skip to Main Content
Collagen Supplements

Do Collagen Supplements Work?

Why do dogs chew on bones? Well, many speculate that it’s mainly for keeping their teeth clean. But there’s another reason: collagen, the strong yet supple and resilient material that connects your bones, keeps your skin looking youthful and healthy, and—as the most abundant protein in your body—serves as the structure that holds your body together. So let’s talk about this miracle tissue and why we need to include it in our diet.

Does Collagen Work?

I get this question a lot. Usually, when people are asking this, they’re really asking if collagen supplements work. Will get to that question a little later. But let’s explore this question taken at face value: Does collagen work? Let’s put it this way, collagen works so well that it has become, over many hundreds of thousands of years, essential to the human body. It has been suggested that one of the key benefits of the use of fire for cooking relates to collagen.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the bodies of our prey animals and it’s only present in animals. Plants are devoid of collagen. In his book, Catching Fire, Richard Wrangham suggests that the advent of fire (and cooking) was a perfectly suited method for increasing our collagen and therefore our total protein intake. Collagen is so strong that it has more tensile strength than steel, and requires a lot of work on the part of our digestive system. Nature had at least partly solved this problem by making our digestive system larger. 

This article is continued below...(scroll down)
megyn kelly

This has been life changing

"Let me tell you this has been life-changing. I have all of her books, in audible and ebooks! I have gotten rid of all the hateful 8 oils. I have trained my body to eat its own previously toxic body fat. Download that pod it's a game changer!"

Megyn Kelly
Jesse Watters

Life changing

Deep Nutrition changed my life.

Jesse Watters
Fox News Primetime host

Saved my life

I would like to thank you for literally saving my life. Back in February, I had to be hospitalized while on vacation in Phoenix with an A1C of 11% and had to start taking 2 types of insulin and 2 other meds. I read the Fatburn Fix in April, and followed the program to a tee, and I’m down by 15 pounds, 6.8 A1C, and only one once weekly diabetes medicine. Prior to reading the book, it was almost impossible for me to lose weight as a diabetic. 

Leontyne Tompkins

I feel free

For the last month, I have really been reading all labels on everything. I have completely remove those 8 oils you talk about. I must tell you, I feel great! I have more energy and I am now 197 lbs (have always been around 205 to 210lbs). I eat potatoes with real butter, grass fed steak, pasta with the right toppings. I eat everything! I seem to crave less sugar. I love it! 

Robert Kirkendall

I feel so much better

I had terrible aches and pains everywhere in my body, my hands, shoulders and knees. I feel so much better and the way I feel is motivating me every day! Thank you

Mike Deb Wootan Burcin

Better than ever

I am an anesthesiologist in Orlando and a huge fan of both of your books! I have been incorporating your principles for the last 10 months and feel that my health is better than ever.

Marnie Robinson, MD

My allergies disappeared

The biggest difference for me (and a surprising one) is that my allergies have almost completely disappeared! This is a big deal for me, because I’ve had allergies most of my life and they have often affected what I do which is a teaching music in [a public school district].  In general, I feel much better and have more consistent energy throughout the day.

Erica Turrell

Heart Palpitations have Stopped

I’ve lost 20+ pounds (also fasting 16-24 hours daily) and haven’t had palpitations except for one occasion — I had a mini bag of Fritos for the first time in July. And, I feel better now on a daily basis than I ever did all through college.

Mike Wright
Deep Nutrition and Fatburn Fix reader
Mitzi Wilkinson Champion

I’ve lost over 50 pounds

I’ve lost over 50 pounds. I’m 56 years old. Cutting processed food and unhealthy fats from my diet was one of the first things I did on my health recovery journey...I went cold turkey off the bad oils. Emptied my pantry into the trash and just started eating real food

Mitzi Wilkinson Champion

Knowledge I didn’t know I needed

Your Fatburn Fix book is amazing, my friend. Thank you! I’m an Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and I know my stuff. This is the extra layer of knowledge I didn’t know I needed. Well done!

Jennifer Dillman
Fatburn Fix reader

Lost a solid 20 lbs and my bloodwork is great

I have lost a solid 20 lbs and my bloodwork (after 3 months of eating your way) was even better! I was metabolically healthy (per your book) before I read your book, but barely. Lowering my weight, sealed the deal! I have been talking about you and your book to anyone who will listen...Thank you for all you’ve done and what you continue to do! You are changing lives for the better!

