Kristi Nelson

The Skinny on Collagen Supplements, Do They Work?

Supplements said to reduce wrinkles and joint pain, but some doctors aren't so sure

Collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body, is found in bones, muscles, tendons and skin. But it diminishes as we age.

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Fitness blogger Andrea Overturf has a morning ritual she swears by, collagen coffee. Overturn said it's a great alternative to a sugary latte and she believes she's making a difference in her health.

In recent years, companies have created a variety of ways for people to consume collagen supplements -- in powders, liquids, capsules and shots, and in all kinds of flavors.

And now nutrition enthusiasts tout collagen supplements as a way to reduce wrinkles, improve digestion -- even relieve joint pain.

Doug Crooks, manager of the Irving nutrition store, Realife, said his customers have lots of questions about collagen supplements. He’s been taking collagen supplements himself for 10 years, and said he’s a believer.

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Nutrition store manager Doug Crooks credits collagen supplements with helping his knees and sciatica.

"I used to have really bad sciatica. I had bad knees. I don't have any of that anymore," Crooks said. "A lot of our customers will say the same thing."

As the popularity of these supplements surge, some health experts still question whether the claims are too good to be true.

"It would be really great if we could get rejuvenated skin and the fountain of youth in a pill that we take a couple of times a day, or in a powder supplement that we add to our drink," said Dr. Stephanie Savory, a dermatologist with UT Southwestern. "But it could be cheaper and easier to eat a well-balanced healthy diet, get your protein from other sources -- such as if you're a vegetarian -- nuts, grains, or if you're not vegetarian, proteins like chicken and beef."

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Dr. Stephanie Savory, a dermatologist with UT Southwestern, doesn't believe collagen supplements have been studied enough.

Savory doesn't believe collagen supplements have been studied enough and she warns they aren't tightly regulated.

Registered dietitian-nutritionist Whitney Stuart, of Whitness Nutrition, recommends collagen supplements for clients who could use more protein in their diets, for example, those who prefer to eat fruit for breakfast.

"We say no more than 20 grams of collagen should be used per day, which is usually about two scoops or two servings,” Stuart said. “So perhaps you're using it in your coffee in the morning or your post-workout shake, put some in there."

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Whitney Stuart, a registered dietitian, recommends collagen supplements to her clients -- up to 20 grams per day.

And while collagen may not be a magic bullet, Stuart said it's not likely to cause you harm.

"If there's a way for you to get in a more balanced diet that incorporates proteins and fats that actually help with satiety and slow down the digestion of your fruit and doesn't spike your blood sugar -- it's going to help." 

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