While views differ about the effectiveness of powdered collagen supplements, most experts agree they can’t hurt.
“I believe in food first,” says Susan Blum, MD, MPH. “But by taking collagen powders you will get even more of the amino acids that may help you make your own collagen.”
Powdered supplements are also easy to integrate into your diet; they have a mild flavor that most people don’t notice blended into smoothies or coffee.
They are also a highly digestible, assimilable form of protein. “For people with weak digestion, where it is harder for them to get the nutrition out of food, collagen powder is one step closer to being digestible,” Blum explains.
If you opt for a supplement, make sure it doesn’t contain sugar or chemical sweeteners, and avoid making it your only protein powder. The amino acids in collagen powder are supportive, but they’re not complete. “There is no tryptophan in collagen, for example,” says Blum. “So collagen won’t support mood. Protein supplements are best when rotated.”
Decoding Supplement Labels
Learn how to decipher some of the terms you’ll encounter on supplement labels:
- Gelatin: When collagen is cooked down to make it more digestible, it produces gelatin. Gelatin is collagen, just in a cooked and easier-to- absorb form (it is considered partially hydrolyzed or broken down). Gelatin thickens when it cools. You can use grassfed, sugar- and additive-free varieties of gelatin to make a healthy version of the boxed- gelatin treats of your youth.
- Hydrolyzed collagen: This form of collagen is broken down even further into its component parts than gelatin, making it even easier for the body to absorb. Hydrolyzed collagen can be dissolved in hot or cold water (gelatin must be dissolved in warm water), and it does not thicken when it cools.
- Peptides: This is just another word to indicate that the collagen has been separated into its various components so it is easier to absorb. It is often used interchangeably with “hydrolyzed collagen.”