Missy Cramer
FatBurn Fix reader

Lost 20 lbs I could never shed

I love your Fatburn Fix!  Has helped me so so much!  I have had the dreaded weight all my life - 20 or so pounds I could never shed.  I have lost that now. I only eat 2 meals a day lunch and dinner with a glass of milk or cappuccino around 4 to hold me over. No snacking and not bad oils.  It has been the key to unlocking my fatburn.  I work out in the am and believe I am burning fat for energy not from food!

Lauren Smith

I feel great

My waist is four inches smaller. I feel great and many of the minor aches and pains that I had (knees and lower back) are gone. Also, my muscle tone is amazing, even though I have not increased my workout routine.

Richard Janelle
Completed Dr Cate's online course
Kent Matthes

The go-to for strength and conditioning coaches

Whenever I advise my clients about eating to perform I go straight to what I have learned from Dr. Cate. Her book Deep Nutrition has become the go-to for strength and conditioning coaches across the country.

Kent Matthes
Major League Baseball Agent with WME Sports
Ken D Berry

Dismantles the lie

Dr. Cate dismantles the lie that seed oils are healthy, which may the biggest lie about nutrition and health because it’s so insidious.  

Ken D Berry, MD
Author of Lies My Doctor Told Me
Dr. Drew Pinsky

She knows the chemistry

Dr. Cate alerts us to the harms of seed oils and she’s convincing because she knows the chemistry better than anyone.

Dr. Drew Pinskey, MD
Globally recognized internal medicine and addiction medicine specialist, media personality, LoveLine Host, and New York Times bestselling author
Kelly Starrett

No one is better at communicating nutritional truth

Dr. Cate has had the single greatest impact on how we talk to people about fueling for both performance or durability. While we all are a little unique, the foundational principles of human nutrition are immutable. If you are looking to create a more durable, resilient body, no one is better at communicating nutritional truth than Dr. Cate.

Dr. Kelly Starrett
Physiotherapist coach and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author
Brian Lenkzes

Highly recommend The Fatburn Fix

Dr. Shanahan has had a significant impact on my practice of medicine. I am known as a Low Carb Doctor, but I never really appreciated the negative effects of processed seed oils on the health of my patients. I highly recommend The Fatburn Fix to my patients and have a loaner copy in my waiting room. It is amazing how quickly blood sugars and overall health improves with cutting seed oils. It is not just about the carbs!

Dr. Brian Lenkzes, MD
CEO of LowCarbMD San Diego, co-host of Low Carb MD Podcast and host of Life's Best Medicine Podcast
Chris Kaman

Respected in the sports world

Dr. Cate reordered my diet when I was with the L.A. Lakers, and the benefits, for me personally, were felt immediately and have served me to this day. I’ve come to take real food so seriously I started a small family farm. I know of no M.D./nutritionist more respected in the sports world than Dr. Cate Shanahan.

Chris Kaman
NBA Player
Mark Sisson

Brought seed oil issue front and center

Cate brought the seed oil issue front and center. Healthy fats matter. So much so that I created an entire product line to swap out bad fats with good.

Mark Sisson
Founding Father of the Primal/Paleo Movement
Dallas Hartwig

Optimal health starts with food

If you want to understand how optimal health starts with food, start with Dr. Cate. Her book Deep Nutrition leaves you with an appreciation of the profound relationship between our genes and the planet, inspiring us to be good shepherds of both.

Dallas Hartwig
Attribution author of The Whole 30
Dwight Howard

Helped me with endurance

Deep Nutrition really helped me with endurance. I started to feel better as a player. I was able to run more, I was able to be more active …and I just decided to keep going with it to this day.

Dwight Howard
NBA Player
Paul Grewal

Silver bullet for me

Dr Cate’s teachings helped me lose 60 pounds like it was nothing. It was like a silver bullet for me.

Paul Grewal, MD 
Dr Grewal Internal Medicine, MD, author of Genius Foods
Joesph Mercola

Radically improve your health…

Dr. Shanahan has provided a solid reference that deserves a place in the library of anyone who is seriously interested in nutrition. Her perspective on the vital role that healthy fat has in our diet is novel and, if implemented, can radically improve your health.

