What is collagen.
Collagen is an important family of proteins. There are at least 28 kinds of collagen1 in vertebrates (including us), though types I, II, and III are the most common in humans. The body can also synthesize collagen, but this process naturally decreases with age. Other factors, like poor diet and environmental pollution, can further reduce natural collagen levels.
This is worth noting because collagen provides elasticity and structure in many tissues, including our skin, bones, muscles, cartilage, and gut.* For example, in the skin, collagen is responsible for keeping skin supple and firm.*
Should you take collagen supplements?
The body's drop in collagen synthesis is a natural, normal part of getting older. But luckily, it's possible to preserve the collagen you do have while supporting natural levels. Certain lifestyle habits, like taking high-quality collagen supplements, can help promote your natural collagen production.*
The health benefits of such supplements vary widely, as collagen is naturally present in multiple areas of the body. Thus, there are many reasons people take collagen supplements:
- Skin. Collagen supplementation supports the skin2 by increasing collagen density and hydration, which is key for a healthy glow. Taking collagen for the skin is also associated with improved skin elasticity, potentially reducing the appearance of fine lines.* Want specific supplement recommendations for elasticity and fine lines? Check out our guide to anti-aging supplements.
- Hair and nails. Although collagen is not found in hair and nails, the amino acids in collagen supplements can help build keratin—the main component in hair and nails. Collagen's skin benefits also promote healthy hair and nails by supporting hair follicles and nail beds, respectively.*
- Muscles. Collagen contains eight of the nine essential amino acids required by the body. This means it can help support muscle mass when combined with regular exercise and healthy eating. In fact, it's possible to meet your daily amino acid requirements if 36% of your protein intake3 consists of collagen peptides, according to research.*
- Bones and joints. According to clinical studies, collagen supplements may help reduce bone turnover4 and improve joint health and comfort. These effects are important for healthy aging, as changes in bone density and joint laxity naturally occur over time.*
- Gut. If you're on a mission to improve gut health, consider taking collagen. It consists of glycine5 and glutamine6, two amino acids with anti-inflammatory actions that are beneficial for intestinal wellness7. Moreover, glutamine provides energy for cells in the gut.*
Can you take too much collagen in a day?
It's important to note that—unlike most vitamins and minerals—collagen is a peptide and has no upper limit, explains mbg's own vice president of scientific affairs, Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN.
Additionally, collagen as a protein source is incredibly safe, notes Ferira. The science also backs this up, as she explains here: "Daily supplementation in randomized controlled trials, like this one8, for example, have proven collagen to be safe and well tolerated, with no negative incidents reported," she says. "As a unique protein supplement, hydrolyzed collagen demonstrates a robust safety profile9 from an impressive and growing body of clinical trials10 in those who are young and older."
Given all that, you might be eager to incorporate collagen into your routine as much as possible. But can you take too much?
First, let's unpack the question. "Asking whether one can have too much collagen is like asking if you can take too much protein powder, drink too much bone broth, or eat too much chicken with the skin on," explains Ferira. In other words, yes—too much of a good thing, like collagen, is always possible.
And despite the safety of collagen, excess protein intake in general should be avoided, says Ferira. "For some, too much protein can be upsetting to the stomach. Too much protein (or any macronutrient) can contribute to fat stores, and protein metabolism requires healthy kidney function to process the urea," she adds. Longevity dietitian and mbg contributor Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, echoes Ferira, sharing that excess protein intake can negatively affect the kidneys.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: "The bigger picture is that we each have daily protein needs based on our size, body composition, gender, physical activity levels, and health status. And the goal there is to consume a wide variety of protein sources to deliver the amino acids our body needs, day in and day out," says Ferira. "And as it turns out, the science demonstrates3 that collagen can be genuinely helpful in this endeavor."
Besides, taking more supplements of any kind won't necessarily yield faster results. The time it takes for collagen to work depends on many factors, including the body's natural way of absorbing and using nutrients. As Davar explains, the body has the ability to balance processes inside our biochemistry. "[Most] foods, supplements, etc., consumed in excessive amounts will be absorbed, filtered out, and excreted—but not without side effects," she adds.
Given all that, it's best to stick to the recommended dosage range for your desired results. This will ensure that you're on the right path for your needs while following science-backed suggestions. While you're at it, always talk to your medical practitioner before taking a new supplement, collagen or otherwise.
TL;DR? "Everything in moderation, even collagen," says Ferira.
How much collagen should you take?
Once you've chosen a collagen supplement, the next step is to determine how much to take each day. Here's a breakdown of the best collagen dosage based on various health benefits—which is essentially how much collagen you need to reach daily to get the results you're looking for:*
- Skin: 2.5 to 10 grams per day
- Bones: 5 grams per day
- Joints: 2.5 to 5 grams per day
- Muscle: 15 to 20 grams per day
Overall, collagen is safe for most people. There's also no definitive upper limit for collagen intake. Still, it is possible to consume too much protein, including collagen. For optimal safety and efficacy, consult your doctor before consuming collagen, and take dosages based on your desired results.
Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle journalist based in Beacon, New York. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition from Texas Woman's University and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from SUNY Oneonta. Kirsten specializes in nutrition, fitness, food, and DIY; her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including eHow, SparkPeople, and international editions of Cosmopolitan. She also creates recipes for food product packaging.