the placebo group was significantly older (32 to 48 years old) than the treatment group (31 to 37 years old). We know that skin quality deteriorates with age, so it would not be surprising if the placebo group fared worse in several skin quality parameters at the end of the study.

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Everyday skin care tips from Dr Eleanor Higgins of the Institute of Dermatologists, from RTÉ Radio 1's Brendan O'Connor Show

Another limitation of some clinical trials is that outcomes are compared within a treatment group. For example, skin water content is compared between people who received collagen supplements at the end of the trial and people who received supplements at the beginning of the trial. This can be confusing because statisticians call it “regression to the mean.” This indicates that there is natural variation in each of the outcomes we measured, even if no treatment was given.

For example, the amount of water in your skin today is likely to be different from the amount of water in your skin next week. Therefore, it is necessary to compare the treatment group to a control group to ensure that the difference in water content is due to the collagen supplements and not simply coincidental. This will reduce the chance of drawing the false conclusion that supplements work.

There are some solid studies that show improvements in forearm and cheek skin elasticity, skin hydration, facial roughness and the number of wrinkles. However, these studies are considered small, as the largest study only enrolled 85 people. If this were the case of a pharmaceutical drug, it would be necessary to test it on thousands of people to prove its efficacy.

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From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime, Evanna Breen from Evanna Breen Skincare and Laser Clinic explains why you should stop using harsh treatments if you want healthy skin.

Furthermore, it is not possible to extrapolate these positive results to the entire world population. This is because the age range was limited to 35 to 59 years, some studies were conducted with Asian people and others with Europeans, who may react differently to the supplements, and the studies only worked with women. Were. The trials showing positive results lasted up to 8 weeks, so there's no way to know if the effects wear off over time, or how long we should continue taking the supplement for long-lasting effects.

Another issue is that most collagen studies focus on people who already exhibit natural aging signs such as wrinkles, dry skin and low water content or are self-conscious about the appearance of their skin. Were. Given this, there is no way to know whether collagen supplements can prevent signs of skin aging if you start taking them at an early age, but only if you are able to treat them when they appear. Be effective. It should also be noted that most clinical studies for supplements are funded by the same companies that sell said supplements. Naturally, they are more likely to report only positive results.

Yes, some studies have found a positive relationship between collagen supplements and skin quality. However, because of their limitations, there is not enough evidence to say that collagen supplements will improve skin quality in the general population. This may change in the future, when larger, longer, and more robust studies become available.

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marina navas is a PhD candidate with SSPCSFI Pharmaceutical Research Centre, at Trinity College Dublin.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTE


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