Dr. Joseph Mercola
Author of Fat for Fuel and Founder of Mercola.com
Dave Aspery

Pull up a chair…

I have based my work on the idea that getting the right kinds of healthy fats into your body and avoiding the worst fats is essential to optimal health. I've interviewed dozens of the world's top experts about this, and I know of no one who speaks more eloquently on this topic than Dr Cate. If she’s talking fats, pull up a chair. Take notes.

Dave Asprey
Author of the Bulletproof Diet

The key to unlocking my fatburn

I love your Fatburn Fix!  Has helped me so so much!  I have had the dreaded weight all my life - 20 or so pounds I could never shed.  I have lost that now. I only eat 2 meals a day lunch and dinner with a glass of milk or cappuccino around 4 to hold me over. No snacking and not bad oils.  It has been the key to unlocking my fatburn.  

Lauren Smith

Saved my life

I would like to thank you for literally saving my life. Back in February, I had to be hospitalized while on vacation in Phoenix with an A1C of 11% and had to start taking 2 types of insulin and 2 other meds. I read the Fatburn Fix in April, and followed the program to a tee, and I’m down by 15 pounds, 6.8 A1C, and only one once weekly diabetes medicine. 

Leontyne Tompkins

> Tears of joy

 I'm crying tears of joy and appreciation for all you've done for me and my health! Without Deep Nutrition and Fatburn Fix, I would literally still be in the vicious cycle I'd been fighting all my life! In a nutshell - I am no longer a compulsive overeating addict suffering under the crushing 'thumb' of all food and alcohol.     

Penni Wicks

 

Collagen is 10x Stronger than Steel

When fire entered the picture, this flipped a key evolutionary switch. Fire softens collagen, making it soft enough for us to consume and digest with significantly less intestinal yardage. According to the “expensive tissue hypothesis,” less intestine allowed the same amount of protein to be devoted to building more brain. Our brain size has nearly tripled since the advent of fire, according to some estimates.

So necessary is collagen to human health that much of our dietary history has been devoted to its extraction and acquisition. From the ancient and intricate Argentinian open fire techniques made famous world-renowned chef Francis Mallmann, to Genghis Kahn’s army’s practice of tenderizing tough (collagen-rich) meat by riding all day with thin slices under their saddles, to the simple act of boiling bones and joint material in water to make soup—one could say that collagen is what holds the modern human’s nutritional story together. 

Until relatively recently, in fact, collagen was a major part of our diets. Fannie Farmer’s 1986 Cook Book has no fewer than six recipes for tripe, that collagen-rich, rubbery honeycombed part of a cow stomach that is a key ingredient to making Mexico’s national dish, Menudo. 

Collagen Building Menudo Sopu
Collagen Rich Menudo Stew. Image from Creative Commons, by David Martin Davies

So saying that collagen works is, as you can see, a bit of an understatement. It works like air, water, sleep, and sunlight work. 

How Does Collagen Work?

Collagen has special health-giving powers thanks to compounds in collagen-rich tissues that are absent from the rest of the edible world. 

These compounds include glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid, proteoglycans, and bioactive peptides all of which are unique to collagen-rich tissues. They have been laboratory tested individually and in various combinations and shown to have the capacity to pass through the digestive system, travel through the bloodstream to enter and activate fibroblasts, a type of cell in our skin, joints, bones, and other connective tissues that manufactures collagen. In other words, these compounds have hormone-like effects.

Bioactive Peptides make collagen work

It’s not that our bodies stop making collagen if we don’t ingest it. It’s that we seem to make less of it. And given that collagen damage to our joints is the number one cause of age-related disability, and collagen damage in our arteries can cause fatal aneurysms, heart attacks, and strokes, I recommend you do everything you can to support your body’s ability to make as much collagen as it can.

Does Collagen Supplementation Work?

Let’s first talk about what we mean by supplementation. The idea of supplementing speaks to the idea of providing your body with something it needs but is not already getting. Most supplements people ask me about don’t do you any good simply because they’re compounds your body makes better than what factories can bottle. So you’re better off spending money on better quality food than on most supplements.  

But collagen is different from most supplements because most Americans are woefully undernourished when it comes to collagen. Why? Dietary recommendations handed down from the so-called experts since the middle of the last century have effectively removed three key components from our healthy diet: collagen, natural fat, and salt. Say goodbye to a delicious slow-roasted turkey leg with homemade gravy (rich in the three healthy ingredients I just mentioned). Say hello to a dry slab of skinless, boneless chicken breast (specifically bred, btw, to be ultra-tender, meaning it contains less collagen). 

We used to get massive amounts of collagen, and other components of connective tissue, through diet. Just like we used to spend a lot more time in the sun. But because most of us are getting so little of those things today, our bodies are particularly receptive to the benefits of supplementation with collagen as they are with vitamin D.

And although other mammals, like gorillas, for example, have retained their ability to synthesize collagen while living on a largely plant-based diet, we can’t, just as we can’t synthesize vitamin C, as dogs and cats can. And so we need to get these things from our diet, or some form of supplementation. 

But as with any supplement, how the supplement is produced can make a huge difference. 

Are Collagen Peptides (Powders, Pills, Bars, etc.) Effective?

Are Collagen Peptides (Powders, Pills, Bars, etc.) Effective?

All collagen powders are composed mostly of collagen peptides. Peptides are defined by two or more (up to fifty) amino acids linked together. Link a bunch of peptides together, and you get a protein. 

So the big question is, If you take in collagen in the form of peptides, can your body use these building-block peptides to construct collagenous tissue? Studies strongly suggest that, yes, collagen peptides, which can be processed to a powder form easily dissolvable in water or included as an ingredient in collagen bars and other food products, can be taken up by the body and utilized to protect, build and maintain the connective tissues that makeup joints and skin. 

I’ve included just a sampling of the research here to show what we’ve found about the answers to these questions:

Do Collagen Supplements Work for Skin?

There is a lot of research in this area. This is just one of a number of articles showing the beneficial effects of collagen supplements on the skin, specifically the skin cells called fibroblasts responsible for creating the collagen that holds your skin cells together. The more collagen you have in your skin, the more supple and puncture-resistant your skin.

Do Collagen Supplements Work For Skin? This article suggests they do. It shows that after 4 days we see a 40% increase in growth in skin cells fed serum "supplemented" with collagen peptide compared to skin cells fed serum alone.
Do Collagen Supplements Work For Skin? This article suggests they do. It shows that after 4 days we see a 40% increase in growth in skin cells. Source “Food-Derived Collagen Peptides, Prolyl-Hydroxyproline (Pro-Hyp), and Hydroxyprolyl-Glycine (Hyp-Gly) Enhance Growth of Primary Cultured Mouse Skin Fibroblast Using Fetal Bovine Serum Free from Hydroxyprolyl Peptide” Figure 1, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6982277/

 

Do Collagen Supplements Work for Joints?

There’s also tons of research in this area. Interestingly, there’s more research on collagen for joint health in veterinary medicine than there is for us humans thanks to medical advances for thoroughbred horses and the fact that dogs participate in medical research more often than people do. As is the case for skin, components of collagen supplements including collagen hydrolysate, glycosaminoglycans, and hyaluronic acid, among others, have been shown to support fibroblast cells in various joint tissues in the same manner as with skin. (See Select Research on Collagen, below)

Can collagen supplements have similar results as eating foods with collagen?

If you’ve read my books, Deep Nutrition, Food Rules, and The Fatburn Fix, you already know that my instinct is to say that nothing can begin to compare to getting all your essential nutrition from a nutrient-dense diet based on the four pillars of traditional, ancestral foods. When I introduced homemade bone stock to the LA Lakers, only the trainers and the head chef, Sandra Padilla, appreciated its benefits. But then, when Kobe Bryant and other stars publicly vocalized their belief in the palpable benefits of collagen-rich stock, the NBA—and the larger pro-sports community—got fully on board, everything changed. Bone stock became the new superfood, the ancestral elixir every bit as necessary for growth and recovery as protein. 

That said, collagen supplements, it turns out, can offer similar benefits to the collagen, and other attendant soft-tissue-building compounds, as grandma’s homemade stock. And there is a raft of scientific studies that bear this out. 

But as with any supplement, the method of processing must be considered. Processing must protect the integrity of each individual compound that will wind up in the collagen supplement. 

The best collagen supplements, therefore, begin with a whole-food product, like skin or joint material, and then employ gentle heat to break down (hydrolyze) the long, tough collagen molecules into shorter, easily digested chains, replicating the same processes that human being have used to maintain their joints, their skin and their overall health for millennia. 

Collagen has been almost entirely removed from our diets. But make no mistake, it is essential. If there were anything worthy of the title of “youth serum,” collagen, and its associated compounds (like glucosamine and hyaluronic acid) would be it. 

Do collagen supplements really work
Lots of collagen in the skin of this turkey leg, as well as the bone stock we’ll make with the leftovers. If you go the supplement route, CB Supplements multi collagen is the only supplement I endorse.

So whether it’s from bone stock or a top-tier collagen supplement (like what CB Supplements offer), my recommendation on collagen is simple: Get it in you. 

You can save $5 on CB Supplements multi collagen protein when you use the coupon code “drcate”.

It’s the only supplement of any kind that I actually support and endorse.

Select Research on Collagen

Collagen is 5-10X stronger than steel: http://web.mit.edu/mbuehler/www/research/Collagen/summary_PNAS_Aug15.pdf

Proprietary blend shown to improve the appearance of aged skin: https://patents.google.com/patent/US20170231886A1/en

Proprietary blend shown to improve joint function

https://patents.google.com/patent/US8778422B2/en

Literature review from 2006 on collagen for joint health

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17076983/

A controlled human trial on knee joint symptoms

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33562729/

A controlled human trial on ankle joint symptoms

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5950747/

Related Articles

How to Make Chicken Stock!

How to Make Beef Bone Broth!

Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Hi Dr Cate
    I have tried excellent quality powdered gelatin for when I don’t have a chance to make bone broth and to eat enough gelatin in my diet, every single time I get severely constipated. It is the only change I make and I have even tried half the dose. Same experience when trying collagen peptides!!
    Any recommendations? Thank you so much!!!

    1. That’s an unusual reaction, so sorry you’re dealing with it. My first conjecture is that it may be caused only by the dehydrated forms that negatively impact your gut flora. So maybe you could get the premade bone broths from Costco, which are so much less expensive that it may be worth joining just for that benefit.
      This is the kind I recommend: Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Bone Broth 32 fl oz, 6 ct

      Another thought is there may be a chance that cartilage powder might not bother you. This is an example of what I mean by cartilage. https://kiwla.com/products/bovine-cartilage-180-caps-foodscience-of-vermont

      If you can find it not encapsulated that would be cheaper. But it won’t dissolve in water easily that’s why its in capsules.

      For theoretical reasons cartilage powder may actually be MORE effective than gelatin.

    1. Marine collagen seems to have worked for those living in Hawaii and other islands for thousands of years. The only caveat to that is that most island nations also supplemented with chicken and or pork, since pigs and chickens can travel on canoes.

  2. My 30 yr old daughter suffered a fall and twisted both ankles about two yrs back. She has still not recovered properly. MRI taken few months after injury shows high grade tendinosis in both peroneus longus and peroneus brevis in both ankles along with more findings.
    About 7-8 months back, she bent to pick something from floor and felt sudden pain in left lower chest, anterolateral surface. Since than she has trouble moving freely and she has to use rib band regularly. After many orthropedicians, she consulted a pain management specialist and he advised local injections. She refused.
    Can you suggest something

  3. Respected Mam,
    Greetings
    I am from India. More than 50% population here is pure vegetarian. How they get their collagen requirement fulfilled.
    Is olive oil and canola oil are safe?

    1. It’s not possible to get collagen on a vegan diet. Interestingly, 30 years ago when I traveled to Asia I was told by many people I quizzed about this that vegetarians mostly avoided beef and pork but ate fish and chicken. I suspect as the trend away from meat has continued, that has changed? The less protein and collagen you get, the more important it becomes to avoid seed oils, including canola. More info here: https://drcate.com/list-of-good-fats-and-oils-versus-bad/

  4. Hey, thanks for writing this. I am wondering, are there any things to look out for as warning signs when looking to buy a collagen supplement? Or are most safe?
    I got some from Unflavoured Collagen & Vitamin C from Bulk Powders as I’m UK-based. Ingredients: Hydrolysed Collagen (Bovine), Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid).

    Would this be okay to take?

    Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Back To Top
Search